She told me there weren’t many people who would care if she died. The service, though, spoke otherwise. So many had turned up to see her for the last time. The number would have surely made her smile if she was here to see it by herself. She wasn’t. She never knew they cared, and she never would. Life is unfair, for sure.
I must have muttered the last sentence out loud because it caught the attention of a lady standing behind me.
“She will still be watching over you. Our loved ones never leave our sides”, her words muffled behind her sobs.
I nodded to avoid a conversation.
The concept of an afterlife never caught on to me. If it were a ceremony for a person I barely knew, I would have taken the stage and spoken about my infamous beliefs. Here, I wasn’t in the mood to school people. I just wanted to gather the courage to see her before the end of the ceremony somehow. Grief had me paralyzed under the knees. An emotion that barely reached me when I was mourning for my parents a few years ago. It is strange how just a few months can bring a person closer to you than your own blood.
“Got stood up?”
“I believe so”
The girl took a seat beside me. I guess, the similarities in our situation came with unspoken consent. I didn’t protest it.
“How do people find it so convenient to escape rather than speaking what they truy feel? It is not like anybody would force them to show up if they denied going out the second time!”
This was the first time when I looked up from the book I was reading. The anger in her voice drew my attention.
“Seems like this happens a lot with you”
“Oh, don’t bother asking”
She scoffed. My detachment was never well-received. I never understood why. Why do people want you to keep prying once they have shut you out themselves? Is that why most people shut doors? Just to check if somebody cared enough to not care about it?
“Mind if I join you for dinner? I really don’t want to eat by myself tonight.”
“Haven’t you already? We are sharing a table”
“Can’t you reply with straight answers?” She scoffed again. My sarcasm had really begun to put her off. I wondered how long it would take before I repelled her enough to make her leave the seat. I didn’t want her to go. It is just a sport of my liking- pushing people away.
Silence dawned over for a moment, and then she continued, “… and you must be really naive to believe that people who share a table, also welcome the company they have. Sometimes, it’s just awkwardly forced upon them”
“Why comply with the pressure? Didn’t you just condemn those who didn’t speak the truth?”
“No, I condemned the ones who escape”
“Lies are always escapist”
“You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”
“I am expected to be so. I am a writer”
“Ah!” She sunk into her seat, painfully frustrated.
“What happened? Have a special hatred for our kind?”
“I do. In fact, I don’t know why most people don’t”
“Why should they?”
“Why shouldn’t they? What is so adorable about playing around with people’s emotions, making them revisit what they have already lived and left behind?”
“How is it our fault that people pretend to have moved past things that still hurt them? We just write what soothes us. It may look like we are writing for the people, but it is a painfully selfish craft.”
“I don’t know if the craft is selfish, but the craftsmen surely are!”
Now, I scoffed. She had begun to sound like my brother. He never grew to like what I did. That never stopped me from mailing him a copy of whatever I wrote. I am not sure if he ever read those. His replies always sounded like vague formalities.
I ran my eyes around the place. I had been sitting in the restaurant for about an hour now, and it just occurred to me how I was painfully unaware of its beauty. I guess, the possibility of ending my night with sex blinded me to every other thing I could have appreciated. The thought of which also made me wonder- was I truly so annoyed with the company I had, or was I simply sexually frustrated? No matter how irritating the girl was, she was right. It is pitiable when people find it appropriate to leave you waiting. Is it so difficult to speak the truth, that they feel more comfortable in making a fool of someone?
My eyes wandered to the girl sitting in front of me. She was beautiful- a sharp nose, beautifully carved eyes, lips as pink as a rose- how could she have been so alone?
“So, you never thought about settling down with somebody?”
“Come on, let us not talk like it is easy to find a person that you want to spend your life with”
“But, for a girl like you, it must be painfully easy to run into men who wanted you for life”
“You need to get better at giving compliments”
I blushed, god knows why!
“Uhm… but genuinely, I am curious”
“I like to take life one day at a time. I mean, look at the world around you- take this hall, if you will. There are so many new stories to learn about. So many more philosophies to run into. I don’t understand how, after meeting a particular person, you can simply give up on your will to know more”
“Interesting… I have blabbered with strangers all my life, I never found anything new with either of them- except a few…” “Except you”, I mumbled to myself.
“How do you know if you asked the right questions?”
“Stories aren’t slaves to questions. In fact, they are not looking to answer any. They are just that- stories- lives.”
“For a writer, maybe; for a reader, they are a lot more than just…that”
She spat the last word. She definitely didn’t like writers. I had to ask after all but, I held myself back wondering if I was prying too much. I decided to cut the conversation short and call the waiter for the menu. We didn’t share much over the dinner, but I observed quite a lot.
She was a strong woman- petite. But, for a woman like that, she ate too little. Was it me? Did I make her uncomfortable enough to affect her appetite? I wonder if my distaste in life can actually do that to people.
She got done with the salad she had ordered for herself and waited for me to finish my food before breaking the ice again.
“Let me take the bill”
“Why, are you the kind of man who has problems with women stepping up to pay?”
“No, I simply meant- can’t we split it?” Chivalry was never one of my virtues. Why should I grant anybody special privileges just because of their gender? Maybe that was why women rarely ever want to see me after a night!
We paid our dues and stepped out of the hall. On most days, at this part of the date, I would offer to walk the woman home- again, not for chivalry. I just didn’t like ending my dates without a walk. Also, this was the part that would let me know if I would end the night with sex. Here though, the latter was not a part of the deal. No matter how alone I was, I wasn’t going to do it with a girl I barely know.
“Mind if I walk you home?”
“That’s sweet- sure- but I think I would take the road alone”
I dreaded that. Having to walk back home all by myself didn’t seem like a great idea- also because I barely ever woke up in my own bed after dates. But then again, this wasn’t one!
I waved her goodbye and started walking away. I had nobody waiting for me, and I wasn’t very fond of my house, so my pace was painfully slow. A bystander could have easily thought I was some deranged person looking to end my life. What if I was?
I turned a few blocks, dodged a few scary-looking men, and some angry dogs when I heard footsteps matching my pace. I turned to see- yes, a foolish move, I turned regardless. It was her. The girl! She saw me and stopped right in her tracks. As little chivalry as I could have had, I was still a human- I wondered if she felt unsafe, but before I could have gotten any words out of my mouth, she leaned in for a kiss.
A kiss so beautiful that for once it felt like I was running high on some drug. Our lips met, tongues touched, we breathed into each other, and only broke apart when we began to gasp for air.
“I am sorry”, she began to sob.
I had no idea what was happening- where was this night taking me?