“Is she serious?” The paper snapped to attention in her hand with the flick of her wrist as her eyes read each line of the letter intently.
That was still the only portion of her face he had seen and, even then, under the shadows created by her hair. The familiar street lights of the park, meant for the safety of those trekking through it, showed the danger in her furrowed brow as she concentrated on reading. He had given her the letter to read after pondering it some time throughout the day. Not knowing how to contact her or where to find her, he went to the only place he knew he’d be able to find her. She stood as straight and as still as the lamp posts around them, not speaking, except for that initial outburst.
He blew the letter off for a little while because he saw no point in correspondence. What was done was done. He would muddle through it as he had in the past and live with the heartache until its most certain demise in the absence of the one who caused it. The words kept coming back to him and his memory kept coming back to him, showing him the good times and the heartwarming moments that he thought had been erased or at least coated in his anger and hatred so he couldn’t bring them back without feeling something negative. He was wrong and that made the pain that much worse; it was a constant throbbing ache in the seat of his heart that he just couldn’t shake. It would eat up his cognitive abilities so much to the point where he didn’t realize he wasn’t–
“Hey, pay attention!” He felt a few sheets of paper gently slap his face which shook him from his intent gaze.
Looking up, he saw her holding the letter folded in threes and she was slapping the pages against the palm of her left hand as if she was expecting something.
“Is she serious?” The question twisted in tone to make it sound almost rhetorical.
He looked up at her with uncertainty, sitting on the bench that he always sat on when in this part of the park. He wrung his hands a little bit and wiped them down his lap. His eyes dropped while he tried his best to think his way through this again.
“I don’t know. I guess she is. I mean, would she have written me if she wasn’t just a little bit serious about the things she said?” He felt naive, like a child asking his parents a question of which he was unsure of the answer. Part of him hated the fact that she had simply written the letter as it sent his entire world into a spiral for a moment and, in the aftermath, made things complicated again.
“Do you want my honest opinion?” Her eyes dropped to the letter.
“I don’t know. I just took it at face value and put it out of my head. If there’s more to it, I guess I’m open to a pair of fresh eyes.” He shrugged to this last sentence, indicating that he, perhaps, wasn’t sure he believed what he was saying. But he was willing to hear what this stranger-still what she thought.
“Okay. First off, it seems as if she is much more concerned with herself than she is about you. You’ll notice there’s an abundant use of first person pronouns, lots of talking about what she wanted.” She let this sink in, waiting for a rebuttal.
“Right, that’s true but if you’re writing a letter to someone about yourself and expressing your feelings isn’t it going to be common to write it that way? It wouldn’t make sense for her to make herself the object of every verb, would it.” He sneered slightly. If that was the best she could do he didn’t know why he was even bothering.
“Very good. But she also makes you the object when she talks about you. ‘I was worried about you’ and the even more telling ‘I want you to be part of my life’. What is that?” She was pacing at this point. Was she getting agitated?
“I’m not sure I follow you.”
“‘I want you to be part of my life.’ First of all, didn’t she have you in her life and then cut you out of it completely for the sake of some other guy? And why does it have to be part of her life? Why can’t she ask to be part of yours? It’s like some sort of concession for having your heart broken, like being told you can’t have what you wanted but here’s the prize for being second best, you get to be part of her life. What is that?” She’d never been this animated before. She almost seemed like she was actually mad, an odd feat from someone he’d only seen be passive and almost sage-like in her speech and advice.
“I guess it never really struck me as that way before. I didn’t even really know what it meant. I mean, in what capacity does the guy she basically traded up from work in the life of someone like that? Do I get a newsletter or something? Regular text message updates about how life is going? I just don’t know what to think about it, I just don’t.” His head sank into his hands and his eyes met the ground. A million things were swimming randomly in his mind and he couldn’t order them enough to make sense of this letter, this person, this “relationship” He was never fast at coming up with answers, so he sat there and pondered. The ghost of a girl sat down next to him, sitting straight up, her head looking down. They both let out a big sigh and there was silence except for the hum of the lights and the occasional bug being fried by them. They sat there for a few minutes without moving. The passerby might confuse them for sculpture if it weren’t for the slight breeze blowing his hair and her skirt gently.
“So, what’s your opinion? Do I respond? Do I ignore it?” He didn’t move.
“For the moment, I think I’ve lost my objectivity. For a moment, I felt your pain and confusion in this situation and now… Now, I just don’t know.” She sighed a sigh abnormally large and heavy for someone her size. He mirrored her. She patted him on the knee and leaned back on the bench.
“Maybe… Maybe we should just both sit on it for a while.” He said.
She nodded her head in agreement, looking down at her lap.
The wind picked up slightly, blowing stray leaves and paper wrappers down the sidewalk. The trees whispered to each other the secret to everything but they didn’t speak the language of the trees and so they missed it completely.