who knows

B: Do you think it would help if you talked to him again?
Me: (sips coffee) . . . I don’t know, really. I mean, if I talked to him and he said what I wanted him to, then it would help.
B: What do you want him to say?
Me: That he knows I did everything, tried everything to make it work. That he knows I was wonderful. I was great. I was the best thing that ever happened him and he screwed it up. That he destroyed it. Pulled it out of the ground with its roots still intact. . . . That I gave everything. And he gave up.
B: But don’t you know that already?
Me: (shrugs) I want to know that he knows.

Writers’ Block Challenge #4

Task: Write a story about the images on a roll of film. Use 12, 24, or 36 paragraphs.

Flawed Memories

He hadn’t crossed her mind for months when she decided it was time to clean out the closet in her adolescent bedroom. She dug through the poufy frocks and sequined skirts of old prom dresses, remnants  of a coin collection, graduation caps and gowns and tassels. She dug deeper and uncovered pictures that had decorated her college dorm. Art supplies long forgotten. An old broken iPod – lime green, clunky and heavy. She sorted through high school sports paraphernalia. Sweat shirts from swim team. Running shoes from track.

Twenty-two years of memories kept quiet and tucked away. Out-of-sight and nearly forgotten. But not quite.

Buried underneath a box of clothes that most certainly didn’t fit anymore, she found it. A shoebox. Wrapped in pink and purple tissue paper. And small cut out hearts. A memory box. Containing all the keepsakes a sixteen-year-old holds onto the first time she falls in love.

She ran her finger along the outside edge over the crinkled, stiff paper hearts and considered just throwing the whole thing away. Why rustle up all those old feelings, right? Surely there’s nothing in there she’d actually want.

But something sentimental got the better of her and she lifted off the lid.

Inside, she found delicately packed corsages. Dried flowers and ribbons and Velcro bands. Faded ticket stubs to movies and concerts and amusement parks. Cards and tags from every birthday or Valentine’s gift. Empty jewelry boxes. Letters  they wrote each other. Printed lyrics to their favorite songs.

She felt her heart tug as she flipped through the memories. Let them flash in her mind. Homecoming dances and football games. Break ups and make ups and a mountain of firsts. How earnestly she had loved him.

At the bottom of the box was a single roll of film. Undeveloped. She lifted it out and pulled at the fragment of film strip peaking out of the plastic black case, exposing the negatives. Holding it up to the light, she saw a sequence of happiness. A casual afternoon together with nothing better to do than laugh and cuddle and waste a roll of film.

She shook her head. That’s not what it was like, loving him. You’d look through this box and think we were perfect for each other – that we were meant to be. That we were happy. But we were no such thing. Sure there were moments like the one captured on that film. But there were other moments to. The terrible kind. The scream-so-loud-your-lungs-hurt kind. The weep-until-you-get-a-migraine kind. There was cheating and callousness and recklessness and selfishness and emptiness.

Where is the box that holds those memories? Where’s that roll of film?

We look back and we see the flowers and the letters and the smiles and we wonder, were we wrong to let it all go?

She put the film back in the box alongside the other happy mementos before replacing the lid. If I must remember us, I insist on that memory being true to what we were. With that, she added the memory box to the ‘throw away’ pile and moved on to sorting through the Art Supply bin. 

a fantasy

It’s ten years in the future. 2023. I’m 36. A stunning 36, actually. I’m lean and athletic. My face has grown older, but I look mature, striking, sophisticated. My hair is long and dark. I’m wearing something chic. Trendy, yet classic. Modern and flattering. I’m at a local coffee shop waiting for an iced coffee with whole milk at the bar when you walk in.

I see you before you see me and recognize you instantly. It’s the chance meeting I’ve been half hoping for, half dreading since we broke up nearly fifteen years ago.

You eyes graze over me briefly as you scan the room, but only linger back to me when you realize I’m staring at you. You take a moment before figuring out how you know these dark, intense almond-shaped eyes. Why the curve of my nose seems strangely familiar. And why you’re hit with a wave of nostalgia when I run my fingers through my hair.

I wave, once I see you know who I am and smile, tentatively. You come over and I offer an unsure hug. You release yourself from the embrace quickly and step back taking me in one more time.

Time has shaped you also. Your hair is thinner and balding slightly at the crown. Tufts of gray are beginning to poke out around your ears. You’re still slender, muscular. But you seem shorter than I remember. Your face is free of wrinkles, but shows age in deep pockets of blue under your eyes. You look tired, perhaps a little worn.

We make small talk. Beginning and interrupting each other and stopping awkwardly and starting over. You tell me you’re married. Two kids – 4 and 6 years old. You work in insurance. Moved back to the Atlanta area after having your fair share of New York.

There’s a brief pause in the conversation and you ask how I am. Before I can even begin to answer, you quickly blurt out that I look great. I smile, knowingly. I did turn out well. Clearly the better of the two of us, I’d have to say.

I answer a few harmless questions before my coffee appears at the bar. I begin gathering my keys to leave and see your expression drop slightly. You don’t have to say out loud what we both already know to be true. I was the love of your life. Your selfishness and stupidity is what did us in. And you never found someone else quite like me. Or a love quite like ours.

I pull my sunglasses over my eyes and walk away satisfied with that encounter. I feel you studying me as I exit into the parking lot. Watching the subtle sway of my hips. The same toe-over-toe walk I’ve always had. I open the car door and look back one more time. Your stare lingers on me still and you raise your hand to wave goodbye. A somber smile crosses your face. I smile and wave back.

I know those grey eyes. I know the way they looked when they loved me. I know the way they looked when they hurt me. I know the way they looked when they were lost. And as I get inside my car, I know this look too.

The anguish of watching the best thing you’ve ever had realize you weren’t the best thing she ever had. And knowing she is much better off without you.

the bravest girl i ever knew

I still dream about you. Three and a half years later and you relentlessly haunt my sleep.

I used to wake up in agony from those dreams. Feeling pathetic and defeated and lost. But no longer.

I’ve finally accepted the fact that you will never leave me. Those six years we spent together – holding hands and rubbing noses and discovering each other and ourselves – those six years shaped who I am. Those six years altered who I’ve become.

It’s because I let you so deep inside me that I am forever changed by you. My soul. My spirit. The way I think. The way I feel. The way I love.

My dreams of you do not mean I long for you still. They mean I loved you with all I had. They mean I gave you every drop of me. They mean I held nothing back.

Sixty-three and a half years from now, should I still wake up with thoughts of you, I’ll be proud. Proud of how honestly I loved. How eagerly. How fearlessly.

That girl who loved you for six years was the bravest girl I ever knew.

everything to me

I used to believe that one person could be my world, my everything. That my whole existence could be perfectly wrapped around someone else. I used to believe this was an acceptable way of thinking. Healthy. Normal. Noble, even.

It was only when I moved away and started anew and went down a path completely alone that I realized how wrong I was.

I had spent far, far, far too long with someone, believing he was everything. When he or I or both of us faltered and our relationship winced and buckled, we held on. Clinging desperately to the lackluster, so afraid to lose it all. Afraid to be left with nothing.

How unfair it is to allow someone else, anyone else to be everything. When in fact, we are our own everything. We exist completely on our own – our beings fully separated from anyone else. With our own thoughts and feelings and breaths and dreams. Our own ambitions and hopes and desires.

I’m glad I chose to move away. Went down this unknown path alone. I’m glad I got far enough away from you to realize you were not my everything. And we were not anything at all.

Just two scared kids, clinging to the lackluster. No idea how to let go.