Kyle was a scientist by trade, taking things apart, deconstructing and (quite literally) dissecting them to see how they work, to fix them if they've broken.
This worked during his 9-to-5 life, when everything made sense, when life fit into a series of nice, neat boxes, order-genus-species, but when Kyle went home, things were never quite so simple, no matter how much he wished that were so.
He tried to approach life the same way he approached work: with a steady, deliberate hand, with lists and outlines and pages of notes. But it didn't work that way. There is no abstract to neatly summarize results when it comes to understanding matters of the heart, or, more broadly, matters of human interaction. Kyle tried, though; he plastered on a socially acceptable smile and tried to pretend to be one of the cool kids for a change, one of the people for whom the world is set up. Being with her changed him, though he didn't know if it had been for the better, not if all that change had only brought them to the same endpoint they would have reached if he hadn't learned to adapt for her. There was a time when trying was enough, when just making the effort got him some credit, but that was years ago. Now, he just wasn't trying hard enough, he didn't fit in, this wasn't what she signed up for.
Kyle knew the moment that he stepped into the house that something was not right. He didn't fancy himself a man of superstition (even though he was), but things just felt wrong, and he couldn't place his finger on it until he stepped out of his shoes (left then right, placed on the center of the mat to the left of the door), hung up his jacket (red hanger at the far left of the closet, the opening of the jacket facing away from him) and walked into the living room (twenty nine steps exactly, always sidestepping the throw rug) and Alicia was just sitting there. Her sitting there wasn't entirely out of the usual, but, not to sound all new age-y about it, because if there was anything Kyle was not, it was new age-y, but the vibe was just wrong in the room.
She sat on the sofa, twisting her engagement ring around on her finger, a nervous twitch, and didn't even notice him at first. Kyle almost wished that she wouldn't notice him, because this vibe was starting to get disconcerting, and he was starting to feel ill, a visceral physical reaction to something unsaid, something hanging in the air.
“We've got to talk,” she said quietly, out of the blue, which meant that she had noticed him after all.
Kyle didn't like where this was going already; the deep furrow in her brow and the slight tremble to her hands said that she was already furious, or sad, or exhausted, or confused, or something , and he had no idea what in the world she wanted to talk about, but it couldn't be good.
“Sit down,” she said, but he didn't move, and neither did she. Alicia glanced up at him, then sighed. “I can't marry you,” she said abruptly, once it became clear that Kyle wasn't going to sit down.
He made a tiny noise, something in the back of his throat, just a little hm , and waited for her to go on.
She didn't go on, though, and instead just took off the ring and set it on the table in front of her. Click click click , the ring clattered as she discarded it.
“I just don't want to waste any more of our time,” she said, nudging the ring forward and back on the table with the tip of her finger. “We're always going to be two different people, have two different goals. Being together... Kyle, it's just not healthy anymore.”
“Alicia.” Kyle took a step towards her but stopped, barely moving from his position in front of the table.
“Come on, Kyle,” Alicia said, shaking her head. “This is just pointless. We're going to go in the same circles as always. You're going to be all cryptic and mysterious and I'm never going to be able to, like, crack the code to get inside your head and figure you out. I can't spend my life waiting for the day that everything finally makes sense. Life is too short. What are we trying to accomplish here? What's the point of all this?”
“A relationship?” Kyle thought that was pretty obvious. “I thought we were going to make a life together.”
“I mean,” she said, still fidgeting with the ring, but stopping short of putting it back on. “I mean, we've been putting off this wedding for, like, three years now. We both know that it was never really going to happen.”
“Uh,” Kyle started as he lifted one hand, then dropped it back at his side. “Uh, no, that's not something you've shared with me before.”
“Don't be an idiot,” Alicia snapped. She discarded the ring again, letting it roll off of her palm. It thudded dully against a magazine on the tabletop, coming to an abrupt stop. “Come on, the only people who stay engaged for three years are people who are just too afraid to become un-engaged.”
“Too afraid to break up,” Kyle corrected pedantically. “You can't go back from here.”
“I know,” Alicia said, voice softening for just a moment. She was vulnerable with those two little words, and she looked away from Kyle. Alicia stood up, walking away from him. For once, she was the restless one; Kyle was typically the one to pace incessantly as he was trying to work out something tricky, but today, he just stood and stared at her as she turned her back to him. “There's no going back from here.”
Nothing was easy now, not how it used to be. He thought about simpler times, though he couldn't figure out if he wanted things to go back to the way they were, or if it was just that he detested change. Kyle would say the former; Alicia would laugh bitterly and say it was the latter. He liked to think that he wasn't as rigid as she had made him out to be lately, not that fixated on order and lists and neatness. In more humble moments, though, Kyle would admit the truth: he had always hated the constant cycle of change, the way that life just chews you up and spits you back out again. That wasn't how he wanted to live, but sometimes it seemed like he didn't have much of a choice.
“What have I become?”, Kyle asked himself, though he didn't know if he said it out loud or not, or even if it was a rhetorical question or something that deserved a response. He had become someone that he hated, really, just a parody of himself, of the man that he wanted to be. He had let his life just roll out in front of him, and now, everything had changed, and he wasn't sure where he ended and this new, different Kyle had taken over. What he did know was that new and improved Kyle wasn't particularly improved at all, if he was still having this much trouble keeping his life together.
He pressed his hands to his eyes, shutting out the world, and he waited, even though he didn't know what he was waiting for. Divine intervention, maybe, or something that would appear as such to someone whose version of faith was simply steadfast skepticism.
He didn't know how he got here – not literally, but metaphorically. He was disinclined to ascribe some sort of Freudian, Oedipal bullshit to his woes, but he couldn't help but wonder just why, exactly, every relationship in his life had crashed and burned like some sort of fucked up mommy didn't love me enough subconscious mess.
“You're not making this easy,” Alicia said, back still turned. He was glad for that; he didn't want to have to look at her right then.
Kyle was silent as he watched her, watched the slow rise and fall of her shoulders as she breathed. “Making what easy?” he asked naively, head cocked to the side. Deep down, he knew, but he wants to hear her say it. Because it wasn't supposed to be easy, no matter how much she wanted it to be.
Alicia let out the tiniest of groans and turned suddenly to face him. “This,” she said emphatically, hands gesturing at the space between them. “This. Ending this, getting out, damn you.”
“I'm sorry?” he offered, but it was more of a question than an actual apology. He stood there, looking at her with the same mildly perplexed look on his face that he had worn ever since she started trying to break up with him.
“See? See?” Alicia threw her hands up in frustration, then went back to frantically gesturing, hands constantly moving, clenching into loose fists, into anguished claws, into a palms-up plea for understanding from some entity who was blatantly ignoring her. “Why do you always have to do this?”
“Do what?” he asked. “I didn't do anything, I was just standing here. I just came home and you started throwing your existential crisis at me.” The words were nearly harsh, coming from Kyle, but he sounded so mild as he spoke. He scratched idly at the back of his neck and lifted one foot from the ground; Kyle stood there like a giant lanky bird, wading in the water and waiting for something exciting to happen. “Do you-- do you want to talk about it or something?”
Alicia laughed, a sound trapped somewhere between outright mocking and a sob. “Do I want to talk about it? What do you think I've been trying to do? I've been trying to talk to you about it for years. This is why-- why-- god, can't you just be angry at me? Be furious? Can't you do something instead of just... 'do you want to talk about it?' My god, see, that's just it, this is exactly what I was talking about.”
There wasn't much that he thought that he could do to save this. He saw the hurt in her eyes, the way that she was just so through with him, and he knew that he'd run out of options, that unless there was some sort of miracle, that this was over.
Kyle couldn't stand still any longer, his inner penchant for wanderlust getting the better of him. He walked to the table, stooping to pick up her ring; Kyle held it in the palm of his hand, not quite sure what to do with it now that he had it. "Things didn't used to be this hard between us," he pointed out, perching delicately on the arm of the couch, one long leg stretched out in front of him. "We didn't always fight like this."
"No," she said, "no, but I can't--"
The rest of her sentence went unfinished, and though he wanted to prod for more, he didn't. They existed there in silence as she twirled a lock of hair around her finger and as he looked down at his feet, at one toe poking through a slowly widening hole in his argyle sock.
Of course it was never going to work. He should have figured it out before now, should have been able to read between the lines. It should have been patently obvious from day one. Opposites attract, but opposites also end up going down in flames because nothing works.
Wait, he wanted to say to her, wait, not yet, but she was already gone, mentally. She just hadn't started packing any boxes yet, that's all. She'd checked out ages ago and was just now getting around to telling him about her decision.
He couldn't find any words to tell her not to go. There just weren't any words that he could think of her that would fix this, that would make this work.
Maybe there just wasn't anything else to say.