There it was the next day. I came home from work to find it sitting where my computer would normally be. All of the pages from my manuscript directory had been printed out and sorted by chapter, date, and file. In the cylinder was a note from Hope letting me know that my computer was safely tucked away in the bedroom so I could still access my email and what-not. It was an apology of sorts, though she had no reason to be the one apologizing. That's how things were in those days. I'd screw up, we'd fight, she'd apologize. Not once did I ever point out that I was the one that owed an apology to her. In retrospect, I'm pretty much entirely to blame for where we are now.
Standing by the window, Hope stared out into the distance. We'd been arguing because she insisted that I was upset about something and I refused to concede the matter.
"Come on, just tell me what's wrong. What's going on inside that overgrown melon of yours?" She kept staring off into the distance, as if actually looking at me might cause us both to spontaneously combust.
"Oh so endearing, you are. Let's talk about spaceships. How about that shuttle launch?" I stared past her at a bird flying haphazardly, knowing how much it creeped her out when she'd turn to find me staring at her but not. Ironically, it was this exact thing that caused her to come talk to me in the first place so many years ago. Hope was standing near a poster advertising some concert I wanted to go to and I was trying to read it from across the bar we were at. She stomped over to chew me out for staring at her like a piece of meat.
Frustrated, she turned, arms crossed, to glare at me. "Don't go quoting your emo songs to me and stop trying to dodge the question. You want someone to care enough to try and peek over your walls, but the moment you see them coming you build another three just to test them and see how far they're willing to go to be your friend. Friends will phone you up and instead of answering it, you screen their messages to gauge the level of sincerity in their voices before deciding if they're worth your time. As if anyone would call you out of some sense of obligation. Why are you pushing everyone away? Why don't you just come out with it?"
The argument had been had before. Can you call it an argument when only one side really participates? Typically I simply responded with a series of well-practiced grunts, shrugs, and cryptic responses that made it seem like I had more depth to me than was actually the case. "What do you want me to say? That I'm unhappy? That I don't feel like I'm going anywhere in life? That I know I'm going to die lonely and miserable in some rest home for poor old people where they feed you slop and talk terribly of you when they think you're hearing aid is turned off and the only escape is to blow yourself away with the gun that you snuck in that you aren't supposed to have because you might go senile and then end up killing old man Schnitzel down the hall because he's a Nazi bastard out to steal your pudding? Ok, so that last bit might be going to far..."
"You're hopeless, you know that?"
"B-b-b-but all I've got is Hope!"
Exasperated, she stormed off to the bedroom and shut the door.
The truth of the matter was that I didn't think I could tell her what was really on my mind because I knew it'd go badly. Over the years, I'd developed a bad habit of just keeping my problems under my hat. Too many times had I foolishly tried to talk my problems out and had it complicate things more. Friendships tainted because I thought it'd be better to be honest than to just let things stew. Relationships ruined because I couldn't just let something go or I had to try and fix something that wasn't broke. Good intentions get a fella nowhere in this world, no matter what people want to believe. Trying to talk about my problems with friends only served to inflate the issues in my own head, making me think about them even more. So I just stopped. If something bothered me, I dealt with it on all by my lonesome. Buried away someplace near my appendix is a large lump of pent up rage, self-loathing, lust, hate, longing, sadness, blah blah blah. Typical human-condition-type-misery stuff. Even that's all bullshit, too, because I also knew that I would never be able to have a meaningful relationship if I didn't learn to get over myself and just talk about what's bugging me.
After a few minutes passed, I cracked the door open and peaked around the edge of it. "Can my head enter the room or do you plan to cave it in with something heavy and pointy?"
Hope stood at my desk, digging through papers and assorted crap that had piled up there. "It's your apartment, you can come and go as you please. I was just looking for a couple of cds that I thought were over here."
Slowly, I stepped into the room. "Looking for cds, eh? That sort of talk comes shortly before 'packing a few things' or 'I'm leaving you dickface'. Mind if I sit?" She shrugged and continued digging. "Look, if I could find the words to talk to you, I would. If there were a way I could ensure that you caught every nuance and intention behind what is going on in my head exactly right, you'd know the moment something started bothering me. Unfortunately I'm neurotic and sometimes I get upset over the stupidest of things. Rather than admit it, I withdraw until I'm over it and ready to move on because I know it's neurotic and stupid of me to be upset."
"And while I'm left waiting for you to return from Catatonia, you sit there at that typewriter staring blankly into space, never typing a word. All of these grand tales you have, none of them come out. Brilliant ideas for television shows, movies, plays, all of it locked away, never seeing the light of day outside of the occasional drunken conversation. There it sits, unloved and untouched. Talk about a metaphor for our relationship."
"You're right. It is a metaphor for our relationship. Only I don't touch it because I'm terrified that I'll screw something up and it'll be lost forever. Just like I'm terrified that if I leave it alone, it'll disappear just the same."
Caught off guard that I'd actually speak candidly with her, Hope sat there with her mouth agape, obviously trying to think of some way to reply but failing.
"Other reasons I don't tell you what's going on in my head include, but are not limited to: feeling inadequate because my writing career is going nowhere and I'm stuck in the same mind-numbing job I've had for years; a long history of falling in and out and in and out of love with women while I date them and occasionally fearing that to be the case with you; an even longer history of falling in and out and in and out of love with women I'm casually friends with and fearing that this will happen when it's you that I want to be with. It goes on and on and on and all comes out sounding like a bunch of crap stolen from this movie or that album or some musical. Deep down, all a fella wants is to know that someone loves him and that their love won't go away if he fucks up occasionally. It's an unreasonable and childish demand that I have, but I'll simply blame the Universe and Life if it never happens. One day I'll figure it all out, solve all of my problems, and be happy and perky like those creepy people on drug commercials. We'll hold hands and frolick in a field somewhere and all will be well."
Her only response was to lay her head in my lap and sigh.
"I'm sorry. I'm trying. Really."
She squeezed my knee, but didn't reply.