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   I’m still not certain why I did it. I’ve been thinking about it all weekend, and even he asked why, why now? Getting a question from him was staggering. He never asked me anything; always told me the way it was, the way he saw me as a person. He was never right. His perceptions of me are a conglomeration of every trait I wish to abolish within myself, and feel I have for the most part. But he asked, “Why now? Why would you do that now?”
   He knew because I’d told him I did it. He sent a text, which rattled me to my core. When the bottle cap ringtone chimed, my heart nearly leapt from my body. I’d changed his other notification tones so I wouldn’t know it was him. Then I took our message app, completely off my phone. I couldn’t stand what my body did every time I saw his name. But then, then he texted me out of the blue, and that old identifier chimed away. I fell apart, inside. 
   He’d once again asked if I wanted to see him. I knew he was here in town. I’d felt him all weekend, part of the bench carving scenario was because of how intensely I felt him, inside me, in my heart, wherever it is the emotions are stored, he was there in all his glory, and I couldn’t ignore his powerful beacon. 
   The simple fact he reached out yet again, was also amazing. I know how much he hates to ask, or be the aggressor; to him it seems like a weakness. He’d have had to humble himself yet again, and face yet another rejection from me. I’ve been nothing but consistent, just like him, so why would now be any different? But still, he asked, he texted, and I wished for restraints so I couldn't run out to my car. So, I couldn't drive over there just to lay eyes on him.
   I detest telling him no. Still after months, and tremendous heartache, even after writing an entire book, and the last thing I want is to tell him, no. Another small part of me dies every time I do it, but I don't feel I have any choice. I'm unwilling to go backwards, and I know he'll hate me with a renewed passion once he reads my book. I don't think he'll want to waste another second on me, and so I continue to tell him, no.

   I’d been searching every white vehicle I’d seen. All weekend, making a point to rubberneck at any F150, and any black and gold license plates. I knew he was driving the same truck because of a message he’d sent a month or more in the past. I also figured he had his super cool new signature license plates. So, yeah, I looked, hoping to catch even a glimpse. I felt pathetic however. 
   This time I was holding it together better than I did at the holidays, which was the last time he was on the coast and I didn’t see him. This time I wasn’t crying continually, and my heart didn’t feel near failing me at every second. Baby steps I know, but hey, it was something. I figure the next time will be even easier, and then eventually I’ll stop feeling him all together. At least that is my hope. 
   My fear is that he’s an addiction I can never again allow. Even someone similar, I just can’t afford it. I lose myself to quickly, and I’ve worked too hard to get here. 
   Part of the initials carving thing was that I felt as if I were grieving. As if he’d died, and I dearly wished we’d done it back on that first date weekend, back when everything was perfect, and I knew this man was my soul mate. And for another thing, I’d never once, in all my life, carved my initials in anything, let alone a pair surrounded by a heart. 
   I sat on that bench and all I could do was think of him, and wish he’d appear. He didn’t, but I can return to this spot now, and see our perfectly fitting initials, surrounded by that heart, and I can return to that first weekend. I can love him again, if only for those few moments.
   All I had was my key. A very old toothless key that tends to fall from my ignition if I take a turn too quickly. Despite the old growth redwood being a bit softer than most woods, it really didn't want to give way to my vain, dull attempts. My plan was to go back and do it better, to use the knife he gave me and really carve that sucker so it endured through the ages, but a huge storm rolled in and I didn't manage to go back. I will though. 
   I had visions of him following behind and just missing me. I thought maybe if I left my mark, he'd know how much I still loved him. Maybe he'd carve it deeper and show me he was still in there, still loving me too.  
   I did it with love in my heart; I wanted to immortalize him in some capacity other than disappointment, sadness and heartbreak. I have no doubt he is a soul mate, and the one I was meant for. 
   I’m not strong enough now. My exterior shell is gone and I’m nothing but soft, pink, scar tissue. He hurts me too easily, and then doesn’t care he did. The wounds open and bleed. I had no choice. I must self-preserve. Nobody else will protect me, so I must for myself. 
   His angels sent me a message. It’s harsh, and saddens me. They’ve given up on him. I was his last test. Maybe he won’t see it as a failure, but a victory instead. Maybe now he’s free to do as he pleases without any repercussions to his soul. Maybe he doesn’t want to be free of this matrix in the capacity I crave. He doesn’t even value love, half as much as I do. 
   I realize his mental disorder is what separates us. I wish I were stronger. I wish he wanted to heal himself. It appears as if his dysfunction prohibits him from ever changing or evolving out of the mentally ill mindset of a narcissist. 
   People don’t change that much during a lifetime, at least most don’t, or won’t. Even though this is what I intellectually know, my heart still has a glimmer of hope. Its foolish I know; delusional just like he said I was, but still, maybe someday. Maybe? Maybe he’ll realize the gift I could have been and how he hurt me until I was forced to flee. Maybe? 
   So now, I go and I trace those letters on that bench, and I remember when I thought he was, him, and I pray that I am not forced to spend the rest of my life alone.

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All roads lead to Payne