“I never thought I would be happy to see you with somebody new”, he says, almost in an inaudible whisper. She smiles, a shadow of the bitterness their last encounter left in her still present in the air. Around them, the concert went on, and they became enveloped by the foggy clouds of cigarette smoke mixed with that being produced by the old machine, glued to the stage. The bright pink and purple lights shone feverishly around them, transfiguring their expressions as their eyes were fixed on each other’s gazes. Amy was somewhat aware of her boyfriend standing 5 meters away from them, at the frontline, too into the music blasting through the speakers to realize she was not dancing right by his side. For once, she did not resent this. She noticed how the corners of Mathew’s eyes were more wrinkled than before, how his beard had darkened at the tips, and his forehead was now higher on his head, pushing his dirt blond curls back. Involuntarily, her hand rose to waist level, on her way to stroke his cheek, muscle memory of the tenderness and intimacy the two used to share. He smiled down at her, nervously. “Yeah”, she answers. “I never thought I’d be happy with somebody else”. Her words come out as a mere murmur, inaudible to anyone else but him, and only because he could read her lips like an open book. As the seconds tick further, Mathew nods, defeatedly.
“Are you enjoying the concert?”, hands in his pockets, looking everywhere but at her face, wondering where his friends had run off to. Amy smiles at his familiar defense tactics. “Not really. But my boyfriend really likes this band.” “You were never one for live music. I remember”. She takes a step forward, her perfume mixing with the salty taste of the atmosphere that surrounds him. “What else do you remember?” she tempts, biting at her lower lip, red lipstick now staining her front teeth. He rolls his eyes at her impatiently, breathing out of his nose intently. “Stop, don’t do this. I’m happy for you, Amy. It’s good to see you, you look good. I hope everything is well. Have fun, okay?”. He raised his hands in front of his chest defensively, as her eyes became watery. Too tipsy to care about causing a scene and too high to notice Steve walking in her direction, she launched herself forward, rising to her tippy toes to stare Mathew in his eyes. “That’s rich. I don’t remember the last time you said so many words at your own free will. Guess after we broke up you finally learned how to communicate”.
Mathew’s eyebrows drew together, and his nostrils dilated. Amy smiled, satisfied that she still had the power to get a reaction out of him so easily. Someone bumped against Matthew and he tipped forward, but quickly regained his balance, avoiding contact with the body in front of him. He became aware of a male persona standing behind Amy and eyeing him furiously. Her boyfriend. Many possible answers went through his brain, all of them ending with a well enunciated “Fuck you” and a storm off. However, he suddenly remembered how this whole conversation had started. He remembered how genuinely happy to see her moving on with someone else made him, how that validated that he had too. Amy’s temper and snarky remarks were scratching at poorly closed wounds of the violent fights that had adorned their feisty relationship. He was suddenly inundated with overwhelming certainty that he did not miss her, or want her back, at all. More than so – he had no desire to comply to her stinginess. There was no role for him to play in her mind games, anymore. And so, he smiled widely and sincerely, taking the girl in front of him by surprise. Fuming, Amy’s nails punctured her palms, as she fought for control over her emotions – but she had always been a tempestuous hurricane no one could quite prepare for. “It seems like it, I guess”, he finally answered, turning his back to her. “Take care, Amy”.
“Fuck off!” she screamed at his back as he cheerfully walked away, finally laying eyes on his mates doing shots at the bar. He could hear sounds of a fight breaking out between a couple behind him and recognized the timber of Amy’s temper propagating in the small, crowded space. The band was not playing any more, and an obnoxious DJ replaced it.
As he walked home, feeling the soft summer drizzle of the warm July night, Matthew reminisced on the night he had met Amy, at a club very similar to the one he had just left. She had been wearing a flowy white dress, contrasting against the dark tones of the rest of the bar’s population. Dancing completely out of beat as she inhaled tequila shots and floated around the arena, he had been taken by the dangerous feeling that she was different from the rest and that he, therefore, had to have her. She had that “I’m not like other girls” vibe about her, which made her irresistible to him. As he grew older, Matthew came to the realisation that there is nothing wrong with the “other girls”, and that those who make it a point to distance themselves from them and diminish their peers in other to compliment themselves are the girls one should be wary of. But on that night, many moons and lessons ago, he did not know this. And so he pursued her and let her play him for a fool, convinced that this cat and mouse game was the most raw and real romantic quest anyone could engage in.
As the weeks grew longer into the winter and his dates with Amy became more frequent, his friends tried to warn him – they saw right through her façade. But Mathew did not. He was in love, he said. Infatuated, enchanted, transfigured, forever dedicated. Drunk in love, and lust, and completely blind to the manipulative tactics of the girl he fell asleep holding each night. But the years had passed, and after hitting rock bottom and leaving her, all the therapy sessions and disastrous online dating and drunken pizza and star wars marathons served him well, as he grew into a new and improved version of himself.
He was genuinely happy to see her with someone else – not because he thought she was happy or changed, for he had understood long before that Amy had no soul to change, only a gigantic ego to drown herself in further and further. He was happy because her being with someone else reminded him of how free of her he now was. Matthew did not feel the need to move houses or cities or countries any more, he did not look for her in crowded shops or loud cafés, he was able to watch her favourite movie without giving her fleeting image more than a moment’s notice. He had moved on, and moved over, and was happier than ever.
Their love story had had more thorns than roses, but all was well now – Matthew could see it for what it was and move forward with no remorse, en route to the next twirling girl in another bar at another time, but never forgetting his worth again. At least for that, he was grateful. So, as he opened his house door and kneeled on the floor petting his dog, he thanked Amy for the storm she had caused in his life and thanked himself for the strength that took to whisk the hurricane away and bring about his own breaking dawn.