Stories that Stick: On Different Pages Pt. 2

Posted on January 23, 2014

We’re in the second part of our Stories that Stick series and we’re keeping it going with Ayinka’s short story, “Different Pages.” If you missed part one, you can catch it here.

 

On Different Pages Pt. 2
By: Ayinka Nmami

“Brie!” I quickly looked around.

“What?” Brie shrugged. “It’s just a question.”

“Not here,” I shushed, knowing her teacher-voice had a tendency to carry, and even with the restaurant full, it would cut through the noise, just as it did in her classroom.

“I just don’t get it. You’re not even trying.”

I took a sip of my water.  “It’s hard.”

“But it’s not impossible,” Brie said. “I just don’t want you holding on to false hope.”

“I’m not,” I said in a voice that signaled the end of the conversation. It was maddening to see something so clearly when friends did not. To know intimately what it was you shared with another person and why you felt the way you did. To hear others speak callously as if our relationship wasn’t something that had thrived and grown at one point with the possibility of it becoming much more. I left without Brie extracting any more information about Joshua. I knew Brie would have wondered if I planned to respond to Joshua’s message.  I didn’t want to answer her because I knew I would.

*

Lunch with Brie did to me what these types of discussions about Joshua did these days. It thrust me into an extremely sensitive mode where my decision to stay, to be there if Joshua needed me, began to waver, and I wondered if Brie was right.  Sometimes, being in this situation made me feel like I was in the middle of an unstable bridge that was swaying as I tried to walk on shaky wooden planks, and I wasn’t sure which way to cross over.

On the walk to the subway, I rehearsed what I would say to Joshua when we spoke, and by the time I reached my studio, my mind had worked out a hundred possibilities and settled on none. As soon as I entered my place, I kicked off my heels, dropped my purse on the table by the door, and tossed my trench coat and lilac scarf on my couch.  My studio had all the little things that I kept around for comfort. The pumpkin spice candles I purchased when the leaves started to change colors.  The little glass jar filled with an assortment of chocolates where the colors of the wrappers changed to reflect the season.  They were orange and gold now but would soon change to red, green and silver.  My coffee table doubled as a wooden chest with drawers that I’d filled with swatches of fabric or interior design magazines for work.

I remembered when I first moved.  Joshua couldn’t see the charm hidden beneath the smudged hardwood floors, hideous pea green walls, and scratched kitchen cabinets. The fresh smell of paint lingered for months after I repainted; Brie and I spent a Saturday afternoon scrubbing the hardwood floors. Now, a beautiful cream and blue rug bought from a bargain sale was placed in the middle of the room.

When we were dating, Joshua used to love coming to my place. I would make him dinner once a week.

“I should marry you,” he said one night, after a meal of roasted sweet potatoes, kale, and baked tilapia. I remembered that night clearly. It was the first time he’d said those words when we were dating. I didn’t say anything. I simply laid my head on his shoulder, hoping he didn’t hear the anxious beating of my heart.

But it was shortly after that moment that he became distant. He wouldn’t return my calls immediately, and he started to sound noncommittal about weekend plans. Right before summer, he called and said we needed to talk, and I knew without him saying so that it was over.

He had held both of my hands as he broke the news to me. “It’s not fair to you, Elise.”

He said that residency was far more difficult than he had anticipated: the hours, the patients, and the staff. He needed space because he couldn’t devote himself to me and to his work.  He didn’t think he was ready for the level of commitment that I wanted.

To me, this was the type of stuff we were supposed to help each other through; we weren’t supposed to give up just because an obstacle arose. We’d work around the hectic hours. I’d stay up later if I needed to so we could see each other or I’d come and see him at work as well.

“I can wait,” I told him.

He shook his head. “I couldn’t do that to you.”

“Is it someone else?” I whispered.

He laughed. “I don’t have enough time for someone else.” But I noticed that he averted my eyes.

***

Now it’s your turn: Do you think Joshua is seeing someone else? Have you been in a situation where you wanted to let someone go, but couldn’t?

Tell me in the comments section below.

And be sure to come back next Thursday to see where the story picks up.

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