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I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Iain Reid

I’m thinking of ending things.

Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It dominates. There’s not much I can do about it. Trust me. It doesn’t go away. It’s there whether I like it or not. It’s there when I eat. When I go to bed. It’s there when I sleep. It’s there when I wake up. It’s always there. Always.

I haven’t been thinking about it for long. The idea is new. But it feels old at the same time. When did it start? What if this thought wasn’t conceived by me but planted in my mind, predeveloped? Is an unspoken idea unoriginal? Maybe I’ve actually known all along. Maybe this is how it was always going to end.

Jake once said, “Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”

You can’t fake a thought. And this is what I’m thinking.

It worries me. It really does. Maybe I should have known how it was going to end for us. Maybe the end was written right from the beginning.

The road is mostly empty. It’s quiet around here. Vacant. More so than anticipated. So much to see but not many people, not many buildings or houses. Sky. Trees. Fields. Fences. The road and its gravel shoulders.

“You want to stop for a coffee?”

“I think I’m okay,” I say.

“Last chance we’ll have before it becomes really farmy.”

I’m visiting Jake’s parents for the first time. Or I will be when we arrive. Jake. My boyfriend. He hasn’t been my boyfriend for very long. It’s our first trip together, our first long drive, so it’s weird that I’m feeling nostalgic—about our relationship, about him, about us. I should be excited, looking forward to the first of many. But I’m not. Not at all.

“No coffee or snacks for me,” I say again. “I want to be hungry for supper.”

“I don’t think it’ll be a typical spread tonight. Mom’s been tired.”

“You don’t think she’ll mind, though, right? That I’m coming?”

“No, she’ll be happy. She’s happy. My folks want to meet you.”

“It’s all barns around here. Seriously.”

I’ve seen more of them on this drive than I’ve seen in years. Maybe in my life. They all look the same. Some cows, some horses. Sheep. Fields. And barns. Such a big sky.

“There’re no lights on these highways.”

“Not enough traffic to warrant lighting the way,” he says. “I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

“Must get really dark at night.”

“It does.”

IT FEELS LIKE I’VE KNOWN Jake longer than I have. What has it been . . . a month? Six weeks, maybe seven? I should know exactly. I’ll say seven weeks. We have a real connection, a rare and intense attachment. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

I turn in my seat toward Jake, grabbing my left leg and bringing it up under me like a cushion. “So how much have you told them about me?”

“My parents? Enough,” he says. He gives me a quick look. I like the look. I smile. I’m very attracted to him.

“What did you tell them?”

“That I met a pretty girl who drinks too much gin.”

“My parents don’t know who you are,” I say.

He thinks I’m joking. But I’m not. They have no idea he exists. I haven’t told them about Jake, not even that I’ve met someone. Nothing. I kept thinking I might say something. I’ve had multiple opportunities. I just never felt certain enough to say anything.

Jake looks like he’s going to speak but changes his mind. He reaches out and turns up the radio. Just a bit. The only music we could find after scanning through several times was a country station. The old stuff. He nods with the track, humming along softly.

“I’ve never heard you hum before,” I say. “That’s a quality hum you have.”

I don’t think my parents will ever know about Jake, not now, not even retroactively. As we drive down a deserted country highway to his parents’ farm, this thought makes me sad. I feel selfish, self-centered. I should tell Jake what I am thinking. It’s just very hard to talk about. Once I bring up these doubts, I can’t go back.

I’ve more or less decided. I’m pretty sure I’m going to end it. That takes the pressure off meeting his parents. I’m curious to see what they’re like, but now I also feel guilty. I’m sure he thinks my visiting his family’s farm is a sign of commitment, that the relationship is expanding.

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