In the end, I couldn't say goodbye.
He says it as he walks back into the pub with the two empty beer glasses. I'm beginning to lose the minuscule amount of control that I have held onto (for dear life) during the last 45 awkward minutes and when I try to say the words, my throat closes up and I just shake my head and walk away.
I walk back to the car and sit there in the cold dark for ten minutes, sobbing out what I hope is the last of the rawest feelings of shock and loss. There will be more tears, but I pray to whatever out there that is listening that they won't hurt like these do.
I went into our meeting with a battle plan, a letter written to make sure that I didn't leave without getting everything out on the table. I read it three times before I walked into the pub, the last time parked on the street, in a strong, confident voice. I could be beat down, but I could never be broken.
When I read it to him twenty minutes later, that strong voice is gone, replaced by something weak and defeated. I knew as soon as I looked in his eyes that this relationship is DNR. He's doing right by me by sitting there, but there is nothing in his gaze that indicates that my pain, live and in the flesh, is sparking anything in his heart other than resigned pity. He is done with me, there is no doubt about that now.
After I'm done with the letter, we don't say much. He makes one or two comments about my words, but most of the time is spent sitting in awkward silence punctuated by annoyed glances at the screaming kids on the sidewalks. Once or twice I say something that puts something behind his eyes, but those moments pass quickly. We don't ever touch. There is something impermeable in the air over the picnic table between us.
He finishes his beer, and agrees to sit with me until I am done. It takes me awhile. It's cold outside, the beer is sitting heavy on my stomach and I'm not ready to walk away yet. Almost, but not yet.
I finally tell him that my joy for the bike is dead. I know it will come back in time, but my afternoon ride was nothing other that a means of getting out of the office before people started asking me why I wasn't coming to the firm Christmas party.
Right about then, I was done. There was no longer any reason to drag out this stilted dialogue. I wasn't ever going to get what I wanted from him, and I was done with having him see me so vulnerable. I drank the last drops out of my glass as quickly as I could, put the newspaper in my bag and got up to go. He did the same, grabbing the empty beer glasses and walking toward the pub. Halfway to the door, he called my name.