And there she stood, basked in the light of half-truths and mistrust. She squinted at him, yearning connection, fearing it more. She stared at his dirty baseball hat, his loose shirt, his messy hair, and then she was staring past him, her eyes set, face expressionless.
“You don’t mean that,” sounded too much like, “I can’t love you anymore.”
“It’s all fine,” sounded too much like, “I can’t afford to care.”
“So what now?” meant, “This is the end.”
She continued to stare past him, past her now, waiting for a new life, a cleansing rain, to drench her.
It rained two days later, loud splinters of water covering the trees, the sidewalk, bouncing off benches and umbrellas. It filled sidewalk cracks and forced worms out of hiding. It poured, it scoured, it enveloped. And she stood, arms spread, staring up. Water poured down her pained face, tears and rain blending in their downward journey, her jaw clenched and shaking. And then her mouth opened and she drank the sky.
She opened the door, weeks later, and smelled lilac. She gulped in the scent and wondered if this was what healing smelled like. She walked, barefoot, to the lilac bush pushing through her neighbor’s fence and sat in the damp grass to smell, and feel, and see. She curled her toes in the grass and dirt and reached an arm forward to touch a protruding leaf, to pinch it between her fingers. She looked at the different greens on the leaf and thought how they looked like veins. Could leafs bleed? She placed her palm and outstretched fingers against the fence, pressing damp splinters. She forced herself to breath. In, out. In. Out. She closed her eyes.
And then she said, quietly, “I’m still here.”
She walked aimlessly through July, stopping at snow shacks and public parks on her way to nowhere. She sat on a hot metal bench and let a trail of ants climb over her fingers. She watched young children in mismatched clothes run and laugh and cry. She gazed with interest at a small boy with tufts of curly brown hair as he bent to the ground, his hand outstretched. And the corners of her mouth turned up as she watched him bring a fistfull of dirt to his chin. She let out a single huh when the mom slapped the dirt down.
And then she looked right.
Two benches away sat a young mother in boxer shorts and a stained gray t-shirt. She had bags under her eyes and her hair was unkempt. But her eyes were happy, an extension of her slight smile. The girl followed the woman’s gaze to a small child, pulling at some grass. The girl watched the woman watch the child and the smile never faded.
That must be love, she thought.
It was on a Sunday, as the girl was walking barefoot along the hot cement, when she heard him.
He said, “Where have you been?” and it sounded like-
I missed you.
She said, “I’ve been here,” and it sounded like-
I’ve been finding myself.
He said, “I see you, you know,” and it sounded like-
I can love you.
And she said, “I think I see you, too,” and it sounded like-