The week after Christmas, Jason is sitting quietly in his apartment. It has been a week since she left. A week since he did the unthinkable and all he can do is focus on that moment over and over again in his mind. Why did he do it? What would have caused him to do such a thing? He’s never been violent in the past. Well, that’s not quite true because he has a way with words, sharp words that can pierce a man to his core. Or perhaps even his actions. He can be vindictive when he wants to be. She softened him, though. She had a way of making him a little less harsh and a little more compassionate. It’s not the same as he is used to but he never really cared. He was happy, at least in the moment.

She’s been gone for the week. While he was in class she came and got her things, leaving the key with the landlord, which he found out thanks to a phone call about the key being returned. He, of course, can stay at the apartment because he has enough money but the landlord seems concerned for his wellbeing. She says something about breakups being hard and Jason shrugs it off. There is no way that he is talking about his relationship with some random woman he who prefers to pay and never see again. He always pays on time but he is not going to strike up a friendship with her. She’s of no consequence to him, he only needs a place to live.

The apartment is lonely now, though. He’s not used to it being so quiet and so empty. There was something about living with a woman that made it always busy, whether she was talking about her day. In truth, he would zone out, lost in thought of whether he was lying to her, trying to pick up the little nuance of her gestures to gain the real information. If there was one thing that he had learned in his studies, it wasn’t about what people said, it was about what they did. He could have a person talk to him and he’d be able to tell if they were lying, he was very perceptive in that way. He was almost certain that she knew that. Perhaps that’s why she did everything in the shadows when he wasn’t around. She probably didn’t want him to see how she reacted when she walked out of that door for good.

His mind drifts back to that moment. He can visually recall hitting her across the face. The rage that he felt bubbling up in his mind made him go red and he just blacked out. He doesn’t even recall hitting her until after it was over. He draws back further in his mind to when his grandmother would do the same to him. He never remembered her hitting him, only the reaction that came after. That feeling of guilt, shame and fear that coursed through his body. He felt it after she reacted to it. Not the shock of it because he was still in his own haze, but the crying. He remembered the crying and the way she said nothing. He tried to apologize, he tried to pull it together and make it right but there was no making that right. For so many years he thought his grandmother was a coward for hitting someone weaker than she was. Now, he was the coward.

His mind drifts again to the ring that is sitting on the coffee table in front of him. He was going to propose to her and instead he threw that away with one hit. The thought of knowing that she saw it sitting there, when she came to pack up her things, weighs heavily on his mind. She had to know that he didn’t go and make some frivolous purchase after the fact because he hasn’t reached out to her. He hasn’t even called her because he feels so much shame. There is no way that she deserves to be with him if he is going to be a coward. That thought stings but he knows that it’s the truth. There’s absolutely no coming back from that.

In his professional opinion, he knows that he should go and speak to someone about it. He won’t. The thought of reliving the moment again is too much to bear. Plus, he knows what will come up and he doesn’t want to speak of his past either. He doesn’t even want to go there because he has left that behind him. His mother and grandmother, they are nothing now. They are part of the past and that is where they will stay forever. If that makes him a coward, so be it. He’ll just throw himself into graduating and working and never let himself get that close again.