On One Hand

January 3, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 3:23 am
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Winter brought no snow that year. The dry ground, littered with crumbling leaf fragments, had crackled under Devan’s sorry footsteps earlier when she crossed the park. The weather was unusually warm and a light jacket was enough to keep Devan comfortable. Naked trees stood slim and stoic around her, unadorned with the familiar January coating of hoarfrost and snow. Barren as dead tumbleweed the old trees hid in the shadows of the clear, moonless night, while the faint pinpoints of stars shone through vulnerable branches unobstructed. Devan was sitting alone on the park bench smoking a cigarette, its glowing tip crackling as the flame approached the filter. She stiffly drew a final puff and flicked the spent butt to the dry grass to extinguish it under her foot.

The cigarette left Devan unsatisfied. She reached into her pocket and found her pack, drawing out another thin cylinder between her ring and index fingers. The feeling of the smooth paper on her skin soothed her more than the actual rush of nicotine, which made her anxious and jittery.

Devan was concerned by the fact that she was smoking more now, but not concerned enough to quit. Her smoking was getting dangerously close to a pack a day but she kept at it anyway, disregarding the cigarettes’ effects on her health. Truthfully, the thought that smoking could be slowly killing her appealed to her during times like these: Devan had a masochistic streak that manifested itself during difficult times. Heartfelt requests from Devan’s family that she quit smoking gave her guilt, especially since pipe smoking had killed her grandfather only a few years before. But as soon as she was alone Devan put her family’s pleas out of her mind.

Devan found it hard to explain why she was hurting. The dark cloak of anxiety and emptiness descended on her from time to time with no apparent source. She loathed her boyfriend’s complacency to her mood; he may have felt concern for her but she couldn’t sense it in his affection. Admittedly, it wasn’t as if Luke could reasonably know what to do to make her feel better, but all she needed was for him to want to make it better. That would have been enough. Any attempt to show affection or sympathy, however pathetic or uninformed, would have been perfect. Devan wanted her boyfriend to hurt a little in empathy and he silently refused. She couldn’t openly demand it of him, otherwise any gesture he offered would seem to originate in obligation. It had to be heartfelt and genuine, so that she would know he loved her. She needed Luke to see her downcast expression and freely offer reassurence, so waited futilely in silence for gestures that never came.

Devan loved Luke fervently. She conjured it in herself as the only emotion that could break the ubiquitous numbness she had descended to, as she had done with all her past lovers. Though Luke was the one who first courted Devan, she found herself once again needing a boyfriend more than he needed her. Love was the one emotion she seemed able to call at will, and in jolts of electric energy, intense waves of adoration and affection gave her the only joy she knew. Yet love was at once a gift and her downfall: once Devan loved someone there was no turning back, and she needed it returned with equal intensity to avoid feelings of desperation. Love, to Devan, always seemed unreciprocated whether it really was or not, and the sense that she was throwing it away with something impermanent magnified her feelings of isolation and depression. She knew it was all wrong but had no idea how to change it.

Devan finished her second cigarette and dropped it to the ground, rising to her feet. Standing with her skinny legs touching at the knees she buried her fists in her jacket pockets and started to walk home. Walking made her feel a little better; the flow of blood and air through her chest loosened the achy tightness she felt more often than she felt good. Devan sighed as she reached the edge of the dark park and turned down the sidewalk, lit by streetlights. There was no use lamenting over it; she felt the way she felt and there was no reason to hope that anything would change.

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