a chance encounter resurfaces old memories
God, I hate the bathrooms here. They are always so nasty. With the amount of customers you get in your globalized, multi-million dollar franchise, you’d think you could at least afford to wipe the sink counters once a decade.
I was grumbling, and maybe it wasn’t fair to the store or the workers, but I really didn't have the energy to care beyond it.
I passed the soda machine, rolling my eyes at a stupid kid making a horrid mess of the station, and turned a corner to head to the restroom. A flash of brown. One blue eye. A memory materialized before me, one so deeply buried, so traumatic. Tugging so hard on the fraying harp in my chest. So it was. Real.
I slammed the stall door behind me, fumbling to lock it with my blurred vision; my blue eyes, glistening with tears, his blue eye shining with happiness, excited, adjusted.
It was a peculiar type of pain - seeing someone that you loved and lost, that you still love and hope to God still loves you, with somebody else. I had never expected today would be the day. It was likely we might cross paths again, so long as we remained in the same city, but I figured our reunion would be much further down the line. Damn, he looked so good. So happy with the life he was living… A life I could never have granted him despite how deserving he was. I wished I could just take him back into my arms, my apartment, my life. My home was small, but he didn’t need much space, only some access to the outdoors before he would go stir-crazy. It wasn’t much for him to ask, yet I still couldn’t meet even those simple requests two fateful, heartbreaking years ago. I wondered if he forgives me, or even if he had forgotten me entirely. Wasn’t I more than just a speck of dust on the timeline of his life?
I didn’t know. And I don’t think I will ever know. I can’t bring myself to face him; I can’t allow myself to tear them apart. They looked so joyful, so content with each other’s presence. The silence between them soothed with smiles. The eye contact they held, so incredibly meaningful and deep.
It was his left eye, funnily, that caused our union to come to a screeching halt. An infection arose out of seemingly nowhere, foreboding and formidable. I knew his pain was terrible. His big blue eyes cried all day and night over the ache while mine followed suit, weeping over the lost future I could see burning on the horizon. It was the most difficult choice I had ever made, but I knew in my soul that it was the right thing to do, the grown-up decision.
I caved. I gave in to his needs, finally putting them before my own dreams, my desires, my absolute dizzying attachment to him, my love. I could never have afforded it, could never have afforded him. We were practically homeless, surviving on scraps and handouts. It’s no wonder that he caught an infection, a virus, whatever it was. Our life together was not glamorous or presentable in any means.
So I sent him to a better one.
I gave away the scruffy love of my life, his brown hair, his big blue eyes, his lopsided smile, his goofy appearance, everything that I loved about him - everything that I loved - I let it all go so that he could have a chance to heal and survive the damning pain that he suffered through while I was being selfish and keeping him to myself. Behind all the agony he was feeling, I could see the fear in his eyes the day they took him away, the day I gave him away. They promised they would help him. Fix him. Save him. Give him a better life that I never could afford. They said that maybe now I could even take the opportunity to work on bettering my own life before I brought another soul into my mess. So that’s what I did. After watching his back disappear around a corner in the claustrophobic, white tiled building that reeked of ammonia and formaldehyde, I left the office and I found a job. I got back on my feet. I began renting an apartment. I accumulated my savings. I began to truly live again. Comfortable; no more day to day survival, no more handouts. I was paving my own way in the world.
I still missed him though, of course. I never stopped. And I didn’t think that I ever would. But now, having seen him in real life again. So happy and carefree, I felt some sense of peace within myself. I had made the right choice. I had saved his life and allowed him to live his full life, even if it was destined to be without me in it. So be it.
I left the restroom and paused outside the door. They were gone. A sharp intake of breath rushed through my chest, accompanied by a searing pain. I rushed forward, out into the dining area of the restaurant, my eyes frantically scanning for my love. Just one more time. I just wanted to see him once more before we parted ways again, likely for forever.
There. He was standing near a trash can as the man with him threw out the remainders of his lunch. I smiled, feeling that same wave of peace settle over me, nestling into my bones, cuddling with my skin. I turned away, finally content, and headed for the door.
Just as I reached out to open it, a hand fell to the glass above me. “Here you go, love.” I sunk my head and gave a bashful smile to the chivalrous stranger behind me, walking out onto the pavement. I turned around to thank him.
He asked which way I was going to my car. We were headed the same direction. As we walked, I couldn’t help but grin, my heart swelling, as a scruffy brown dog waddled on a leash beside him; His one big blue eye smiling up at me.
About the author
What I lack in serotonin I more than make up for in self-deprecating humor.
Illustrator and Interior Architect / Designer within the wild world of zoological design.
Passionate about conservation and sustainability.