Three years later, two people, a man and a woman, stand worlds apart, looking over balconies. The physical distance between them is one floor, a mere twenty feet; same hotel, same view of Christiansted. Both are thinking about prior trips; the early evening walks along the water’s edge. She remembers their first walk, he remembers their last. Twenty feet can be worlds apart.
August, a block off Charles Street. The sun was near setting, maybe in another hour or so; then, maybe today it has already set.
Chris moves furtively towards the table; the one in the far right corner, the one he was sitting at when he gave her his heart. His eyes taking in the scene playing out before him. The two people occupying the table are oblivious to his presence in the restaurant, let alone his approach. When he walked in he saw them holding hands, exchanging kisses; the caressing of her face.
The man is saying something to the woman. She is laughing; gives a slight shake of her head to signify her complete attention. Chris stops. He is still a good twenty feet away, but can see the radiance of her smile. The man leans back in his chair, smugness, and pulls her forward in an involuntary response. Contradictions fill Chris’ head; is it involuntary, or has she knowingly surrendered to his call. “Animalistic love,’ is what she once described true desire to Chris.
A thought crosses his mind, an interesting idea, and Chris turns, heading, still unseen, to the restroom foyer area. Once sheltered within, Chris pulls out his cell. The incoming call music startles her, breaking the trance she was wrapped in. She looks at the caller ID display. Hesitation, should she answer it? She says something to the man, who nods yes. “Chris? (Ummm) Hi.”
“Just hi? No, ‘my endless desire,’ or maybe ‘is your presentation going well.'”
She is too involved, distracted to read his voice; which he fights to disguise the agitation in, but knows he cannot. Another hesitation on her part, “How is the presentation going…it can’t be over yet.”
“Nope, it was canceled…the other team ran into some sort of computer issues.”
Silent pause. Her expression turns from surprise to obvious nervousness. The man reads something is wrong and mouths “What?” She holds up her hand, “So, Chris what are your plans with the meeting being canceled?”
Chris cannot see the man’s reaction, or he would have read displeasure in the shifting of the man’s posture. Nor can Chris see, but definitely senses, her reaction; concern, indirection. He gives her a moment, then, “I decided to come home early.”
She almost drops the cell, looks up towards the ceiling, “Home?”
“Home; the place where I live.”
“I know that…I mean when?”
“Chris, are you sure you are coming back today?” for the man’s benefit, for her disbelief.
“Most definitely. But you do what you’re doing and don’t worry about me.”
“Don’t worry? I’m…not sure what you mean?”
“I would hate for you to change your plans on my account…and don’t rush, don’t bother getting up, your shit will be on the sidewalk.”
Chris did not give the table a second look as he left the foyer area and walked purposely to the entrance; but the audible response when she saw him walking towards the door could be heard throughout the restaurant. Her companion put out a hand in case she had thoughts of running after Chris, “He’s a looser, let him go.” Even in her confused state of mind she knew the man across from her was not Chris.
The few things she had left at his apartment were not on the sidewalk, and she gathered her belongings in silence. Chris had left a note on the door saying he would be out, “It’s best if we move on without words we will regret.” ‘Regret?’ she thought. What hurt the most was Chris’ silence; not giving voice to any regret he may have about their relationship. Regret he may have about trusting her with his emotions. Regret that she knew was seeping into her stunned brain. It was still too early for her to fully grasp what had taken place. She had never said she loved him, but it was more than sex. It was drinks at Fells Point, huddling next to each other in the chilly air at a lacrosse game, or knowing he would clean the steam crabs for her even though the rule is ‘if you don’t clean them, you don’t eat them.’ Regret was something that would slowly manifest itself over time.
Three years later, two lives, each holding regret in their hearts, return again to St. Croix. Should he have tried to understand? Understand what? ‘She cheated on me, and from the looks of things it was not a spur-of –the moment…what ever.’ But he loved her, plan and simple, he loved her; always will.
Regrets were part of her life. Never gave love a chance, it was relationships. The other guy was a past relationship that relit itself; no planning, just happened. However, laments of childhood took bloom as an adult walked out of Chris’ apartment. With each passing day she would slowly begin to understand the depth of her loss; each day adding to the lyrics of a good country song about hiding from love and getting lost.
A noise from the street below catches their attention; a woman was startled by a bird landing unannounced on her shoulder. He is reminded of how she jumped the first time; he smiles, he still loves her. She remembers jumping, his laughter, her desire to punch him in the gut. She starts laughing.
That beautiful laughter takes to the air and lands upon his balcony. He stops breathing, scared to move; scared to read into it. It’s her. What do you do? Too many years?
An hour later, ten thousand thoughts later, he calls her room. She answers, hungering for his voice.
(Hiding, copyright, Steven S. Walsky, 2010, all rights reserved.)