a short story by Philipp Kroiss

Never let go.

Steve has this way of holding me tight, yet gentle at the same time. I enjoy the warmth his embrace gives me – I could melt in his hands! We sit in the underground – it’s only the two of us in the entire compartment. I couldn’t tell you what time it is, but it must be pretty late. Some lights flicker and there isn’t anything to see outside the window except for the constant darkness. Besides the soft rattling of the train on tracks, it is serenely quiet. I know Steve and I don’t need to talk to enjoy each other’s company. That’s what I always loved about him.

Some time passes before Steve opens his mouth. I expect him to whisper sweet nothings. But he doesn’t do that. Instead, Steve does something he’s never done before: he causes me pain. No, wait a minute – Steve wouldn’t do that! It’s completely out of the question. I mean – why would you hurt someone you love on purpose? He’s going to apologise any moment now. I know he will.

So I wait for him to open his mouth again. But once more, he does nothing but make me feel anguish. He continues to hold on to me – the loving embrace now a hostile grip I can’t escape. I’ve never seen him act this viciously.

How could you do this to me, Steve?! Was this your plan all along? You wait until we’re all alone in a space I can’t escape? I thought you would have more decency than to trap me like that.

I deserve better than this. I want to scream but I have no words.

It doesn’t need to be this way. I know we can figure something out – a way for both of us to be happy! We don’t even need to stay together, but what you’re doing right now – that just hurts both of us.

Steve is stern. Clearly, he’s been waiting for this moment all day. And suddenly I realise he means to hurt me. He’s savoring every moment that I suffer.

There is no way out for me. The train never seems to stop. Nobody’s coming to help me as I’m falling apart. I’ve never felt so alone. I can’t help but wonder – is all of this my fault? Should I have seen this coming? Was the look in his eyes not love, but hunger all along? The pain will never go away, will it?

If I can’t get away, I can merely try to endure the misery. At some point, all of this will be over. I will be relieved.

And then it happens. The train stops. Steve gets out, not saying a word, and leaves me by myself. I’m in pieces, but I’m free of his constraint. I will never be the same again, but I will move one – because I have to. Because that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.