The horse was called Trouble In Tucson and it only spoke to her. He found the name amusing since he had lived in Tucson for a year. It was after returning east from his own trouble in Tucson that he met her. She didn't name the horse. It came with the name. She called him Trouble and the name made them well matched. She rode him as often as possible and took care of him as if he were her own son, the return of a soul that might have been her son's. Since the son had never been born, she gave the love she might have given him to the horse. She could relate to a horse just as she could never relate to a child. She had been a child once, feigning innocence at every turn, but that childhood was gone now and she couldn't justify bringing another child into the world in which she lived. The horse was already there and she needed him more than he needed her.
She knew a man once with stars in his eyes and a naive outlook on the world and she fell in love with him. There were moments stretched across years where she asked him to let her look into his eyes. They always soothed her and helped her to believe there was some sort of light in the world. Then came the day she looked into them and could not look away. There were clouds in his eyes and he was different now. She could not look away, and as she continued to look, ever more deeply, into his eyes she began to cry.
"Where do you want to go?"
"Just drive and don't look at me."
"That won't be easy."
"I know, and that's why this is so fucking hard."
People like to imagine they are experiencing moments of redemption that purge them of past misdeeds and wash them clean. There is some darkness that cannot be purged and never washes clean. It stays with you, a stain on the spirit, a hole in the soul. It burns you every time you think about it and you are faced with trying to forget. You don't like to be reminded and the reminders are too hard. It is easier when people are disposable and you can dismiss them without regret. You can throw your pain at them like rocks against a glass window and not be moved when you see the glass crack and shatter. Some windows are too difficult to break because they have become like mirrors of a different kind. They reflect too much and make you feel it all too strongly. Your failures and your darkness become distorted and magnified. There is too much pain and too much anger to let yourself be embraced in arms you can feel and look into eyes that speak to you. It is easier to find the shallow embraces of stronger arms that might as well belong to a mannequin. It is far easier to damage and destroy that which means nothing to you than to let yourself feel what you are doing as a reflection upon yourself.
It snowed that Christmas and the air was colder and cleaner than it had been in years. It was as if the world had no life outside of them and as they drove through the frozen landscape they both wondered for different reasons if this moment could last forever. There was a collection of these moments in a box labeled as memories that they both unwrapped more often than they would admit. She could only stand these moments for so long. As much as the nature of his love warmed her, it created too many reflections and awakened too many fears. He was the only man she could ever love the way she loved him and yet she was incapable of speaking of her love. She liked to pretend it wasn't possible for her to feel the things she felt. She couldn't look into his eyes without crying and that told him more than her words ever did.
"You don't understand what a terrible person I really am."
"Not unless you let me see for myself."
"You could never give up on me, even if I tried to kill you."
"You couldn't kill me."
"You are missing the point."
"No, not really. I understand better than you realize."
"And I give you more credit than you realize."
It could have made a decent Christmas movie, the kind where there is an unexpected homecoming that makes everyone's holiday bright and unrealistically happy. This was something worth pretending in the moment. He bought her a ring for Christmas and she asked him when he would give up on trying to convince her she was worthy of such things. He shrugged and told her "never."
She was the kind of person who couldn't make it on her own and yet could not let anyone help her. Her spirit was independent but the rest of her was not. She was not able to let herself care. It was self-preservation or nothing at all, and yet she could not deny herself the occasional moments of fantasy. She didn't mind going to bed feeling like a princess, she just couldn't handle waking up feeling like one. To her it was a feeling worse than any hangover. The only option was to run away. He would never stop believing in her and as long as he kept believing she would have one reflection that didn't agree with the image she kept of herself.
It is harder to look into light when you are surrounded by darkness. It is harder to let someone care about you when you don't care about yourself. It is easier to dismiss someone when you believe they cannot understand. It is easier to run than it is to stand your ground. It is easier to let someone destroy themselves when you haven't been there yourself. There is a puzzle that floats on the unseen wind. It asks whether we are better off to sacrifice our islands so that another may find their way to shore...
No one lives the life that you live and no one can ever truly understand the depth of your experiences and the nature of your pain. We all follow different paths and feel the cut of the blade in unique ways. These things are similar but never the same.
"It's a cop-out to say I can't understand and can't handle it."
"I never said it wasn't."
"You are just afraid."
"I never said I wasn't."
One night they imagined romance as it might have been if neither of them had been weighed down by so much self-doubt in the early days and so much self-importance in their later days. They had the restaurant to themselves and a brash waiter who dared to comment on their nature. "I've never seen two people so in love." He seemed to mean it, but they both laughed at the very thought of what he was saying. Later on he undressed her and traced patterns across her body with slow and deliberate kisses. She closed her eyes and pretended she could handle it. When the tears came she abruptly pushed him away.
She tried beating him down with insults, hoping they would sting enough to make him go away, but every time she thought he might believe them she inserted a disclaimer.
"I don't mean everything I say and I give you more credit than you realize."
Too many people barricade themselves on their own little island. They expend energy to convince themselves it is the right thing to do. They don't let anyone in. They beat themselves down harder than they beat down anyone they encounter. They live in exile, not only from those around them, but from themselves. They are afraid. They blame themselves. They blame the past. They blame those who are no longer there to hear them. Sometimes they are so submerged in their own concept of darkness that they let themselves drown in it. They are too afraid to believe any longer in things they once dreamed possible. Then there are those of us who can never surrender them to the darkness because we are all too acquainted with it on our own terms and we consider the darkness a friend as much as we consider it an enemy.
She thought she understood him and pretended to break him down into a single equation. She knew better, but she also never understood how much he needed this pain. It drives him ever onward and yet he'll never break his promise. He'll never stop believing, because then the pain might stop and he'd miss it too damned much... and he can't afford to break a promise.
Inspired by the song of the same name by Fiona Apple
As appears on the Fiona Apple album Tidal