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Bird, tree, snow

yet never breathed

By Jill Harper-JuddPublished 2 months ago 6 min read
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Bird, tree, snow
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I’ve been at the café for an hour or so – I was way early and had already finished my coffee and an egg on toast. I don’t mind waiting…I’ve got my notebook and am busy making lists, thinking about writing, staring out the window into the snowy street and the storefronts beyond that. More snow is on its way, but I’m not too worried. I moved up here specifically for the weather and I enjoy it- the cold, brisk air, the snowflakes like fluff that melt on my hat or gloves. I love hiking through the woods, my boots crunching through crisp snow while I watch for birds hidden in the thickets or up in the denuded trees. And I love the way the white covers and muffles the tawdry evidence of modern life and commerce - gravel parking lots, shabby storefronts, abandoned gas stations; it never ceases to make me smile when I see the way dead grass and pot-holed roads are smoothed and gentled by a shining white blanket of fresh snow.

Dan enters the warm cafe in a cheerful rush, a light dusting of snow on his coat. He is pulling off all his northern weather necessities as he slides into the seat across from me – gloves, hat, coat, scarf. He piles them next to him on the vinyl bench seat and then says. “Sorry I’m late!” He smiles. “But I got you something!” – well, that takes me by surprise. He’s a giving, cheerful soul and I do like him but we’ve only been on a handful of dates. And they were really more like dates-ish. A breakfast, a movie, lunch and a play…we haven’t been in any hurry and I certainly didn’t expect to reach the gifts stage so fast. Despite my surprise, I am a bit intrigued, though. For the moment I put aside the conversation I mean to have, outlined already in my head. I take the box he proffers, giving him a weird half-smile as I open it. The box isn’t light, which might not bode well for the next ten or so minutes, but inside…inside is a beautiful snow-globe, its contents a winter landscape of birds and birch trees with a base of real birch wood. It could have been too much, but it isn’t. He didn’t pick a mushy couples gift, he wasn’t expressing a too early sentiment. Instead, nice man that he is, he picked a lovely gift he thought I’d like. He was right, dammit.

I admire it for a minute and then I gently set it back in the box, tears pricking my eyelids. “It is beautiful” I tell him, “but I need to tell you something”. He settles back, his eyes a bit less cheery and a little more wary. I breathe, collect myself. “I’ve really enjoyed our time together and I think you are a great guy.” God, could I sound any more cheesy? Even a kindergartener could tell that his “girlfriend” is about to dump him. Another breath. Wow, this is really hard. “I saw my doctor last week” I say. He shifts…he knows I can’t be pregnant, at least not by him. What else might be flying through his mind? I hurry on…”I’ve been having some balance problems and a few other weird symptoms and I was referred to a neurologist”…I can’t even hear myself talking anymore – the pounding of my heart sems as loud as a jackhammer, “a brain MRI, and there’s a tumor…” That’s as far as I can get and I trail off. I haven’t spoken those words out loud to anybody, not even my best friend Callie or my mother. I don’t want them to worry until I know if there is anything to worry about. But Dan – this I have to deal with before things progress. Before it gets harder. He shifts again, this time producing an expression of concern. He prompts me…”you have a tumor…in your brain?”. No, I think. Not actually in my brain. On top of my brain, in the membranes. I look at him. “It is called a menangioma. They are usually benign, slow-growing, and mine is relatively small…but I’m going to be spending a lot of time in doctor’s offices for the forseeable future.” This sucks. It sucks for me, sucks for him. Tears threaten again – whether because I’m sending him away or because I’m scared out of my mind I don’t really know. But I’m ready to end this conversation and get out of here. The rest of the words come in a rush. “So I’m going to need to spend the forseeable future focusing on that. I won’t be able to see you anymore.” He tries to interject but I’m at the last line of my recitation, “Good luck, Dan, and thank you for some wonderful times. But…goodbye.” I gently push the beautiful globe back across the table to him and clumsily gather my things. He is still sitting, looking stunned and a bit confused. Meanwhile, I’m trying to fit my Scandinavian weave hat on my head but my gloves are still inside it so I just hold it. I grab my coat and bag but drop my notebook – Dan reflexively reaches to help me, and I snatch it from him. He most definitely doesn't need to see what's written on those pages. I manage to pull a crumpled twenty from my jeans pocket to pay for my eggs. “F—k it”, I think, awkwardly tossing my red scarf in the general direction of my shoulders. I don’t care. Just get to the car and sort it all out there. "Bye, Dan."

My arms full of all my stuff, I push out the door at close to a run, doorbells still tinkling cheerily. I slow as I walk out into the snow towards my car. Will he come after me? I don’t think so. Its a romantic, Disney notion but we aren’t established, not yet scripted to be lovers. As I near my car, navigating carefully around several slushy gray ruts, I can see him still sitting. I know he’s working through what I just told him and, since he’s a logical person, he will eventually recognize that this was, indeed, the best course of action. The snow globe sits before him, out of place now, a rejected offering. He’s a good man. But my hands are already too full to hold anything else. As I move around to my car, one end of my scarf falls to the ground, and its bright color trails like blood in the soft, silent snow.

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About the Creator

Jill Harper-Judd

I've been writing poetry and short stories since childhood....but my life has often been chaotic so (mental) space to write can be hard to find. I am a lover of words and the worlds we can create with them. I seek beauty in all things.

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