Are we really happy here
With this lonely game we play
Looking for words to say
Searching but not finding
understanding anywhere
We're lost in a masquerade

“I want…. I need some space, Gar….” Patti sat on the opposite end of the couch, her arms folded in a self-hug. Gary sat still, fearing that any movement toward her would send her running to their bedroom for solitude. She turned and faced him.

“This whole thing…. It seems so….” She struggled to understand him, but it was just too steep a hill to climb. She turned away and sighed.

“I’m sorry.” It was the sixth or seventh time he had said those words in the past two days; he’d lost count and she lost any real sympathy for him in the midst of her own pain. It almost felt as if in trying to downplay what he told her he amplified it to the blare of a klaxon horn. He looked down at himself in survey; hardly any change but for a simple turquoise bracelet on his left wrist and newly polished nails; clear but shiny.

“I know you’re sorry, Gar. That’s the problem. You tell me you’re sorry but you’re not going to do anything but what you want.” She huffed.

“It’s not what I want…”

“I know, Gar…it’s what you need! What about my needs. I don’t like this….” She began to cry softly. He leaned closer for a second but backed off as she pulled her arm away from his touch.

“I… I want to be happy, Gar…. I don’t know if I’ll ever be happy again…” Patti sighed but turned to him and half-frowned

“I love you…. That’s what’s so hard about this. I love you! I don’t know….” She stared at his hands.

“At least they’re clear….” She laughed, but her heart wasn’t in it and she turned her face to the back of the couch and began to weep. Gary put his hand on her shoulder and she went to pull away, but he turned her to him.

“I’ll let it go….” He could no sooner let this part of him go than to stop being brown-eyed or left-handed. But letting go and setting aside can be two very distinct things, as words go, if all the more painful.

“I hate you!” She said it even as she fell into his arms and wept. He sighed and held her tight as she cried. Looking down at his wrist he saw the light dance off the semi-gloss of the turquoise. He held Patti with one arm and shook off the bracelet; dropping it on the floor next to the couch. Nodding his head, he kissed Patti’s hair and began to cry….

Both afraid to say we're just too far away
From being close together from the start
We tried to talk it over but the words got in the way
We're lost inside this lonely game we play

“What’s the worst word in all of this, Patti?” Louise smiled warmly; an invitation that was too hard to ignore since no matter how Patti felt otherwise she needed to talk.

“It’s like we’ve been playing a game all along….” Patti sighed and Louise nodded in encouragement.

“I feel so….useless…” She looked down at her body in almost disdain.

“You don’t feel… needed?” It wasn’t quite what Patti had said, but it was exactly what she would have said if words didn’t get in the way.

“I don’t know… I feel almost abandoned. I mean…where did he go?” She laughed but the frown on her face belied any lightness of the tone in her voice. She raised her hand and held it in front of her face; palm facing her like a mirror.

“You haven’t changed, have you?” Louise smiled once again; that inviting expression that eased the pain out of Patti.

“Yes…I have. Doesn’t everybody? Oh.. dammit….Godfucking dammit….where did he go? Where did my husband go?”

“You miss him? Has he gone anywhere?” Louise prompted.

“Fuck it, Louise, you know what I mean….. Oh shit…I’m sorry.” She went to wipe her face with her sleeve. Louise handed her the box of tissue and nodded.

“Yes, Patti… I know what you mean. Do you?” It wasn’t as provocative as it might have sounded as that warm smile accompanied her words once again.

“I ….I’m a woman…. Why can’t he see …. What the fuck happened?” She looked away.

“What has changed, Patti… what has happened? How do you see it?”

“I…I knew things….I knew he was….oh, fuck…” She paused, reaching inside for words like a child reaching into a bag sight unseen looking for her favorite candy.

“He was different?”

“Yes… I just….”

“You didn’t realize just how different he was?”

“I….I’m a woman…. I…”

“You never imagined just how different he was…. That the man you married….” Louise left it open.

“He’s not a man….I didn’t know… I never realized.” She stammered, searching for the right words until look of quiet realization crossed her face and she began to cry.

“But….” A small, almost insignificant word, but illuminating instead of intrusive.

“I….I still….” She turned away; her head resting on the back of the couch. Louise sighed in relief as the pain seemed to flow out and away from Patti; a cleansing, healing flow.

“I…I still love….” No other words were necessary for the moment and no other moment was necessary in the process for the time being. Love was what brought Patti and Gary together, and it would do whatever was needful for both of them, no matter how things how things might turn out.

“I’m going to head out to Connie’s now, okay?” Patti said as she picked up the keys from the kitchen counter. Gary looked up from the laptop at her and smiled.

“Have a nice time.”

They both spoke; words followed by innocent laughter. Gary stood up and walked over to her. She looked at him with an awkward half-smile. The bracelet had returned and the nails were neat but now longer and a pale pink. Little steps, she thought, as she pulled him into her for a warm hug. He kissed her on the cheek. She shrugged in frustration but kissed him back in the same manner. He wasn’t the same, but maybe…just maybe; had she changed enough?

“I…love you,” he said, the words were tentative and almost ashamed; repetitive and almost with a completely different meaning than ever.

“I… I still love you,” Patti said with a quick squeeze of his shoulders and that continuing, inviting smile as she looked into his eyes; even if her own words were halting and awkward. She sighed in relief.

“I’ll call you.” She wanted to add more, but it wasn’t easy and really too soon to take it all in. Time enough, she thought, to understand…....the words would come....

Thoughts of leaving disappear
Every time I see your eyes
No matter how hard I try
To understand the reasons
Why we carry on this way
We're lost in a masquerade

This Masquerade

words and music by
Leon Russell
as performed by
Jason Gould

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This story is 1254 words long.