Zacharie smoked under the rain today. Do you like smoking in the rain? I asked. He nodded. We stood by the side of the road. We waited for the traffic light to turn green. Alfonse, I don’t think this relationship is going anywhere. He tossed the remainder of the cigarette and began crossing the road – the traffic light had yet to turn green. I followed him. Only when we stood on the opposite sidewalk did he face me. Don’t you love me anymore? Zacharie began lighting a new cigarette. No, sorry. I looked down. Okay.
I wish Zacharie hit me. I wish he would turn, suddenly, into a villain, someone I could detest and rile the world against. Because if Zacharie were to hit me I could say: Zacharie hit me and I cannot love him anymore. But Zacharie never would hit me, so I have to think up another excuse. Today I could not think of one. I am left loving a man who stopped loving me.
On the 29th of July Zacharie said, I’m scared, and it was the first time he did. I stood on the balcony to his Richordi studio. He finished lighting a cigarette and joined me, leaning against the handrail. What are you scared of? I asked. He took a drag of the cigarette and the smoke he blew out dissipated into the night. I’m getting bored with life. His eyes too followed the dissipating smoke. In distant buildings, windows flickered in and out of existence. Because of my silence (or so I like to think) he laughed a bit – a low, throaty laugh. Some light from the apartment illuminated his smile. Life is pretty boring. I am not sure which one of us said that. Zacharie kept on smiling, but his smiles were always too stilted, too surreal for me to find meaning within them.
On the 14th of August Zacharie received a letter of inheritance from an aunt that died. Are you going to go to the funeral? I asked, though I knew what he would answer. Zacharie must have known it too because his lips remained sealed. I don’t want her money. Donate it then. Zacharie shrugged and reached for an empty pack of Marlboros. Alfonse, would you mind? We seldom looked each other in the face, so whenever we did, for a few brief instants, I surprised myself with his sight. And every time the surprise eventually gave way to dislike, because I always hated how sad his face looked. I’ll buy you some after work, Zacharie.
A long time ago Zacharie told me, as we lied on the floor to his studio, that he might be a masochist, then stretched a hand out towards his only lamp and followed the erratic flying of a moth circling it. I laughed. Do you like suffering? He observed the moth’s movements with fascination. Us artsy types love suffering. His words made me laugh again. Zacharie spoke of his art other times too, but always vaguely, as if mystery were part of the art itself.
On the 8th of September Zacharie burned his lip lighting a cigarette. As he cursed and fumbled in the dark for the light switch, I remembered what he had said all those months back. I thought you artsy types loved suffering? He laughed a maddeningly loud laugh; thunderous like no other sound I had ever heard from him. So you do listen! He turned on the light and as my eyes adjusted it took me a while to process his words. Excuse me? Zacharie could not answer then because he held a bag of frozen peas against his lip.
On the 23rd of October Zacharie told me he did not love me anymore. He never said I love you, or any variation of it before, so maybe he never did love me. I looked up and expected him to face me though he did not. After crossing the street we always went our separate ways, but that day we stood under the rain in silence. Zacharie struggled to shield the cigarette from the weather. Well, good luck with work. He started walking in the same direction he always took. I thought about love – the word love – and remembered that I too had never said I love you so, maybe, I never loved him either. I love you, Zacharie! My voice cracked, the rain and traffic drowned the words, but I am certain Zacharie heard it.
Zacharie loved suffering, and I wish then that I could be the cause of his suffering.