No, she couldnt say it like that.
An ocean of people surrounded Amber yet there she was, thrust in the middle of this crowd, and just twenty feet away from him. She had to say something didnt she? After all those dreams and signs that brought here back here. That brought her back to New York City.
Jake was lagging behind his friends and felt himself slipping away into invisible oblivion as the crowds swarmed around him. His head was down low, his feet dragged along the concrete. He barely noticed the couples that spun around him, dancing and celebrating and preparing to kiss this past year goodbye.
Amber walked up slowly as the masses cleared a path for her, destiny guiding her to him, to his embrace, to his arm draped around her, one hand upon the small of her back, the other holding her firmly against his body as his chin caressed the inside of her neck and his lip slid across her cheek before...
He thought of the last year, not of her, and wanted to lash out. Start a fight with this stupid world, kick the love out of them, punch away the dark, lonely hours spent locked in his apartment. Didnt he deserve to be happy? He just couldnt make himself content long enough for it to matter, long enough to last. Hollow empty hearts is all that he could sense around him, for it was all the lay within him.
Amber was within arms reach when she finally saw him. His shoulders were hunched forward, his head drooping low. She needed him, she would help him and then everything could be good again. She could feel complete once more. Her other half of her self was right in front of her. A touch of her hand was all it would take.
Jake whipped his head upward and began to scream at the top of his lungs. Amber stumbled backwards, her hand in mid-journey through the space between them. A few drunken partiers caught her as they all stood dumbstruck at the guy yelling with all his might at the cruel joke that is this universe.
"I HATE YOU AMBER!"
The noise of the crowd rose and Jakes proclamation was lost to the sonic tidal wave of the New Years countdown. He felt his chest and caught his breath. No one seemed to even notice, the world not batting an eye at this revelatory outpouring of a year, no almost a decade of frustration and hurt.
Jake felt something on the back of his mind; A sad and crushed hope for anything good to come of this next year, of these next decades, of the rest of his life. But then he realized he wasnt alone, somehow, feeling that there was someone in the universe that felt the pain that he was feeling. He turned around.
Amber was also turning around, away from him, and smashing her way through the shiny, happy people, with their eyes aglow with the possibilities of endless happiness. Jake saw her running away and immediately went to reach out for her, to call her name, to scream it once more.
Amber burst out of the crowd and into the empty street, bolting across through a wash of tears. Jake thought he should let her go. Let her run away. He did hate her. He hated having to think of her, and hope that shes okay, and that shes happy. He despised himself for being so weak so as to regret what felt so right a minute ago. Wasnt it more than appropriate that she be here to hear it? To hear how he really felt about that damn girl that has infected him, brought him low, made him cry his eyes out?
Amber ran and ran. She blew through Bryant Park where they saw that Robert Redford flick, the subway stop where he took her picture for the first time, the goddamn fountain where they stopped and kissed. She ran down wherever there was an empty space for her, heading nowhere in particular, but everywhere she needed to collect the hurt. This city was full of lost memories, a minefield of moments.
Jake shoved his way out into the street and took after her. He knew where she would go, how she would work her way through the city, subconsciously smacking into all the spots where they had been, where they laughed and cried. He felt singed by the past, burned raw by its instant combustion of seeing her here again. Every single step towards her was cracking apart his encased self.
Jake felt her wince as she roared past the Jamba Juice store they hit after yoga. She nearly tripped passing the noodle shop, stumbling by her nail place where she took him to get a pedicure, and finally collapsed at the park. Amber had always loved this park and now it was poisoned, full of horrors that lingered inside her mind. Inside her heart.
Amber lay crumpled on the ground as groups walked her by, assuming her to be an emotional drunken mess. Which she was. And this made her start to hate Jake, but only for an instant, before that spite turned in on herself. She gave in and let her body heave in sobbing spasms, dry heaving and coughing up all the Jake she had left in her.
Jake slowed to a walk as he saw her completely defeated. Weak. Powerless and full of utter despair, she kneeled there, her hair a mess, her legs bruised and bloody. This was an Amber that he knew well. One he hadnt seen in forever. Vulnerable. He slowed the closer he came to her. Jake looked down with watery, sympathetic eyes.
Jake knelt down beside her and drew her into his chest. Amber didnt resist. She felt him pull her in as he lowered himself down beside her. It felt like giving up, like admitting defeat, and most of all it felt good. It felt right. The crying grew in intensity as he held her closer and closer.
Amber eventually looked over at Jake through the veil of her long hair. He wasnt smiling that condescending smile. He wasnt here because she needed him. He wasnt smug or passive aggressive or trying to make her smile. He was just there, holding her, not solving her problems or making things right. He was just there.
They both got up to their feet and slowly began to walk to a bench. His arm was still gripping her tight, with hers wrapped around his midsection. They dropped down onto the bench and amid the chaos of this night they looked at each other naked, exposed, like they did so many nights, so many years ago.
Neither of them knew what to say. They both began words only to have to clear their throat, or slip into tears again. Instead they looked away and took in the scene around them. Dancing and singing and jubilation as only New Years Eve can provide. It was everywhere. Celebration and declarations bloomed all around. Everyone was happy. And so were they.
They walked arm in arm, occasionally holding pinkies when they needed some space, but coming back to holding each other as they walked downtown together. Like magnets, first drawn to each other, they were now being led to a destination. A specific place that they both knew that the other knew. So there was no need for talking. Only walking.
The bus stop where he broke down in front of her after too much red wine. The supermarket they spent Sunday afternoons at. The dive bar they went to on their second date. The bagel place. The playground. Their favorite bar. The etched J & A that was now all but faded from the sidewalk they redid when they lived down here.
They stopped outside the apartment building. They both looked up as if to confirm the number, but they both knew where they were. Right outside the bridge. Right where they had started. Only now, they were so far away from then, what could this possibly be but a farce. Some last cruel joke they were playing on each other. A place where they were one, at a time when they felt like less than nothing.
He brushed her hair from her face. She raised her trembling chin up. He looked her in the eyes and tears streamed from them both. But they didnt look away. Beneath the yellow light, outside the blue door, framed by the red bridge, they leaned in. Their eyelids shut as if they would never open again. Not on this world. Not where they wanted to be anymore.
They kissed. A long, familiar kiss filled with emptiness, a shred of shared existence pressed between their mad lips. Jake and Amber began to dissolve and suddenly they were two strangers making out in a spontaneous, passionate fury, fighting each other with their battle-hardened hearts, and now, naked in emotional ecstasy. What was him in her, and her in him, was breathed into the other as their mouths closed slowly, their lips holding on, yet slipping away like the seconds in this final, beautiful moment.