The Old Future

In the old future, Sandra waited until the very last moment and then she called Will. She sat at home, festering, the rotten anger building up inside her and heating her through until she burned with it. Everything in the house was infuriating. The art on the walls, the stack of unopened mail on the end table, the mug from his coffee that morning when he’d drunk it, scarfed down breakfast, and left. All without talking to her. Mornings had been hard lately. In the old future, things changed.

In the old future, he answered the phone. He said her name and his voice was soaked with relief. She let it bleed into her, holding the phone to her ear and sagging in the comfort where everything was okay. They both said they were sorry in a rush and laughed, words tumbling into each other, their voices woven on the phone connection, both their forgivenesses tightly spun in the air between the house and his work. He came home at once, didn’t even stop for the usual drink with Mike before he got on the train. She picked him up at the station instead of letting him take the bus. In the car he put his hand on her knee and even when they got out and walked into the house she could feel the heat pressed to her skin, the print of his hand still warming her.

In the old future they got into another argument in the kitchen, trying to decide what to do about dinner. Their voices, so recently entwined, knocked and hammered at one another again. Finally Sandra cried. She was so tired of hearing her own shrillness and seeing his face crumpled in frustration. She never cried, but now she did. He melted when she did. She backed into the corner and sank to the floor, shoulders shaking, and he knelt in front of her. His fingers lit on her arms, tentative, pulling her to him. When she looked up there were tears on his face too. “It’ll be okay,” he said to her. “We’ll be okay. We don’t need to fight.” She cried harder from the torrent of wonder, just imagining that things would change. They would be okay.

In the old future, they skipped dinner. They clung to each other and undressed each other and dissolved into each other in the kitchen. They fell asleep on the floor and Will was almost late for work the next day. He kissed her before he left, leaning over while he pulled on yesterday’s pants, his lips holding hers. After he left she could still feel him on her. She spent the day in a daze. Long minutes passed while she stared at her cereal, or at the papers in front of her, or at the blank black screen of the television. Her whole body was lighter now. She nearly floated.

In the old future, Will came home and nearly crushed her in an embrace. They ate dinner in bed that night, flicking crumbs at each other. Laughing.

In the old future, everything was okay. They lived together and they loved each other. Maybe they had some children. Only sometimes did they have moments of passion, but they always forgave each other.

In the old future, Sandra called Will and he picked up the phone. Everything was okay. The old future might have been true until he didn’t answer.

In the new future, the one that is true now, Will did not pick up the phone. Maybe he saw her name appear on the screen and he clicked “Ignore” because he wanted more time to mull the fight over before they talked. Maybe he was in the bathroom. Maybe he was already with Mike at the bar. In the new future, he went for a drink with his friend and then went home with Mike to sleep on his couch. He woke up in the morning and left for work. He was probably short of sleep from sleeping on the lumpy couch with snores drilling at his ears, and that’s why he didn’t look when he crossed the street toward the office. The driver of the car that hit him didn’t stop. They called Sandra from the hospital. She’d been angry that Will had never come home.

In the old future, everything could have been okay. The old future will always be okay, because it isn’t true. Sandra lives in the new future now.

Apart

I said goodbye to you without crying. I left what remained on the sidewalk there with you to be run over, stepped on and kicked aside. There wasn’t much left anyway.

Ours was a relationship that crumbled. We held it tight in our sweaty hands, clasped together, but it was seeping slowly through the cracks. We tried to catch it and let it pile again, make a shape, build on our palms. All it did was run over our skin. It was smooth as it dripped and slipped and slid away, it was soft and lovely, and then it was gone.

Perhaps, someday, we will find one again. A relationship, a life, something. We will never find those powdery remnants of love that was. Those are lost. Maybe someday we will find a new place, a new way, and it will be something too strong and solid to ever crack. It will never crumble. We will never have to grasp, frantic and falling, at one another to hold it together.

Brief Travels

When Arthur first saw her, she was distracted. Harried, confused, and more than a little stressed. Her face was shiny with sweat and her eyes darted from one side of the subway platform to another. She wasn’t beautiful. She was reasonable-looking, mostly. Her cheeks were a little too flat and her chin a little too weak, and her lips pressed together in a disapproving way, biting back some curse or another. Despite that, he knew something at once. He wasn’t sure what it was, but it was something deep and powerful that propelled him to her. He stepped forward from where he’d been standing, his hand twined with Leah’s.

The girl was Rachel, and she was unhappy. She hated to be lost. She was almost relieved when a strange man tapped her shoulder. It was crowded, people pressing up all beside her, but her eyes fixed easily on his face. It was a light, thin face that smiled easily, and her lips curved in answer. Her eyes flickered down, though, to the hand he held clasped in his. “Hey,” he said. “Can I help you?”

They lived in the same town. They had, anyway, before he moved to another city (San Francisco) and she went somewhere else (Boston) for school. Now they were in his place, and she was visiting just for a few days. They explained this to each other as they started up the subway steps to go the opposite direction. They were going to the same place. Of course, she thought.

He lived in San Francisco with his girlfriend, Leah. Rachel smiled vaguely at Leah, and then turned her face back up to Arthur’s. He was telling her about his favorite place in San Francisco, but she only caught the last few words. She smiled at him anyway. When he talked excitedly like that, he had a sort of glow to him. He was lovely like that, caught up in his own words. She thought of this and looked at him, and tripped a bit on the concrete steps.

On the subway train they hardly talked at all. When they got out of the station, Rachel recognized the street. She could do that much, at least. It was only her second day there. She hastily typed her name into Arthur’s phone, and waved goodbye at the couple as they walked off, hand in hand, in the other direction. She got to her friend’s place and into bed without having to say another word. Once the covers were warm on her skin and she was sinking into sleep, she let herself be sad. She wouldn’t remember in the morning anyway.

The next day she didn’t hear from him until 10:38 that night, when she checked her email. She thought of him all day – of the light clear blue of his eyes, of the way he smiled at her as if he knew her. She was sure it wasn’t just her. He had noticed it too.

She emailed him back, and they made plans. The next morning they met up, Rachel and Arthur, and Leah as well of course. They wandered around the city all day. Rachel was grateful to have found someone willing to show her around. The friend hosting her worked all day, and was kind enough already. She was glad, too, to have found someone so friendly. Two someones so friendly, that is.

Arthur watched all the same television that she did. They talked happily about that for a while. They talked about their favorite foods. When she asked him his, he said, “I love fries that are just cooked, all warm and crispy with mayonnaise – the real kind, not in jars or anything. “

She grinned at him, her eyes bright, and said, “Mine is spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and grated cheese on top.” Nobody else was ever so specific – most people just said “pizza.” He patted her knee, in a casual friendly sort of way. Leah smiled tightly.

The rest of her time there passed like this. She left only two days later, anyway, early in the morning. The night before she left the three of them went to a bar together, an awkward triangle huddled around a corner with their feet curled around the legs of the bar stools and their eyes catching on each other’s gazes.

On the way back they found seats. Arthur sat pressed up against Rachel, the sides of their hips and legs meeting warm and solid against one another. On the other side his hand curled around Leah’s fingers. As they left, he put his foot squarely on a seam in the subway stairs, connecting the two halves with a faint dark line. He climbed the stairs putting a foot on one side and then stepping on the other side, leaning from one half to another until he reached the top and was covered in new night. He could see Rachel’s face as she turned to say goodbye. She hugged him, holding onto him for a moment too long, and then let go. He looked at her for a moment, her face smoky in the city lights and darkness, and then she turned to leave. He turned too, holding Leah’s hand and starting to walk in the direction of home.

Closed

Lee couldn’t open the box. It was small, the length of his index finger. The little strips of gleaming wood fit tightly together in neat stripes, and his hands looked round and awkward trying to pry open its smooth angles. Rachel was watching him, her pale eyes fixed on his face. They were icy blue in the sunlight, closed and blank. He never knew what she was thinking. The market around them was busy and loud, but his eyes were drawn to her amongst the chaos.

He handed the box to her. It fit into her small hands like it was the right size, as if they were made to go together. She put her fingers delicately on the corners and tugged, and the box slid right open. It was a little drawer with a dried flower inside, but Lee only got a glimpse of the sky-colored petals before she snapped it shut again.

When she handed the box back to him, her fingers brushed his palm. Rachel smiled into his face. He could feel the touch of her skin on his, even though her hand was no longer on his. Stop, he told himself. He was being very silly. This was the sort of thing that happened all the time. He was prone to closing his eyes when she nudged him, as if her movement shone on him like the sun on his face. He would let the warmth sink in, and then shake himself and keep on. And then tell himself he was being silly, probably, because when she touched him it didn’t look like she even noticed. Every graze or poke electrified him, but her face was always empty. Impassive.

There had been one time that he treasured, one moment of uncertainty. Lee folded his fingers around the edges of the box again and pulled, but nothing moved. Rachel was shifting now, impatient, and Lee glanced up at her and remembered that moment. They had been watching a movie, he thought, and he had looked over at her as she sat transfixed. The music onscreen was jumping and rising, and she’d turned to see him, the longing written on his face. For only a second, her expression had come undone and her eyes had opened wide, before she turned back to the screen and closed herself off to him again. For a breath, though, they had been looking clearly at one another.

Lee yanked on the box, frustrated. It wasn’t budging, and his enthusiasm was wavering. He passed the box over to Rachel again, hoping to watch how she opened it. She didn’t, though. She just placed it on the table again, between the Rubik’s cubes and the spinning tops. It looked small and innocuous there in the clutter of toys, but the light gleam of the wood still caught his eye. Rachel’s movement flashed in the corner of his vision, and he turned to follow her as she ducked back into the crowd.

He sighed at his own folly as he wove through the market, keeping his gaze on the blue of her sweater and started after her.

Experience

She was always the smallest one of them. She was shortest, quietest, least interesting. Carmen was smarter, and fascinating. Annie was the loudest, and funniest too. Sarah was only a good listener – that label that somebody got by being quiet all the time and putting up with everybody else’s crap.

That was why, when they all went off to school, she was determined to change things. Her schedule filled with the strangest classes she could fine – “Neuroscience, the Beatles, and Psychadelic Drugs;” “Sexual Neuroses and Freud;” “Understanding Comic Book Art;” “The Chemistry of Cooking.” When they met at Thanksgiving, all back home for the holidays, she’d saved up stories about her courses and professors to tell them.

Annie’s hair was bright pink. Carmen had a nose piercing. Annie’s boyfriend played bass in a band. Carmen was dating girls now. Sarah barely managed to tell them the names of her classes before they turned to one another again, voices rising in excitement.

When Sarah got back to school, she knew things had to be different. She started cutting classes every once in a while. She hung out with different people so that she could go to their parties. She found a boyfriend, and then almost as quickly found a new one. She started sleeping more and eating less. This time, she was determined, she would have something important, interesting to say. They would have to listen to her.

Romance

In her head, they’d met cute. They took the train together every day without realizing it, letting the occasional glance bob to the surface but mostly keeping their gaze sunk in their laps or books. It built a slow and lovely sense of anticipation, hovering in their throats, tasting of honey. After they’d been spinning smiles at one another across the aisle for a month, he’d slid into the seat next to her. They’d been inseparable ever since.

In real life, they’d met online. They’d exchanged a couple of messages over the dating site, and then they’d met for coffee at a shop neither had been to, nearly exactly equidistant between their places. They’d liked each other well enough, so they’d gone on another date a week later, and then another. Eventually they’d become part of each other without even realizing it, melting together until they looked up in surprise to see that they couldn’t part without tearing.

In her head, their relationship was dramatic. He brought her a dozen roses, and she took him to her favorite restaurant and wrote a note on his napkin while he wasn’t looking. When he turned and saw it, he swept her onto her feet and bent her back into a kiss, right there in the restaurant. They only stopped clinging to one another when they noticed a waitress, patiently tapping her foot and waiting to get past.

In real life, their relationship was comfortable. They watched football games on weekends, her head on his shoulder and the bowl of popcorn balanced between them, precarious and teetering but never quite falling. They went to a movie maybe once a month, sharing a large soda and a box of candy. They always slept touching, his arm splayed over her, facing the same direction.

In her head, their breakup was tragic. They’d been fighting for a month, maybe more. Their voices rose and plunged and sometimes they threw things. Plates shattered against the wall with a crash. Then he’d gotten a promotion, one in another city. He was going to take it, he told her. She was shocked. He knew she wouldn’t come with him. She felt as though they were torn apart, the twists of fate keeping them separated. They could have made it work, she knew it. If only he hadn’t been transferred, they could have had something perfect. When he was gone, she ached for him.

In real life – she glanced over at him, on the couch with the crossword, smiling to himself. In real life everything was just fine.

True Fictions

David wished that he could change things. He thought he could, sometimes. That’s what being creative is; writing is making a world happen with the imprint of ink on paper. In the little spidery lines where the black bleeds and snakes through the white, you can lean in close and see the beginning, the seeds of what is happening with each word.

There was a city, he wrote. He wrote and built its skyscrapers and its glistening towers, the windows that shimmered in the sun and the sunset that paled behind the neon glow of the stores and restaurants, cafes and tattoo parlors. With each letter he typed, it took shape, and the people began to stroll down the sidewalks. A couple, interlaced arms and somber clothes, ambled past him. A harried businesswoman skittered down the steps to the subway station on the corner. A tall man with a green mohawk and a glinting artillery laced through his face and ears slumped against a wall with a cigarette. At the end of the block, a sandwich board advertised “Free Booze!” in teetering chalk handwriting.

David looked down the street, and saw Mark saunting along on the sidewalk toward him. Mark was his main character; his fingers flashed across the paper, pen scratching, and Mark paused. He stood hesitating amongst the swarm of people and checked his watch, frowned, and then kept walking. David stayed still now, watching him, pen hanging in the air. So many things could happen now. Mark hadn’t heard from Trudy in a long time. Maybe he would do something with that.

Mark stopped again outside an alley as the pen scrawled. There was a mugger advancing on a teenaged girl, whose eyes fixed on Mark as he peered in.

David scribbled, then pressed his pen to the paper. A spot of black grew and widened under the point as he pondered. It could go in that direction, too. He looked at the girl, frozen with eyes round and frightened, and at Mark, leaning forward as if he were going to tip over. He wasn’t going to hear from Trudy again, David decided. That was in keeping with how he wrote, anyway. Early on, he had tried to write her into his stories. He had tried to write love as it was, as he experienced it, and he had tried to make her come alive with words. That was a long time ago. He never tried to write romance any longer. Everything else, he could paint and detail with words, but not love. It was just never very convincing.

The Price of Love

Ella showed up early to go to the flea market. I was still half-asleep, so it was much too early for me to think about shopping, much less true love and miracles. She was there loaded down with chunky gleaming jewelry and an irresistible smile when I opened the door, all bleary eyes and pajamas twisted into ropes around me. I waved her in, still rubbing my eyes, and motioned her to the grimy couch while I shuffled off to get clothes.

She’s always like that. Happy, bouncy, cheerful, unstoppable. I’m usually lagging behind, hanging my head and complaining that my feet hurt. It took me all of half an hour to drag on some clothes, swipe a toothbrush through my mouth, and cram a granola bar into my pocket. She practically pulled me out the door once I presented myself, an eager little cocker spaniel to my world-weary animal lover.

Sometimes – every once in a very great while – I wish that I could just stop hanging out with Ella. Quit, cold turkey. My life would be a lot quieter. A lot more boring, too, monotonous. Dull. A lot less painful, a sudden absence of the twisting feeling that made my lungs hurt when I took in a breath. Realistically I knew it wasn’t like that. Ella loved everybody the same, including me, and losing her would probably just be a new hurt. A knife pulled out doesn’t stop the bleeding; instead it gushes forth, rich and red and deadly with every second it spurts. Ella might be the knife twisting in a wound, but at least that’s stopping my insides from falling out.

It was lucky that the market was only a couple blocks from my place. I was half breathless by the time we got there even so. Ella dove right into the crowd of people exclaiming and reaching, among the old picture frames and smeary mirrors, between the cookie tins and gaudy jewelry. With a sigh, I started after her. It took me about two booths to get lost – I got distracted for one second by an old model airplane, and when I looked up again she was gone.

After another moment, I heard her voice. “Louie, where’d you go? You’ve got to see this, darling!”

I plunged in toward her calling, and found her huddled over a booth right in the middle of a row, a big sign inked in Sharpie that read, “Get your heart’s desire here!” It had a rough drawing of a blue glinting bottle with a label that read, “Heart’s DeSire!”

I raised my eyebrows and stepped closer. Ella was holding up a bottle, a purplish glass one that fit in her hand. She turned it toward me so that I could read the label: “Desire.”

“Not your heart’s, though,” I remarked. She rolled her eyes at me and shoved another at my face. “Revenge.” There was a whole clump of bottles scattered over the table. Most of them were clear crystal or glass. In the corner was a stack of boxes, folded cardboard things with masking tape labels. They read, “hatred,” “truth,” “fear.” Ella held up another bottle that had a label on it spelling out “True Love.”

I laughed. “I don’t need that one.” Ella looked at me curiously, and picked up another one without a word. It said, “forever.” I shrugged. “What do these even mean?” She shrugged back at me. We stood, side by side, reading the words on the bottles. There was Lust, FaVOr, honesty, Memory, stupidity, HUnger, Caffeine, Forgetfulnesss, adventure, quiet, Luck, Prosperity. The words were lettered in a quick, clumsy hand like a child’s. Some of them seemed a bit arbitrary, and all of them seemed very odd.

After a minute, Ella said, “What if they work?” Her voice was quiet, careful.

I scoffed. “Bottles at a flea market that can grant everlasting life? Come on.”

“I don’t see everlasting life.” She was scanning the labels again, eyes searching.

“Ella, I was kidding. Of course not. This is silly. If somebody were selling happiness at a flea market it would cost more than – ” I picked up the bottle with the amber inside like honey “twelve dollars. Happiness isn’t that sweet.”

She shrugged again. “Yeah, I guess. Even so – whatever. I guess we should leave, grab some lunch, yeah?” I nodded and she turned to leave, but not before I saw her palm a bottle and slip it into her pocket. I couldn’t see which bottle it was – I caught a flash of the sticker on the bottom, $17, and the milky green color of the liquid inside.

It settled to the bottom of the pocke t, denting the fuzzy wool of her coat just a little, and she ducked her head, hiding her face. I looked sidelong at the cluster of bottles and boxes as they grew farther away, contemplating – but only for a moment. I wouldn’t have taken one, and I didn’t even know which one I’d want. I couldn’t remember what had been there. The bottles all stood innocently, giving no hint toward the identity of the missing one. I turned, sucked in a breath, and followed Ella out.

Windows

Dan sucked in his breath. Across the little courtyard – well, that’s sort of what it was if you leaned out and peered down to squint your eyes at the lonely potted plant in the corner and the broken shopping cart full of old clothes, almost a courtyard – through the window there on the other wall, the light was glowing through the curtains. She came over to pull them open, as she did nearly every afternoon. He imagined that she tried to catch the last dying light before the sun slipped away and evening crept chilly up to her door.

She was busying herself around the kitchen now, flashing into his sight and then away again behind the door. It looked like she was making cereal or something. It reminded Dan that it was nearly five and he needed to eat if he was going to get to Gloria’s by seven. It took an awfully long time to get there on the subway. He grabbed the macaroni out of the fridge and tossed it into the microwave, leaning against the windowsill to wait out the grating hum of it.

English: A wooden frame glass window in the wa...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The woman was sitting now – he called her Daisy in his head, but that probably wasn’t close to her name. He’d seen it on an envelope stuffed into his mailbox by accident, and hers was just above his. She’d been closing it as he got there once, and she’d smeared a smile onto her face and backed out of the room as he stood still and looked at her. He’d never seen her so close before that, and her hair was coming loose around her face in wisps.

Anyway, Daisy was sitting at her kitchen table and scooping the cereal into her mouth, reading something. He plucked the bowl from the microwave – the heat stung his fingers – and ate pressed against the window again. He only had an indistinct view of her, crammed between the bricks across the way, but that imperfect glimpse was so beautiful.

When he got too carried away, he scoffed at himself. Of course he was being unrealistic, and silly, and more than a bit odd. He warred between being severe with himself and relenting, as if scolding the bashful child that was really himself. He would sigh and tell himself that it wasn’t as if he’d done anything wrong, after all. He was only nursing an infatuation with a woman in his apartment building. He’d barely ever spoken to her. But she was very pretty, he would admit to himself. And the bits he could see of her apartment were messy and colorful, and he longed with a deep dark ache to see the designs of the posters on her wall.

Eventually he finished and left the bowl and fork sitting in cloudy water in his sink. One last look out the window told him she was still there, bent over the newspaper – magazine? book? – on the table before her. He blew a kiss out the window and rolled his eyes at his own theatricality, and the door slammed shut behind him. He would be early to Gloria’s.

***

Daisy let her eyes turn outside, and sighed to see the light vanish from the window. The darkness pressed against the glass, and she couldn’t see anything. Probably that man had gone. He’d been leaning against his window again, eyes fixed. She always wondered what he was looking at. He was nice looking, she thought – not that he was so handsome, though he was okay – but there was a kindness in the lines of his face. Daisy fancied she saw it, anyway. She was always too nervous to actually talk to him, never mind follow a daydream and knock at his door. She wished she knew his name. Anyway, it was really just silly. The sky was beginning to darken outside. She turned from the dimming window, shrugged against the ache in her shoulders, and bent forward again over her book. She was just getting to the best part.

Rehearsal

The stage was a well of light that glared and froze in the blackness of the theater. The three of them were sitting nearly against the tall canvas of the set, pushed into a line on one side of the stage as though they were scrambling back from the dark, as far as possible. Richard’s script was getting wavery spots of paper where it softened and stretched around his fingers, clutching it too tight. April sat composed, serene, stiff. She was still talking.

“I never said that.” Was that line supposed to be funny? She was biting a smile as she waited for him.

“No,” he said, “I suppose you didn’t. I guess I just did, then.” The words thudded in time with his heartbeat.

“Alright, then. I do too.” April really smiled now, looking right at him. He gazed back, entranced.

Matt – the director – coughed, and Richard snapped straight and peered at his script. “That’s settled then. End scene.”

Matt read the stage directions, his words jamming together. He’d been ready to head home a half hour ago. April said, “You know, I think you’re the most interesting person I know. Funny, isn’t it?”

Richard summoned irritation. “What’s funny about that? What, you mean you’re surprised I’m interesting?”

April flashed him a smile, eyes narrowed. “I’m not surprised you’re so interesting, William darling. I’m surprised I’m so lucky as to be with you.”

“Oh, good,” he bluffed, aiming for humor. Funny was called for here, right? “I’m the most interesting person I know, too.” No, damn, that was wrong. Definitely wrong. Her eyes flickered down now, breaking from his.

“Yes, sweetheart.” That was weariness, he thought, that he detected in her voice. Exasperation, maybe. Or her character’s exasperation.

He assumed a contrite expression, pulling his eyebrows up and his lips down. Matt’s sigh whispered through the air, but Richard ignored it. “Oh, my love, I’m sorry. You know I do love you terribly.” He forgot for a moment that he was telling the muscles of his face how to act, and he stared at April with wide eyes. Surely she must see the emotion bare in them, the desperation clutching at him and the sorrow barely hidden.

The light gleamed in April’s eye, rinsing pale the blue of her eyes and glinting sharp white. Her eyelashes flicked down, and she said, “I do know, I do. I love you so dearly, I love you too. I do.”

Richard smiled and sat back, satisfied for a fleeting second. Then he remembered his line, “Well then, everything’s all fine, isn’t it?”

April smiled weakly at him and that scene ended too. This was their third run-through that evening and the whole rehearsal had been turmoil. He was nearly counting down the pages until they could be done and go home, but he was already dreading the moment when she would turn and walk with such nonchalance back to her car. Every time they got through this next scene, he felt as though he’d been crushed and twisted. He started it with the same heartiness – “My dear, I wish you’d done that sooner. Hadn’t we better go right away? Go on, get in the car, I’ll finish up here. You look so lovely.”

He would listen to her snap at him, halfhearted, and it twinged in his chest. The conversation would rise and fall, and when April’s voice rose she clutched at her skirt as though holding herself down. Otherwise, perhaps, the anger she conjured would propel her out of her chair and right out the room – off the stage. Finally he would say, defeated, “Yes, well, that’s all. That’s all I can do now. I know it’s not enough, I’m so sorry. I just don’t know what else.”

April smiled brightly at him and said, “Just don’t. Just don’t do anything. Please just stop.”

“I can’t. You know I can’t.”

The fight escalated here again. Her voice sounded shrill to his ears, grating, and he pretended he couldn’t hear her. His own voice was odd to his ears. It swooped and flew. “God, I can’t handle you anymore! I wish I were anywhere else right now.”

Her words were quiet then. She murmured them, her lips barely moving and her eyes fixed on his face. “Go then. Go be anywhere else. My god, can’t you tell by now? I can’t possibly love you. I’ve finally figured it out. Go on, leave.

The scene ended as he stalked out, and his baleful glares back at her were loosened and weakened by the pleading expression he couldn’t help. When he settled back into his chair, every time his body slumped as if suddenly let go. Thankfully that was close to the end, and when the play finished they could all go home.

Richard followed April outside, mesmerized by the tap of her heels on the linoleum before him. When they reached the parking lot, April turned to him. Her face was flat. “Night then, Richard. I’ll see you Sunday.” He nodded at her, numb, and opened his mouth to answer to her back as she swayed away. The words were still stuttering in his throat as the car chirped and she swung into the driver’s seat.

Her headlights flared bright into Richard’s dazed eyes, and as he fumbled with his keys he turned away. The sudden overwhelming darkness blinded him for a long moment.