She sat on the fence looking over the main street. From here, she could see a little bit of the bus station. There was no other way to get to town besides driving and taking a bus. Jim wouldn’t have a car. She was the one dropping him off when he left 2 years ago. When Jim came into town, he would have to take the bus. Where she was sitting was the best seat in the house to keep an eye on the bus station.
“Hey,” a voice came from behind with a tap on the shoulder. She startled.
“Oh my god. Doc, don’t scare me like that!” She let out a sigh of relief, realizing it was just her family good old vet.
“Still waiting huh?” he lighted a cigarette and motioned to ask her if she wanted one. She shook her head.
“The bus was a little late today. Should have came already.”
“Fern, honey” the vet hesitated, “do you still think he will come back?”
“Yeah, I do.” She could hear her own voice light as a feather. “He will be here any day now.”
The vet took a drag from his cigarette, “Fern, the war ended a while ago. Even the last few Americans were taken out of there in April. You don’t think…”
“He said he would be home for my birthday this year,” she cut him off. Her eyes didn’t move from the bus station, “he still have some time. You knew Jim, he’s a man of his words.”
“Fern…” the vet moaned
“As long as,” her voice was shaking “nobody brought me any notice. I can still wait.”
The vet didn’t say anything else. He put his cowboy hat on and leaned onto the fence. He smoked slowly while looking at the same direction Fern did. The sun started to set over the horizon. The dark orange shade of sunset covered the town with a deep sense of nostalgia. Another day was soon to be over.
The wind blew by and she could smell the diesel in the air. The bus was arriving.
“As soon as I’m old enough, I’ll leave this town. I’ll leave it so fast, people wouldn’t even know I’m already left.”
I remembered you told me so when you were 14. I remembered you saying that while cleaning your dad’s truck. He was so strong, so healthy back then. He was the typical ranch dad that you both loved and hated. He was tought but he loved you. You knew that. But him loving you wasn’t enough to keep you from wanting to leave. Because living with him was a pain. Trust me, I knew! I was your neighbor anyway.
I remembered you were so excited for your 18th birthday. It was in June right? School just ended. You had your high school diploma in your hand. You waved it at me while riding on the back of you buddy’s truck. You told me you were leaving this town next week. You were going to a big city. I forgot which one now, but I guessed it didn’t matter anymore. You never got to go.
That day when that tree branch dropped on your dad and hit his head, it killed both your dreams and lives. A man who used to be tough, strong was then paralyzed from the waist down. What were you going to do? Leave him alone in this goddamn town while you left to go somewhere for yourself? You couldn’t do that.
He loved you. You were everything he had. And you knew you were everything he had. All the money you saved up to get away was then used to pay for his hospital bills in the city. Thanks to that, he was only paralyzed from the waist down. Our local “hospital” said he wouldn’t make it. But you were there and made sure he would make it. You always loved him more than you gave yourself credit for.
You never got a chance to go to college in the big city like you wanted. You never lived the life you deserved and I wondered how that felt. Every time I visited home, seeing you smoking your good old Camel alone next to the fence, my heart always ached a little. Knowing you could have so much more but life was hard on you.
You were good at what you do. You made good money. Your dad taught you well. Everyone in town was jealous. But they didn’t know the dream you left behind. What’s money for if you never could leave this town? Not until you still have your dad anyway.
But when you dad passed, will you still able to go? Are you still brave enough to leave everything behind and leave? When you were 18 and had nothing to your name, things weren’t so scary then wasn’t it? But you had a daughter now, you would stay for her as well wouldn’t you?
My oh my, I will never forget you that day on your 18th birthday. Young, brave with your blond hair shinning under the sunset waving your diploma at me, telling me you were leaving for forever. That was the happiest I have ever seen you.
I’m very afraid of falling out of love with you. But I know it will happen one day, and I’m dreading that day. It’s probably not you and it’s probably not me. It’s just that I don’t believe in ever lasting love. And when things are not ever lasting, they will have to end one day.
When it ends, my heart will break to pieces. And maybe yours as well. I will have to pick up the pieces I have left and glued them together with my memory. I will have to tell myself that it wasn’t for nothing. I spent a big part of my life with you. We couldn’t go the whole way together but that doesn’t make you any less important. It was all for something. At that time, at that moment, everything was worth it.
But one day, maybe you or I will wake up and realize that our love has ran out. We’ll have no children to worry about. We’ll have no estate to trouble. When you no longer love me, can you let me know? It won’t be easy because you can’t make up your mind. You will still need me, but you probably don’t want me anymore. And that’s when you should let me go. And if it’s me who realizes that moment, please give me a moment to gather my courage. You used to be my everything. So please give me some time to gather enough courage to let you go. I will do it, I’ll just need some time. Because we both know it isn’t easy.
Please don’t think I’m cold hearted. When the time comes and we’ll have to split, I’ll spend days afterwards crying my heart out. I won’t be able to find joy in anything for weeks to come. But it’s the kind of necessary pain. I loved you enough to let you go, because at that time, I knew you deserved someone better than me who no longer love you.
I talked about letting you go. But I want you to know I will only let you go when I no longer love you. There will be days I love you less than others. I won’t let you go for silly reasons like that. I’ll let us go when I try my best and can’t find anything more to give. I’ll let us go when I dig deep in my heart and realize there’s no reason to continue moving on. Only then, and only then, I’ll let us go.
She told me if I had met her during a different time in our lives, we could have been together. I told her I didn’t want to be an asshole but I had to call bullshit on that. We were not Romeo and Juliet. We were not criminals. And even if we were Romeo and Juliet, there were still Romeo and Juliet. And if we were criminals, there were Bonnie and Clyde.
I wasn’t a naive boy who believed love could trump everything. I was a guy who believed in himself. We didn’t live in the ancient times where people got killed over things like this. I made enough money so wherever she was I could always afford a trip. Or even moved there for her. If her parents hated me, I could get us a place for our own. If I met her when I already had a girlfriend but she was the one I loved most, I would choose her. It would be hard but nothing complicated. If I loved her most, I’d do it for her. I expected the same from her.
When we met, she had a boyfriend. It was days of going behind his back for us. I kept it casual until it didn’t feel casual anymore. I asked her what she would like to do now. I told her I would do it for her. She told me if we have met during a different time in our life, then we could have easily been together. But now things were too complicated for her. She didn’t know who to choose. I left. If she did love me most, she would have chosen me. Things were ultimately just that simple. I’d carry the storms of life for her if she loved me. But she didn’t love me enough to choose me so I left.
Then I met you. I waited for you to finish med school in the South. I flew to visit you often. You also came to see me. After school, you moved here to be closer to me. Your parents didn’t like me. They wanted a Southern boy. But we didn’t have to stay with them in the South, I took care of us just fine right here. Loving you was easy. Being with you was not at all complicated. I had to wait for you. I had to fight for you. But that was all the things I was willing to do.
I was a greedy man. I didn’t just want to be loved. I wanted to be loved the most. I wanted every time you thought about me, you didn’t just love me but you also chose me. Between giving up on me and walking the easier path, you chose me. Despite everything in life, you chose me. As long as you still chose me, I’d be there for you. I’d shoulder the burden of life for you. I’d give you my heart to break if you wanted to. Because you were my ultimate choice.
I was sitting in the front desk at the box office. I always had a mixed feelings about working on show nights. I got to dressed up very nicely. It was an unspoken rule for the theater people. It was not a movie cinema, it was a theater. And show nights were always the special nights that everyone put all their best efforts in to make happen. To show respect, you at least look decent at the theater. That was the good side. On the other hand, I had to work nights. Nobody wanted to work nights, but I was ok with the extra cash. So I ended up working quite a bit of show nights.
If you thought all the people that came to the theater were rich and well-behaved, you were wrong. Theater was a little pickier of a hobby because it did require some extra money to afford the tickets. But all the people who showed up to only watch one shows, all the rich people that thought they were better than others, all the weird people, they were still everywhere. The two things I dreaded most about working show nights were: before we let people into the auditorium/the actual theater and right after we turned off the lights. Just like many other theaters, we didn’t let people come into the auditorium when the lights were already off and the show was about to begin. Having to keep denying people their “rights” to come see the show when they had their tickets was never an easy thing to do. So much yelling. On the other hand, many people came to the shows early, sometimes because they had to pick up tickets from the box offices or because they had to wait to their friends to come in together. That was also a problem. We kept them all waiting near the box office area, in the lobby because the auditorium wasn’t opened. And they always came up to the box office, constantly asking for when they could get in. “Why can’t you just let us in now?” was a constant. Again, did I mention they were rich?
I was in the box office, sitting in the front desk. I was politely taking care of a line of people trying to pick up their tickets. It wasn’t anything bad. I was having a decent night. Then it was an old gentleman’s turn. He was so tiny. His curved back made him look even smaller in the faded light of the theater. He came to the counter and he greeted me with a smile. I always liked a polite customer. He said he hasn’t seen me around. I said I worked show nights sometimes and may be we just missed each other. He said he came for every show, he had a season ticket. And I knew immediately why he was in line waiting for me. Season ticket holder often had their tickets with us so they didn’t have to keep a big stack of tickets with them. I asked him was that what he needed help with. And he said yes.
“But…,” he called for me while I started turning away to look for his tickets. I stopped and asked him what he needed.
“Uhm…I won’t need both the tickets,” I said, “our…my season ticket had a pair and I only need one today.”
I found his envelope with his season ticket. There were always two tickets for every show. I asked him if he would like me to keep that ticket for someone else that would come in later.
“No…,” his voice got so quiet, “it was for my wife but she passed away recently, and I don’t need that ticket anymore.”
I got quiet. He knew he said something that made the atmosphere awkward. He quickly added “But don’t throw it away. Please give it to the next person that come in and need a ticket. My wife would like that.”
He was still smiling but my heart ached. I gave him his ticket. I watched him walked away into the darkness of the auditorium. His little body seemed even smaller and my heart was heavier. I thought about all the things I complained about in my life and all seemed so trivial.
As winter whispers, my heart freezes. Every winter, it got colder and darker, and I could never get the image of you out of my head. I remembered your back in the dark. You were wearing a thick navy parka.
As winter whispers, the cold freezes my face and I always remember your kiss. The last time, you kissed me on my cheek. If I knew that would be the last time, I would kiss you on your lips and have one last taste of your cherry lip gloss. You didn’t even kiss me right that last time. You breezed through my cheek and told me you had to run.
As winter whispers, the cold wind blows through my hair and I remembered how it used to blow through yours. That day, a strong wind blew the hood off your head. Your blonde hair flew out and they looked sparkling under the street lights. You panickingly struggled to grab your fuzzy thick hood back on your head while crossing the street. The light wasn’t red and you crossed.
As winter whispers, I remembered your blonde hair bursted out covering half of your faced down body on the street. I remembered running towards you and crying till I couldn’t see clearly. I heard lots of noises. I heard sirens but I didn’t hear your voice.
Every time winter comes, they said I have seasonal depression. They don’t know how it feels having your loved one taken away by winter. If it was summer, if only it was summer, none of our tragedy would have happened.
This little prose is a response to a beautiful prompt this week by Go Dog Go’s Cafe.
I thought I would remember his face forever, his smile, his little dimple on the left cheek. I thought I could never forget. I was so certain. He used to be the most important person in my life. I used to love him more than anything in this world. He was my baby son after all. I carried him. I knew him before anyone else even had a chance. I remembered holding him in my arms for the first time. He looked like a wrinkly plum, but so warm. I cried as soon as I held him. I never felt a better kind of joy.
Ben and I took him home, put him in the crib. Ben spent days building, painting the crib, and he was so proud to finally put it to good use. My baby slept in there for the whole 3 years of this life. He didn’t get to die in his beloved crib. But it didn’t matter. Ben burnt it anyway because in the beginning, I used to spend nights sitting next to the crib and cry. It hurt so bad but I didn’t know what to do to ease the pain. All I could do was crying, as if that was going to help with anything. I even put Ben through hell that whole time.
All that and now I started to forget how my baby look like. I used to stay up all night next to his hospital bed to carve his face to my memories and now I forget. I didn’t completely forget how he looked like of course. But I started to forget the little things. I’m not sure about his ears anymore. His forehead is also fuzzy. I’m scared. I shouldn’t forget him. I ran to Ben panicking that I started to forget. That I can’t live with the guilt of forgetting my only son. Ben told me to let go. It’s a sign of the times he said. I shouldn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night because of nightmares anymore. It’s a sign. It’s time.
I cry again. That’s the only damn thing I can do nowadays it seems. But I can’t believe I can live till this day, till the day I’m allow to forget a little. There was a time I was certain that I wouldn’t forget, that this sadness was it for me, that I would die carrying this pain with me for the rest of my life. But I started to forget. And it all started with his ears.