Lost at Home (a Short Story)

She paused on the Pont des Invalides and he moved to rest his hand upon her lower back only to pause right before he touched her, momentarily frozen. The moonlight danced softly on the gold of his wedding band. Glancing at her silhouette, he slowly withdrew his hand as he said, “It’s not… nothing.” She kept her back to him, looking down into the dark water beneath them, observing its movements. The air vibrated between them and they moved cautiously, careful not to touch the other or make eye contact. An ache arose in his chest that nudged him forward. He repeated it again with a greater firmness in his voice, communicating confidence where he felt desperation. “It’s not nothing.”

She took a step backwards, angling her body partially towards him as she raised her hand, almost as if in defense. “I don’t know what you’re taking about,” she sighed. He felt his eyes fill with tears that would never fall and his hands formed into fists as he pushed his emotions deep into the pit of his stomach so that when he spoke his voice was cold, monotone. “That’s a lie. Otherwise it wouldn’t matter. None of this would matter. It matters because it’s something.”

“No… a bunch of little nothings still add up to nothing,” she stated hollowly, resignation dripping from her voice as her eyes finally met his. Tears pooled against her mascara laden eyelashes but they weren’t going to fall either. Her voice felt like a cold steel that cut through his heart. The air went out of his lungs and a shadow fell over his countenance.

And with those words he knew. Their walls were too high and their hearts too guarded for them to ever get close enough to share anything real again. What could have been something was nothing because that’s how they both had treated it. He closed his eyes and just for a second, he imagined what it would have been like if the walls were gone. Instead of her moving further from him, his arms would pull her close and he would feel her warmth as she leaned into him and laid her head against his chest. He could almost feel her hair brush against his cheek as he laid his head on hers and they shared the events of their days with each other… With a small sigh, he opened his eyes and she was gone, faded into the night fog as if she had been an apparition.

He felt alone, but no more alone then when she was standing there in front of him. He walked over to the edge of the bridge where she had stood moments before and stared down at the same spot she had gazed upon, but these were different waters, different shadows. He breathed in the night air and he closed his eyes. The cacophony of Parisian sounds had the same quality as the water that stirred below; although familiar, each moment that passed by swept away the molecules, the voices, the horns and bells, making each moment equal parts familiar and unfamiliar. He opened his eyes again. Perhaps, he thought, that is why one can feel completely lost upon returning home.

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