The breeze tickled the back of her neck, as she sat on the bench. Each caress sent shivers down her spine. The quiet giggles quickly escaped through her pressed lips. Soon she was laughing aloud. Passing strangers gained speed, some taking a step to the side. As easily as her laughing started, it stopped. After checking around, she put her head down, and stared at the ground, playing with the pebbles.
“I wonder where he could be.”
She glanced around, checking both directions twice. She couldn’t be too careful. If she missed him, she wouldn’t see him again. She looked around once more. She could never be too careful. He would pop up at any moment as he normally did. She smiled, thinking of the last time saw him. Coming up behind her, a man put his arm around her waist. Holding her stomach, he shook it, and before she could fight her potential assailant, he let out a hearty laugh. She knew that laugh from anywhere. It was Jeff. It was always Jeff.
Leaving her memories alone, she slowly came back to reality. Happiness slowly slipping away for the second time. She looked up again. across the bench she saw a man, something about him felt so familiar. She couldn’t figure out whether it was the way his loosely curled hair moved in the wind or the green sneakers he wore but he caught her attention. Through squinted eyes, she tried to look at his face. The newspaper covered the important features. Her heart began to race.
“That can’t be him… He couldn’t have gotten past me.”
He flipped to the next page but his face remained unseen. She pretended to look for something in her purse, hoping her rustling would capture his attention. His disinterest continued.
Sighing loudly she exclaimed, “I can’t believe how hot it is today!”
As the last word left her mouth, she felt her cheeks burning. That sounded unnatural even to her. She just couldn’t let him leave without seeing his face. Every attempt left her wanting to try harder. Soon, she was standing in front of him. He simply ignored her. Turning the page of the paper again. She tried to look over the newspaper but he only raised it higher.
“WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM. WHY WONT YOU TALK TO ME!” She screamed, “MOVE THAT DAMN PAPER YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE! I KNOW ITS YOU JEFF. I KNOW ITS YOU!”
Everyone stared at her. They couldn’t understand why she was yelling. She threw her hands up. Anger pulsed through her. She tried to think of the best next move. She couldn’t. Her brain began to get fuzzy and she felt sleepy. How could he ignore her. She knew it was him.
She walked away from the man, tears running down her face. Why wouldn’t he talk to her? Jeff loved her. He loved her more than any other person had. They had grown up together and he loved her. He treated her with so much respect. He fought for her every time she needed him. Where was he now? Why was he acting that way?
Through her tears she saw a man coming towards her. As they got closer she recognized him. He had been there for her when Jeff left the first time. He looked at her puzzled but continued till he stood in front of her. Reaching for her, she was pulled into a tight hug. for a second she struggled, it had been so long since she even hugged another person. For that moment he allowed her to melt into his arms.
“How have you been?” The man paused, “Let’s go back to your apartment. I think you need some rest.”
Reaching her apartment, he unlocked the heavy door, and pushed it open. The inside of the apartment left him gagging as she lead him to her bedroom. Stacks of newspapers stood in the corner, towering over the table she had placed there, threatening to tumble over the moment someone attempted to challenge their reign. Old pizza and Chinese food boxes sat on the boarder of the floor, claiming the area as their own. She had at least tried to create a path for them. The damage was already done.
Ashamed, she stopped. Looking around wondering how her life could have become like this.
“Would you like a glass of water?” She smiled weakly.
He hesitated, “no thank you. I just want to make sure you’re safe.”
Her heart ached, “yeah, the same way Jeff use to check up on me.”
She continued to the bedroom. She opened the door slowly. A stack of newspapers fell at their feet. Frantically she tried to clean the papers up before he saw the headlines.
“MAN KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT” Jeff’s picture on the front page. The man looked at various newspapers. Mixed in where some repeats. “POLICE SEARCHING FOR REPEAT HIT AND RUN DRIVER.” They all dated back 2 years.
Looking around the rest of the room, the man found the dresser clear except for a single piece of paper. One picked it up, reading aloud, “Jeff King: Beloved Husband, Father Son and Brother.” He looked over at her, in the corner she sat, mumbling to herself, tears still rolling down her cheeks. Jeff death’s had been a shock to her. He had heard stories of her walking around parks, asking men why they were late for dinner, calling them his name and reminding them that she had cooked all day for them. Lately though things had gotten worse, she was no longer talking to strangers but whatever was in front of her. Today was the first time he saw it for himself.
“Mom…” His voice cracked, she never looked up from her corner.
He no longer knew this woman sitting apart from them. Unsure what to do next, he walked towards the door, climbing over the piles of papers and trash to inspect the rest of the apartment. Before closing the room door gently, he took a last look around watching as his mother’s eyes remained fixed on the corner of the room.
In her mind all she had left was Jeff, who sat in the corner across from her reading his newspaper as he did every afternoon. Suddenly he folded the newspaper, and crossed the room to meet her where she sat.
“Well……I guess the cats out of the bag. We can’t keep doing this, they’re gonna start thinking you’re crazy,” he smirked, wiping the tears from her face, “I’ll see you later though.”
The light from the sun moved along the newspapers still laying on the floor. It was getting dark out and she hadn’t moved in hours. The quiet apartment stayed still as she collected herself. Finally, she stood up, looked around the room, and wonder how this had happened.
How could he leave her again?