You breathe in. Deep until you feel life. You cease there, as in death.
You meet your eyes in the mirror as you exhale. You don’t smile.
The cloth touching your skin feels dry. Sweating makes it feel even more so. It doesn’t bother you. Fresh out of the shower, you can’t help but think the sweat starting to run down your arm is somehow clean. None of it shows, you look crisp and perfect in your outfit.
‘Looks don’t mean much,’ the thought leaves you with a smile that is marred by the frown that comes with it. You turn away from yourself.
The room is clean. The bed is made. Behind the shut doors of the closet, everything is in its right place, like it’s always been. You’ve not made up your mind on how you feel about that. You glance around one last time.
Moving down the hall, you don’t pause as you pass by the office. You do when you get to the door with colorful animals on it.
When the sound of the car horn blares through the neighborhood a second time, you’re still sitting on the small bed. Reluctantly, you lift your face from the little pillow, nose flared to snatch a final whiff of something so precious. You relax your fingers and put everything back as it was. It’s harder to close that room’s door, but, in the end, you manage.
Everything your gaze touches looks perfect as you go down the stairs.
Out the door, down the steps, along the stone path. The whole thing seems strange to you. You don’t allow yourself to think too much about it.
He gets out of the car when he sees you coming. A fleeting look shows how surprised he is by the size of your small bags. Yet, he’s silent as he takes them from you.
Once in the car, you take his hand. He doesn’t say anything. It takes you a while to realise where he’s looking. You take back your hand and remove the wedding ring on it. You don’t run back to the house to leave it behind. You know you might need it some day soon, so it goes into one of your pockets.
Seemingly satisfied with your actions, he takes your hand again. It’s when you look up that he kisses you.
Are you sure you want to do this? you don’t ask. You don’t want to give him a way out.
“You surprise me sometimes,” you say instead.
The love in his eyes makes you hate yourself. For a moment, you can see how he’ll look when you leave him, too.
Osman Welela (@OsmanWelela) is a recluse in his twenties living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He always seeks perfection in life, but he’s also learned to enjoy the surprises that come with disappointments.
Related country: Ethiopia