For years the only thing I wrote was fiction – fan fiction, plays, comic books, whatever it was it came from my imagination and onto the page. Recently I vacillate between fiction and personal essays.
I realized the best things I write are moments; small scenes that sometimes have a beginning-middle-and-end, but mostly just showcase a snippet of someone’s life and mind at a particular moment.
So I wrote a scene* about a heart broken girl who is searching for a perfect moment. Because at the end of the day, we all just want one perfect moment to hold onto.
She hadn’t seen her apartment building in the rain before. Her neighborhood almost shut down apparently. The tiny local markets kept their doors closed, the car wash across the street shuddered its gates, assuming the rain would wash away anything undesirable. Even the usually congested boulevard around the corner remained deserted.
Her roommate called her crazy, she insisted she bring a jacket. She took the jacket, but didn’t bother zipping it up. She tucked her keys in the pocket, letting the rain hit her pony tail as she closed the door behind her.
For the first time in over a decade she chose to walk in silence. Only the sound of the rain and the rush of wind in her ears kept her company. She inhaled deeply as the rain began to soak her freshly dyed hair. It smelled like the end of summer, it smelled like melancholy.
Her feet carried her down and around her neighborhood. When it came to circles she not only ran in them, she also let herself get mentally wrapped up in them. Ever since she saw her long term ex-boyfriend on a date with someone new, her head hadn’t stopped spinning.
Why didn’t he tell her? They hung out the week before. He knew she lived near that bar, that she walked by it on her way home from work almost every day. Was she allowed to ask about it? What did she want to know? Everything. Wait, on second (and fourth, and eighth) thought she didn’t want to know anything. He could do whatever he wanted.
So why did it feel so weird and jarring? Because he hadn’t told her. Because she found out by accident. They weren’t friends like that. She didn’t know if they ever would be. That’s what hurt.
She had to get out of her apartment, get out of her own head, get away from everyone who treated her like a mental patient. Just waiting for her to snap, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Feeling the wet pavement beneath her feet made everything else tumble slowly out of her thoughts. Her mind zeroed in on one thing as she ran. The guy after her long-term-ex-boyfriend. The guy who broke her heart. The guy she couldn’t let go of.
She stopped at a red light, doing calf exercises while she watched the seconds tick down. Her eyes scanned the nearly empty street in front of her. The rain beat down harder, leaving her skin tinged with hair dye and her scalp tingling from the force. She didn’t notice the tinge, or that the tears started (her vision was already clouded by the rain), or the dented black Jeep that started following her as she ran across the street.
She ran farther than she ever had, turning suddenly, and stopping only when she couldn’t breathe. The tears were quickly followed by sobs. Why didn’t he say anything to her? To be fair, she didn’t say anything to him either.
She didn’t want to throw something into the void with no hope of return. She knew she wouldn’t be able to handle that. He meant too much to her, they connected too strongly. She didn’t entirely understand how she could feel this strongly about someone she had only known for a few months.
At a street corner in a neighborhood nicer than any she could afford, she couldn’t take the circle of emotions and worry and unknowns anymore. Her body slumped onto the curb, her eyes closed, her torso falling back onto the sidewalk. Now she focused on the rain hitting her face straight on. It felt like needle pricks against her soft skin.
The Jeep parked next to her, but she didn’t notice, and if she had noticed, she most likely wouldn’t have moved anyway. The driver got out of the car, he walked around the front and stared down at her.
She looked stronger, more fit than the the last time he saw her. She wore a pair of shorts he remembered her wearing one Saturday when they ran around together, and a crop top so rain soaked it clung to her chest. The unzipped rain coat she wore did very little to protect her from the down pour she lay in.
He didn’t know why he followed her. He found himself in her part of town, driving aimlessly through old haunts. He saw her at the stoplight and couldn’t stop his hands moving to follow her down the road. He leant against the hood of his car and realized he was crying too.
The sky clapped with thunder, and one long fork of lightning flashed across it, right above their heads. She shot up, realizing she was still laying on the sidewalk outside a million dollar home.
“Thunder storms are my favorite,” He said as she stood up and looked at him.
“They’re the best time to cry in public, and stalk your ex apparently.” She said, avoiding eye contact. Her heart pounded against her ribcage. He always did that to her. Sent her nervous system into a frenzy.
“Well, it was unintentional stalking. At first. Besides, creepy affection is the best affection.”
He used the same line he did when they were dating and happened to be driving in the same direction after a date. She turned completely away from him, she didn’t want him to see her crying. The wind picked up, whipping her hair against her neck.
“You don’t talk to me for months, then you follow me on my depression run in the rain?” She asked, her voice chilled from the wind and the reality of the situation. He could have fucking texted her.
He shivered. That hurt more than he expected it to. She treated him too nicely. He expected her to lash out at him, to be angry. Instead she was just upset, and caring. She wanted to help him more than she wanted to let go of him. So he had to let go of her. He owed her some explanation as to his silence, he owed her another apology. He felt like he owed her a lot these days.
“I deserved that.” He said, hanging his head down to stare at his boots. “Do you want a ride? We can maybe talk about this, if you’re up for it.”
She turned to face him, and quickly estimated how far from her apartment she was. Easily a mile and a half. Thunder clapped again and she sighed. She thought she was doing so well.
They sat in silence while he fiddled with the heat settings and music. She sat on her hands. Partially to warm them up, and partially to stop herself from reaching out and touching him.
“So, um, your place?” He asked. He could feel himself start to sweat. She always did this to him. She made him nervous in the best way. His heart pounded like it did when he waited for her before their first date.
“No, I can’t be there right now. Thus why I started on this ridiculous rainy run.”
He noticed dye dripping down her neck and onto her cleavage.
“Is anyone home at your place?”
He thought for a moment. “No, all out for the day. We can go there.” He flipped on his turn signal and headed toward the freeway.
They let the music (Nirvana’s Lithium) and the thunderstorm fill the silence. She was still working out what she wanted to say to him. Nothing? She didn’t want to say anything. She said it all in the essay she sent him. The one he never replied to. The one with all her feelings over the course of a month in it. If she said nothing he would most likely rant until she fell back in love with him. She sighed and closed her eyes.
So she didn’t see him crying for the rest of the drive. He didn’t know what to say to her either. She poured her heart out to him. And he just held it. His heart broke again, thinking of what he did to her, all because he tried to convince himself he didn’t love his ex. In the last few months he thought a lot about his ex, about how he felt, about what he wanted, about the two of them together.
He sighed and got off the freeway. He thought a lot about the girl sitting next to him, too. She felt passion with her whole heart. She unlocked something inside him he didn’t know he could feel. He felt accepted, understood, he felt free. He couldn’t tell if he was still crying or if it started up again.
The car stopped and they got out quickly. When they made it inside he handed her a towel while she took off her soaking sneakers.
“This is sort of a weird question, given…” She paused, chewing the inside of her lip. “Well, all of the circumstances leading to this moment. But, can I borrow some dry clothes?”
He thought for a moment before answering.
“Sure, I guess it would make the most sense to talk in my room anyway. Um,” he shrugged and started up the stairs to his room.
She grabbed her shoes and followed him. She loved his room. The way he decorated, the color he painted it, the way his bed fit snuggly against the eave of the roof.
She changed in the bathroom, door closed. His clothes smelled like his shampoo, and she almost lost control and started sobbing on his bathroom floor. Instead she braided her hair and hung up her used towel. When she walked out he sat at his computer, the various art she made him hanging around his monitor.
That pushed her over the edge. She fell, heart first, into a pool of depression. This was a terrible idea, she thought. Instead of asking him to take her home, saying this wasn’t a good idea, she walked over to his bed and curled into a tight ball. The sound of the rain consumed her, and she felt nothing but pain as she listened to the pattering against the window.
He finished checking his email and turned to find her sobbing in his bed. He grabbed an envelope and lay down next to her.
“Do you need anything?” He asked in a whisper. Sometimes saying things too loud made them too scary.
“Just, talk at me like you normally do,” she said, trying to joke through her tears.
He closed his eyes for a moment, savoring her constant dry humor.
“I took a page from your book, not literally,” he said, assuring her that the book she lent him remained in tact, “and wrote down some thoughts.”
She looked into his eyes for only a second, then nodded her head and shut them.
“Thank you,” He started.
He didn’t stop talking for a full 30 minutes. He thanked her for the book, the art, the comedy, the time, the understanding. He thanked her for giving him time, and space, and for trusting him. Then he apologized. He apologized for hurting her, for dragging her into his mental anguish, for disappearing on her like he did. He apologized for not writing her back for so long. He handed her the envelope.
“You don’t have to read it now, but it’s my full response to your, um, letter.” He said and rubbed his face with his hands. He hadn’t talked that much about someone else in a long time. “It boils down to: I really fucking miss you.”
She opened her eyes, looking at him for the first time since the beginning of this rant. Thunder clapped again, lightning forked through the sky, and she realized it had gotten dark while they lay there. There were tear stains on his cheeks too.
“You could have called, texted, emailed, carrier pigeoned, this to me. You didn’t have to stalk me. I was waiting.”
He smiled despite his sinking heart. She really couldn’t let go of that snark. He bit his thumb to keep his hand from wiping away her tears.
“I’m not good with words sometimes.”
“I know. I have no more words for you. Thank you for the apology, and the gratitude. I’ll read this when I can open my eyes without crying.”
He nodded and watched her clutch the letter against her chest.
“I do have a couple of questions.”
“Anything,” he said with urgency in his tone.
“Does this all mean that you’re done with her?”
He stared into her eyes for a long time. The wind shifted direction, pelting the window like rocks through a tumbler. He wanted to see her, not just look at her, but see her. He wanted her to see him. They stared at each other, seeing the pain in the other person, seeing the good in the other person. The pillows beneath their heads were covered in salty patches of tears.
“Yes. We’re done.” He didn’t want to burden her with the details of the conversation shared between him and his ex-girlfriend.
She nodded, and he could see the corners of her mouth turn up into a smile for just a moment.
“Okay, second question. Will you hold me for a while?”
He didn’t need to verbally answer. He pulled her to him, his head resting on top of hers. She closed her eyes and let the tears fall onto his chest. They stayed like that until they ran out of tears to shed. Neither felt any need to fill the silence. The rain filled the void well enough, and the company of another person who understood them on a level most people don’t know exists was all they needed. Both of them separately thought this was perfect. So neither ruined it with words.
Lightning flashed again, and they squeezed each other. This was real, this was needed, this was them.
*by scene I mean 2500 words and a couple location changes, which for most normal people is several scenes.