The clock ticks on the spot, frozen as the air between us. Emotions drip blood from a thousand cuts, where we tortured each other. We need a treaty.
Each party came into this relationship dewy with excitement, curious and optimistic about what it could become. Now we argue about whether the rubbish bins are out and what counts as infidelity. Are our world views too different? There must be something we can do, to keep those first feelings alive, instead of them becoming an icy desert.
We each write down what we need, what we want, what we are prepared to give up; for and from ourselves, for and from each other. We scribble out, weigh and measure, check and balance. Short hand follows long through the afternoon. We reject each other's first drafts outright. Marvelling at the distance between us, we translate our documents into each other's language and back again, striving for understanding. We are each other’s thesaurus. Clarity is paramount, like windows to let light in.
Finally, we come to a draft that means the same thing to both of us, that we agree is fair and captures our rights and obligations. We make copies, and each sign them. The pen is thick between my fingers. Bickering is replaced by a pacific silence.
As time passes the treaty wears thin, fraying at its edges. The ink of our signatures, blotted with the splash of angry tears, begins to bleed and fade. The deliberate repositioning of toothbrushes and leaving empty of fuel tanks becomes purposeful late night dalliance with switched off phones and withdrawal of physical intimacy. This continues until both of us breach the treaty in ways the other deems irrevocable. We square off in the hallway screaming our unhappiness into the void between us, until there is nothing in the silence but the heat of our breaths and hatred. The hands of the clock remain at twenty-three minutes past two, capturing the moment we realise there is no court or judge with authority to enforce our treaty, the only flimsy thing holding us together.
Amanda McLeod is an Australian creator of fiction and art. She loves rain (especially at night), cheese, and being completely immersed in creativity. Her words can be found in many places including Ellipsis Zine, Brave Voices Magazine, and Paper Trains Literary Journal; and she tweets about writing and other joys @AmandaMWrites