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Just by Chance

by Kevin Slimmer 5 months ago in Short Story · updated 7 days ago

by Kevin Slimmer

Just by Chance
Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

Four years ago today my wife left me. It changed me forever. The habit of living is the only thing that keeps me, well alive. Everything feels robotic. I wake up. I get dressed. I eat. I drive. I work. I drive. I eat. I relax. I sleep. Repeat for 4 years. I have friends, I guess, but it is mainly them checking in with me or forcing me to leave my house. They have given up. I know what you are thinking. Everyone goes through this, you have to move on. Well, I wish I could. I tried therapy, but it didn't take. I am alone. I'm numb. I am mad at her, how could she just leave me.

Today started like any other day. I awoke. I got dressed. I ate. I drove. I finally broke. I was stopped at a red light and I just started sobbing. Horns blared around me. Cars angrily maneuvered around me with their drivers expressing their anger with multiple obscene gestures and mouthed obscenities. I didn't care. Instead of going straight towards my obsequious job, I turned right towards the interstate. Merging onto the expressway felt like breaking out of a cage and into the light of a new horizon.

By Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

I pulled off at the first rest stop and withdrew as much cash as I could take from the ATM. I would eventually have to call work and explain, but not today. I grabbed a coffee and returned to my prison break. A destination wasn't my goal, well not at this point in my journey. I didn't know what to do other than drive. Until, I saw a family pass me on the left. As I peered into their car, it felt like I transported myself into their lives. I could feel the joy emanate as they were all singing together as they jaunted towards their terminus. I moved my car in behind them and followed, uninvited, joining them.

I followed the family for 2 hours watching their interactions. The two children in the back seat were having a conversation and showing each other something interesting on their tablets. I watched the mother talk to the father who was driving. She used her hands as she talked. I watched him laugh and hold her hand and lift it to his mouth to kiss it. I was jealous. I was angry at my wife for not allowing me to have this. I was infatuated. They pulled off on the next exit and pulled into a family restaurant. I followed. Yeah I know, it's creepy, but don't judge. Let me finish my story.

I sat down in a booth near the family and listened to their love, their mundane conversation, and their joy of just being together. At this point, I felt something that I haven't felt since she left, hope, I felt like I have been freed from my chains of sorrow. I wanted what they have. I haven't wanted anything for a long time.

Even before, I always looked ahead in my life, waiting for the next great thing to happen. Living in the moment felt like a failure to me. Reaching goals and setting new goals is how I lived. Failure wasn't an option. When someone is always waiting for something, they miss everything. Memories are what make a person, if you don't soak up the details, all you are left with is fleeting thoughts, not a piece of time.

By Nima Sarram on Unsplash

"Have you decided, sweetie?" The waitress asked. I looked up at her nametag. I wanted to know her name. I wanted to share this moment in time with her. Her name was Chance. She was in her mid to late 20s. She was tall with long brown hair pulled into a ponytail. She was thin and had big bright blue eyes. She was extremely pretty. I immediately wanted to know more about her.

"I have decided. I am going to have the colossal burger with American cheese, a side of fries, and a large soda."

"Nice choice." Chance smiled as she wrote my order down.

"Chance?"

"Yes?"

"So, tell me something about yourself." Her face contorted into a confused expression like I was speaking in a foreign language.

"Um. Nobody ever asks that. Well, I am a single mom trying to make ends meet."

"Well, that is admirable."

"Thank you, I'll be right back with your drink." She smiled again. As she walked away she turned her head to look over her shoulder at me. I smiled and waved. She smiled and shrunk in embarrassment.

I took in a deep breath. I wanted to remember the smells, the sounds, the colors, and definitely the taste of a colossal burger. Chance returned with my soda.

"What's your child's name?" I asked

"Jonah. He's 6. He's with my parents when I work." I saw tears well up in her eyes.

"I'm sorry did I say something wrong?"

"No, I'm not used to kindness, I've had a bad day and you just....well... thank you."

I smiled. "Jonah is a great name. You seem like a very good Mother."

"How can you tell? You don't know me."

"Well, let's just say it's a gut feeling."

"Well, thank you. Your food will be up shortly."

The family I was, well, stalking, had left and I didn't even realize. Sitting in that booth without any plans, with no destination, and soaking in the little things, felt cathartic. I knew why people used drugs. They've felt what I am feeling right now, at least once in their lives. Because of barriers that life put in their way or of their own creation, they couldn't feel it anymore. You can't cheat the natural high of appreciating living every second, but we all try.

Chance gave me my food. We engaged in more small talk. I finished my meal and was handed my bill. She was a lovely and kind woman and I was sad our connection was ending. I was about to stand up, after leaving forty dollars on the table, when Chance hurriedly came back over and said with a touch of redness creeping up her cheeks, "We have great desserts, you should try some. We have cheesecake, fruit pies, cream pies, and a chocolate cake that is heaven."

"Well, what is your favorite?"

"The chocolate cake."

"What time does your shift end?"

"At Five. A little over five hours to go."

"How about we share a slice of chocolate cake at five p.m.?

The redness now overtook her whole face. "Sure. That sounds wonderful." She smiled and bashfully looked down towards her Crocs.

"Great. It's a date." I stood up and walked out of the restaurant. As I sat in the driver's seat I could see Chance talking with another waitress. They were both smiling excitedly as they both looked in my direction. I waved and pulled away.

I now had a destination. I had to do something, so I could finally move on and start a new chapter. I needed to have closure, I needed to go see my wife.

When I pulled in, my heart pounded and I felt the weight return that I temporarily put aside. As I approached, tears filled my eyes, and an anxious knot pulled at my insides. As I stood in front of the gravestone, I bowed my head and after a few seconds I got up the courage to speak to her.

By John Thomas on Unsplash

"Hi, honey. I miss you... I love..." I swallowed a sob, gathered myself, and took in a deep breath. "...you, but I need to let you go. I think I need to find a new way. Thank you for loving me." I touched the top of the gravestone as a tear fell onto my hand. "Well, I'm off to have a slice of chocolate cake." I turned and walked away.

By Brett Jordan on Unsplash

The end

Short Story

Kevin Slimmer

I have worked in Human Services for over 25 years. I am married with three children, living in New York. I recently finished my first novel, The Shelter, available on Amazon.


https://www.kevinslimmerauthor.com/

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