There comes a time when it's impossible to keep procrastinating; to continue putting off the inevitable when it comes to the emotional equivalent of a professional 'oh shit' moment. You know the one. It's the realisation - if you'll pardon the extremely dark-hued pun - that the deadline is here, and it's unavoidable. No amount of dodging, ducking or putting of metaphorical fingers in ears and yelling 'la, la, la!!!' as loudly as possible to my psyche is going to cut the mustard.
Not this time.
It's those one or two seconds of fear-drenched icy realisation, the skeletal fingers up and down your cerebellum, when you just know. If we were in The Great Escape, it's time for Steve MacQueen to start revving up the motorbike.
It's the moment to go over the barbed wire of cynicism, and escape any feelings, or stay by your side, and face down the bastards together.
It's time to stop the ridiculous phone calls, which have become increasingly infrequent on purpose, the ones where I try to talk about everything and nothing but that which actually needs to be discussed.
'Work? Oh yeah, work's fine, yeah so much on it's ridiculous, in fact I'm going out straight after so I'll have to shoot off soon, I bought a new dress because nothing fits me, I suppose Mum told you, yep I'm a fatty fatguts, sorry must fly, will call you tomorrow, OK, bye' - and click. Sweat is wiped from brow, and a glass of sauv blanc is sucked down with trembling hands and mouth knowing my duty has been done. So many times I've scrambled over the wire, avoided the machine guns and dogs, and run, run, run, from the stalag of the senses.
Not this time though.
Every escapee - even me - the queen of evading emotional captivity - has to draw breath. Has to rest, and take stock of the situation. That's when reality punches me in the face like a backhander from the bastard I thought I'd left behind in a psychiatrist's office in 1994.
Fact. Those I love, leave. It's not from choice, and it sure as hell isn't easy most of the time, but they leave. And when they go, they take with them something of my essential essence. My eternal spark.
Each time they are preparing to go, I have a decision to make.
To accept the fear, to meet the emotional deadline, and live with the little loss, the slight diminishing of my own spark as they carry my flame, my heart, with them on their journey outwards - or not.
I can choose to feel the warmth of their own flame brush against my soul as they go on their way, and retain it in hindbrain and heart, or I can can stay in the safe, chill numbness that is life's solitary confinement cell. I can dwell in its outer darkness and stay frozen in mind and emotion forever.
It's essentially a selfish act either way, as the only person I am considering is me. Because the loss I am now contemplating - yours - you won't know about it. You'll be gone. Dust and eternity. To you, it's a matter of supreme indifference after the fact - for all you'll give a flying fig, it could be a weighty toss of the coin on what flavour ice cream to have after dinner.
After the fact. But what about before you, and your spark, are gone? Do I let your flame warm me now? Do I kindle it by being there with you, and loving you as hard as I can, because that's what I know you would do for me?
And that's where the answer lies. I consider what you would do. All this hypothetical crap comes down to you, you and your goodness, your decency... and the knowledge that you wouldn't hesitate to keep the spark burning for me, and give to it as much as you could, no matter how vulnerable it makes you. No matter how many spotlights get turned on you, how many times you get dragged out of line and shown to be wearing your heart on your bruised and battered arm.
So I will do the same. For you, I will stop the escape attempts, the digging of tunnels, the run for the safety of numbing, feel-nothing Switzerland and sunshine.
For you, I will shiver in the darkness and push you to the front of my heart, where it's warmest.
And I will feed the fire.