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  • "It never would have worked," he said, as we sat in the car and watched taillights burning brightly. "I couldn't give her all that she offered me and it wasn't fair."

    The words cut a little too close to something I'd recently heard and brushed a wound so recently scabbed. Still tender to the touch. Rough. She wasn't asking for more and neither was I. How could someone else decide it was "too much" or "not enough" or "unbalanced"? How was that any less balanced than the display of control in saying "this won't work"?

    "So, I ended it. It never would have worked."

    Slowly, deliberately, he expounded upon relationships, pummeling my already battered heart with his boyish opinions, a small bit of logic and a handful of salt. Talking. Talking. Talking. Without acknowledging my expression. My sadness. The story I'd told. Not needing anything from me but a body to listen.

    "Please stop," I thought as cars pressed together, squeezing in for warmth, for space, for light. "Just stop."

    I handed him my iPod and asked him to figure it out. The Bluetooth. The music. I needed a distraction, a project, a goal. I needed him to focus on something other than relationships and I wanted music in the car. Another voice.

    "I don't know," he continued. "It doesn't seem to work."

    He kept pushing buttons, both mine and those in the car, and he kept talking. Fortunately, the focus had shifted as the car rolled slowly forward. He was thinking of the stereo and read aloud the manual for our rental car. I wrapped my fingers tight and white knuckled around the steering wheel.

    "Uh, huh."

    The words melded together for the next hour or three miles, whichever took longer, and I stopped listening, making encouraging noises, nodding, smiling, letting the noise wash over me without registering the parts put together.

    We figured out Bluetooth, and he slid back to relationships. My head and heart fought for the right to burst.

    As the knot of cars finally started to loosen, as traffic moved forward with space in between, I stepped on the gas, easing only when I realized that I was trying to drive away from the conversation, away from him, and away from myself, but wherever I drove, there we were.
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