“Not of anything out of anyone
All alone here with my demons
Am I ready to move on”
-Nitin Sawhney, Letting Go
They say that letting go is the hardest part but Damien knew in that moment they were wrong. His arms wrapped tightly, desperately around Megan — holding her close, feeling her slip away all the same — letting go was not easy but it was something he had done so many times before. The harder part was something new: it was taking back himself. He had given himself to her so freely, so completely all those years ago that he barely noticed it happen. It was as if she had always been the centre of his world, the still point around which everything else spun. To be separated from his centre left him tumultuous, moving frantically like the edge of a wheel. He could be still only when they touched.
He had spent the car journey observing her as she drove, mentally tracing each curve of her face and committing it to memory, those lines and contours that shifted subtly each time he saw her. She might consider it ageing but he thought of it as her becoming more fully herself. Every part of her had history, some stories he knew and others went untold. It meant he had to repeat the task of memorising her each time he left, to ensure he truly was remembering her and not some partial facsimile.
Now he was holding something else — a final version of her that would endure. She would continue to grow and to live and to change and to hurt and to heal. But this version would be the one that finally allowed him to let go. He knew it was likely the change had occurred more within him than her, a subtle shift beneath the skin that allowed — or perhaps required — him to move on. It had always been an unsustainable love, a forest fire burning at the expense of all else. He was not so foolish as to suppose he could extinguish those flames but he could stop fuelling them, allowing them to burn out to see what might be left in the scorched earth. The thing about life and about love is that there is always more of it tucked away somewhere.
His lips brushed the side of her forehead, the tip of her right cheek, as close to a meaningful kiss as they could share. These compromised moments — forever better yet more painful than nothing at all — were the very reason he had to extract himself. He whispered quietly into her ear and she stiffened. Perhaps strangely, he had not expected her to recognise the significance of this moment. She pulled back and gazed at him with a soft curiosity that morphed into concern when she saw the turmoil in his expression. It dawned upon him that the severity of the effect of their relationship may not have been entirely evident to her. Damien knew he was destroying a home he had built in her, but the sheer scale of that structure may not have been visible to anyone, including himself. In truth, he was not sure it could ever be demolished entirely.
With a final squeeze, he released Megan and began to walk away. Leaving the car behind and crossing the road towards a set of glass doors, Damien was gripped with the fear of possibility. There was now a hole in his world, a void that could be filled with anything or anyone and he had not the slightest idea how to control it. And perhaps, after years of controlling — or failing to control — his own heart, this was precisely what he required. He crossed the threshold and fought the urge to look back. The doors slid silently shut behind him.