Double-Sided Door


For every story, there are two sides

"Dammit, Howie, open the bloody door!"

She hated nights like this. Hell, she hated FIGHTS like this. Fighting with him was very much like fighting with a fearful child--no fists were thrown, but there were always tantrums, always moments of silence and solitude. And, more often than not, there were tears. 
More than anything, she hated the tears. Because she was never the one crying.

"No! Not now, Lisa. I just need to be alone."

Acting against her better judgment, but unable to suppress her exasperation, she rolled her eyes.

"Come now, don't need to be alone. We need to talk about this."

*      *      *      *

He was crying. God, he hated to cry. He hated the nights where the tears wouldn't stop coming, when they flowed like a river that had just been relieved of a concrete dam. He hated the nights where he was in the bedroom in tears, and he could hear her voice on the other side of the door. He loved her, but he hated the way she couldn't understand his solitude.

He just wanted time to himself. The argument had been bad, but the aftermath was always worse, and he wanted to go it alone. He missed her arms, but he'd rather sit alone in the darkness feeling cold than allow her to see him cry again.

"I don't want to talk."

And he didn't. He never did. Of course, she always did, and that was where the problem began.

*      *      *      *

She leaned her back against the door and folded her arms across her chest. She felt like a parent. Scolding him, encouraging him, coaxing him--there was too much work involved. They had agreed not to have children for this very reason...neither one of them had the patience to deal with a tempestuous temper.

She still felt like she was raising a child. Maybe that's where the problem was. She'd never felt like she was on equal ground where Howie was concerned.

"You're only going to get angrier, sitting in there by yourself and mulling over the matter."

Logic. Simple logic. Of course, Howie had never been fond of logic.

"I'll get over it."

But he wouldn't. He never did. She was convinced that, every time they fought, their arguments were one part modern-day difficulties, and nine parts traces of past struggles.

At that thought, she buried her head in her hands and slid down to the floor.

*      *      *      *

"You'll get over it more quickly if we talk it out."

Inwardly, he groaned. He hated discussions with her. He had never been good at verbally expressing himself, especially where emotions were concerned, and he always got tongue-tied. When they talked through an argument, nothing was solved--they just agreed to disagree. 
He was tired of disagreeing. He preferred to think about things, to turn them over and over in his head until he was sure of every angle, every edge, and every imperfection. He needed the time that she never had to give, and he hated her impatience more than his own tears.

"No, I'll just get frustrated. Let me think, and then we'll talk."
Logic. Simple logic. Of course, Lisa had never been fond of logic.

Well, not his logic.

*      *      *      *

They weren't compatible. That was the problem. They had never really been compatible. They had, however, been in love, and they had counted on that to keep everything else in balance.

In an odd way, it had kept everything in balance. In the many nights of sleep she sacrificed, she hadn't yet sacrificed herself, and in the many mornings he had spent in restlessness, he hadn't yet sacrificed himself. They were still the same people with the same problems on either side of a bedroom door.

Had she not been so completely pissed off at him, she would've laughed at how ridiculous they were.

"The longer you sit there, the more you're pissing yourself off."

Curt, calm, and matter-of-fact. Clipped. She didn't want to hurt him, but he was grating on her patience, shredding it to pieces that she couldn't put back together.

Suddenly, she was the one that felt like crying.

*      *      *      *

"No, Lisa, you're pissing me off. I just want to sit and think for a second, okay? Not all of us are as fucking verbose as you are!"

That had been harsh. Even after he'd spoken, the words still tasted bitter on his tongue, and he immediately hated himself for causing her any further pain. He never wanted to argue. Hell, it wasn't even about arguing, because he couldn't remember what they had been fighting about in the first place. He doubted she did either.

It was more about winning than arguing. More about gaining the upper hand, dominating the other. She treated him like a child, made him feel so much less than he was, and so he lashed out. He lashed out, and not ten minutes later, the guilt would come in waves as big as the tide that roared outside.

He lowered his voice, allowing remorse to creep in. "Look, I just want to be alone for a minute."

*      *      *      *

She didn't want to be alone. God, she hated being alone. She hated the silence and the fear and the dark and the breeze on her arms that told her he wasn't holding her anymore. She didn't want to be alone for a lifetime, so she had his ring on her finger to keep his arms around her in the mornings and his legs in her bed at night. She didn't even want to be alone for a minute.

She opened her mouth to tell him so, but the martyr in her spoke first.


And so they sat, in the silence she hated, on either side of the bedroom door.

*      *      *      *

His mind was reeling. He had expected her to fight, to argue further. But instead she said okay. Just okay. Okay, when he knew with everything in him that it had never been okay. It had never been close to okay. It was staring across the mountain range at okay, listening for echoes from the other side that never came.

He wanted to say something, anything to kill the silence, to slaughter it until it tasted the tears that he hated himself for crying, but he couldn't. He could never string the words together like she could.

So he closed his eyes against the silence and the darkness and the absence of her voice, and let the water run down his cheeks in the rivers that he knew she would never see.

*      *      *      *

She didn't have to see him to know he was crying. He was only silent when he cried. Other people would cry with their whole body, with sobs that shook them to the very core and tears that tore at their flesh, giving them an excuse to scream at the pain, but he cried with the aide of silence and solitude, and she hated that she didn't know how to stop the tears anymore.

She wasn't sure she ever had.

She brought her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs, trying to feel the traces of his fingerprints on her skin, but all she felt was cold and very, very alone. She leaned her head against the door, wanting nothing more than to break it down and beg him to hold her. Instead, she closed her eyes and let the words unsaid run through her head over and over like a song that got stuck after an evening with the radio.

*      *      *      *

He counted the stars beneath his eyelids and the tears on his lips. He rubbed the fibers of the carpet until his hands were warm and he couldn't remember the way her cheek felt against his fingers. He listened to the rhythm of her breathing on the other side of the door and wished, if even for a moment, that he could tear down the barrier and bring her in his arms so that sleep would come easier.

But he couldn't, and so he let the melody of her nails on the hardwood floor carry him far away from the bedroom door and the nearness of her.

*      *      *      *

Little things assaulted her senses. The ticking of the clock in the hall. The rush of air through the vents. The surf against the shore just outside the bedroom window. And, finally, the soft sound of his snoring from the space at the bottom of the doorway.

She wanted to smile, but she couldn't remember how.

*      *      *      *

He wanted to dream, but he couldn't remember how.

*      *      *      *

And she thought, and he wept, and she mourned, and he stilled, and they slept on either side of the bedroom door.