The fourth one since.
There are still dozens of messages in my drafts folder that I won’t ever send to him.
I’ve still, more than ever, been living in the land of “what could’ve been” and trust me, this is a very sad place to live in. In the zip code of the lost, you breathe in regret with every breath, sadness permeating every space in which your body stands.
Of all the things that drive people to change, it is despair and sorrow that cause it most of all.
Sadness is so disempowering. Anger, on the other hand, demands action and empowerment. But I can’t get angry when it was me who put myself right where I’m standing.
I’ve spent weekends at the window of my apartment, trying to make myself want to go outside and not really feeling like it.
Never let anyone tell you that your life will return to normal after a hurricane.
I’ve got folders and folders with pics I can’t open.
A number I can’t dial.
A shirt I can’t wear.
A name I can’t say out loud.
The memory of a pair of eyes that will haunt me forever.
I live in fear of never seeing those eyes again. And in even more fear of what I’ll see in them if I do . . .
Helen had complained it was not what she had wanted.
She’d said it was “a love letter to Saint.”
But we all know stories are like that. Stories change. Just like people change. We change when we suffer, when we take, when we give, when we love. When you lose the object of your love, your normal will be perennially changed; there’s no returning to the old anymore. You have to rebuild stronger walls, change your expectations, and wait for the sunlight.
There’s nothing like a sunrise in Chicago, the orange-gold light shimmering over the buildings’ mirrored windows. I’ve watched the sunrises and the sunsets and I’ve watched it rain from this very window. I’ve watched Gina go out, and I’ve watched the cars drive by, not really focused on what colors they are, only that none of those cars belong to him.
My laptop hums nearby. Gina went out to lunch with Wynn, but I still can’t seem to work up the enthusiasm.
I’m trying to work on a new story. A story with good stuff. Stuff about people. Loss. And hope. And . . . forgiveness. I’m pouring tea for myself when my phone vibrates. The number is unlisted.
I stop and set my cup aside, then answer.
“Miss Livingston, this is Catherine Ulysses.”
“Are you there?”
My heart. My heart is going to literally leap out of my chest.
“Yes, I’m here.”
“He’d like to see you in his office.”
I close my eyes.
“Should I tell him you declined?”
“NO! I . . . at what time? I’ll be there.” My fingers tremble as I write down the time and start nervously scribbling when I hang up.
The world tilts a little when I force myself to lower the pen. I stare at the hour. The date. The question mark. The heart. And the name Malcolm, I wrote, with all of that.
I’m finally going to see him. I have no idea what I’m going to say, where I will begin, what can even make this okay.
I picture myself kissing him, having the courage to say I love him.
I picture myself getting teary maybe, too, because this has been the worst month of my entire existence.
I picture him in all his glory, and my chest can’t take it without gnarling up like a live rope.
I brush my teeth, take a shower, then hurry to my closet and swing open the doors, staring at my clothes, hoping something—the right outfit—stands out and yells, WEAR ME, HE CANNOT SAY NO TO THIS. Instead I see a lot of sleeves and nothing, nothing, fit for this moment. Hidden in this closet is his shirt. How I loved sleeping in this shirt. It engulfed me like his arms did, and I had the best dreams, sometimes even erotic ones, even after I was back from his arms, recently sated. I pull it out and look at it, missing it with an ache, then impulsively hide it in the long-dress section again.
I go for something white, a white turtleneck sweater, a pair of light-colored jeans, my lambskin boots.
I feel exposed, all my walls tumbled down. But I go brush my hair, add a light peach lipstick, and look at myself, my gray eyes staring back at me, as vulnerable as I’ve ever seen them.
Because I’ll tell him the truth—the entire truth.
And I’ll deserve whatever he comes back with; I’ll deserve it, every bit.
At M4, I take the elevator, trembling.
Our every complex human emotion, bottled up inside our bodies, our minds and souls and hearts.
Every member of every ethnicity, every human in the past and the present and every one in the future wants to feel like this. The way I feel right now, just a girl hoping and craving, dying to see him, praying the guy she loves loves her back.
My throat is so tight I can’t talk when I step out. His four assistants lift their heads from their computer screens. “I’m . . . here to see—”
“One moment,” Catherine tells me.
I’m standing here wondering if he’ll smell like I remember, look at me like I remember. If he’ll smile or frown, if he’ll hate me forever, if he thinks of me at all. If he misses me at all.
It doesn’t matter so long as he sees me right now. That’s all I want, to look into his face again. Hear his voice.
Finally Catherine hangs up and nods at me as she walks to the door and pushes it open for me, and I walk inside.