I Wanted You There
(Part two coming next week)
This was it. Today was the day. That’s all I could think of on the way from my apartment. My skin tingled and prickled sending chills all throughout my body. Each step I took felt like a spring towards him. The concrete, the traffic lights, the passersby, the entire street gave me their blessings. The sun shone down on me, giving me the warmth I needed to calm my nerves.
His place came into view. The corners of my mouth pulled up into a tight goofy smile. Even though I couldn’t see it, I knew it was happening. I watched as the apartment building came more and more into view. The normally off putting dirty gray paint beautifully stood out amongst the browns and beiges of the other buildings on the street. The litter that made the street its home, blew away as if making way for me.
I skipped up the steps feeling as though each one gently carried me to its brethren. I pressed the intercom downstairs and hopped in place yearning to hear his voice. As if in response, my purse, like a pendulum, kept hitting my hip. The sensations reminded me of the special box hiding at the bottom. He’s gonna be so surprised!
After several moments, I didn’t hear a sound. My forehead wrinkled in confusion, but the elation didn’t leave me. I pressed the intercom button again waiting to hear anything from him. Static greeted me instead. Instinctually, I looked over the schedule he sent me. “March 25th OFF.” A glance at my watch informed me that it was 10:38 am. Knowing how much of a morning person he is, surely he’d be awake by now.
“Excuse me?” a voice said behind me.
I jumped, this time startled. Slowly, I turned and a woman shorter than me stood before me. She cradled groceries in her arms, some of which were threatening to spill all over the stoop steps.
“Did you need to get in?” she asked me.
“Oh, uh, yes, please. Can I help you with those?” I motioned to one bag, probably slick with sweat, inching out of her embrace.
I scooped a few bags out of her arms noticing its contents: chips, salsa, streamers (to which I wondered if anyone even used streamers anymore), balloons and lots of soda.
The woman unlocked the door, gently kicking it in.
“Were you waiting on someone, dear?” the woman said struggling to go up the steps.
“Yes, actually. My boyfriend.” I replied, internally giggling at the word. He wouldn’t be that for much longer.
“Oh, how sweet. I just adore young love.” Each word was accompanied by a quick gasp for breath while carrying all her things.
“You know how it is,” I giggled, nervously. “I’m Jane, by the way.”
“Silvia,” she puffed out.
“So Silvia, if you don’t mind me asking, are you throwing a party?”
She extended her foot upward and planted it down on the very last step between the first and second floor. She breathed in and out for a few moments before she was able to gather her strength.
“I. Am.” Her smile made the rest of her tired appearance shine. “For all the neighbors in fact. I thought, ‘You know. No one in the building really knows each other.’ What better way to get to know everyone than by socializing a bit? And even better after work on a Friday night when they least expect it!”
I smiled this time.
“That’s a great idea.” My mind instantly wandered to what people would think of us when we showed off our good news.
“Everyone is invited, too. Did you want to come? You and your boyfriend are more than welcome.” She waddled towards a room labeled 205, searching for her room key hidden amongst all the other keys on the ring.
“Jared and I would love to.”
“Ah! How cute.” Silvia said retrieving her key at last. “Jane and Jared.” She opened the door and penguin walked into her kitchen. “Place the bags anywhere, Jane. I’ll get to them soon.” I did as she instructed and looked around her apartment as I hung my purse on the coat rack. It was full of stuff. Old stuff. The kind of stuff that you knew was worth a lot if she chose to sell it. Her kitchen was small and quaint, decorated with thrift store finds. Silvia had a cookie jar in the shape of a rooster. Her potholders, which hung from a rack made of wood and old bent spoons, had cats with chef hats on them and an assortment of other things.
“Whew!” she hooted as she dropped the bags on the counter. “So, tell me about Jared, dear. What’s he like?”
The question always threw me off. I loved Jared, but describing him and our relationship to other people had never been an easy feat.
Her living room furniture had faded marks on them where people must have sat or reclined or made out on for who knows how long. She had a cabinet full of glass figurines and another with crafts in them. Standing proudly within stood small human statues made of metal wires, some made of paper and others of clay. I inspected them almost wondering if they would come to life and visit the party. Jared came to mind. He liked making things too. He made robots, whenever he had the chance. We made several trips to junk yards and garage sales and other places searching for the right piece.
“Do you like those?” I heard Sivia call from over her shoulder. “I made those myself.”
“They’re beautiful,” I breathed. “Jared makes similar things except they move.”
“Ohh. Is he the tall young man with the fuzzy brown hair and glasses?” She bent down and picked up the other bags that needed attention.
“Yeah, that’s him!” I squealed, a little more excited than I intended to be.
“Doesn’t he live upstairs? I’ve never payed attention to where but I know he’s up there.”
I walked over to where she stood, trying to help her take everything out of the bags. “Yeah, on the fourth floor.”
“Hmmm.” Silvia thought aloud. She said something else, but I wasn’t completely sure. What I thought I heard her say was, “I haven’t seen him in a while…”
Once everything was put away, I asked what we do next.
She stood for a moment with her hand on her chin looking around the room before saying, “Well, how about I start making the food and you start handing out the invitations I made.”
“Sure! Where are they?”
“Oh, they’re on the end table over there.” She pointed in the right direction and promptly got to work on the food.
I walked over and saw several stacks of them on the end table furthest from me. Each one had an apartment number on them and each card was different.
As I reached for them, I looked up and from across the room, I saw a picture of what looked to be a young Silvia with a dapper young man. They held each other by the waist, all smiles and both in mid giggle. Silvia wore a bright yellow sundress while a breeze threatened to blow her away. The man next to her wore a loose white button down shirt with khaki pants. He held onto Silvia as if hoping she wouldn’t be taken by Mother Nature.
“Oh,” I breathed “who are they?” I turned back to Silvia who had started getting out the pots and pans.
“Huh?” she turned to see what I was talking about. “Oh, that” She blushed. “That’s just me and my husband.”
“You’re married! Oh, congrats, Silvia.” I could hear the church bells ringing for Jared and I as I imagined Silvia heard on her wedding day. “Where is he now? Working?”
“No, actually. He’s in the hospital.”
My heart broke for her. “I’m so sorry.” I gushed without thinking.
She walked over to where the picture was and said, “Francisco was such a charmer. He had this very interesting view of life.” She took the picture with her and walked over to the couch where I stood. She sat down and patted the seat next to me. I followed, getting as close as I could while still maintaining the respectful distance of strangers. “He liked being spontaneous. There really was never a dull moment with him around. He would suddenly jump up from here he sat and say ‘Silvia! Let’s go dancing.’ And I’d join him whatever it was he wanted.”
She smiled warmly at the young Francisco. I felt a twinge of jealousy. Even though, I would never admit it to anyone, especially my friends and family, I wished Jared was more the typical romantic type. His idea of romance was quite different than mine. He preferred to cuddle and not say a word while I preferred to bond over a good plate of food. He liked to be together in the same room in silence while I liked to do activities together. It was a lot of push and pull with us, but I still found Jared charming. I still thought he was interesting.
“He made me feel really special that someone like him would want to spend him time with someone like me.” She sighed a forlorned one.
“I’m so sorry to hear that.” I said, a bit helplessly.
She stared at the picture a moment longer before saying, “Enough about me. I’m an old wife. What about you, dear? Tell me about you two. Give me something to smile about, eh?”
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat a bit. How to explain Jared… “Well,” I started, “He’s a very quiet man. He really does prefer to be alone and he mostly likes to work on his machines. Jared’s quite the eccentric, but he’s also funny and warm and sweet.”
Unwittingly, I must have been doing my goofy smile again because Silvia mirrored me and then giggled.
“Ahh, I know that look. You’re in love!” she squeaked.
“I guess I am,” I said, unable to hide my blushing.
“When are you going to get married? A pretty girl like you should have kids to pass those genes onto.”
My face grew hot and red at the thought. I had already imagined what our kid would look like countless times before. Their eyes would be hazel brown, like his. They would have long black hair, like me. And they’d have a mix of our toffee and light skin. Perfect blends of us both.
“I’d like to, one day.” I said quietly, but hopefully.
Silvia smiled and twice patted me on the knee. “You must to go after what you want, dear. Otherwise, you might miss it.”
She rocked back and forth until she was finally able to get up from the couch. “Will you send the invitations while I make the food?” Her head straightened as if she just remembered something. “Are you hungry, dear?”
I shook my head. “I’ll be alright. But I will let you know.”
She nodded and waddled back to the kitchen. I gathered the invited up in my arms. Seizing my opportunity, I grabbed my bag and walked out the door into the hall. Once there, I gawked up at the stairs. My heart pounded in my chest. My breath caught in my throat, trapped by the swell of a sweet terror. This would be it. Today would be the day.
Hesitantly, I put one foot on the step, hoping it would grant me the same courtesy the outside world did. Slowly, and with willpower, I pushed myself forward. With each passing moment, with each inch I got closer to him, I could feel my insides coming alive. Suddenly, every organ was aware, every hair was standing on end, and every breath was calculated and desperate. I needed to ask him.
The next few steps were a daze. The floor seemed to leave me as I tried desperately to make it up to him. My mind raced, wondering what he would think of me. What would he say? What would he do? Would he just stare? Would he love me for being so brave? The invitations shook in my hands as I tried to steady them. My palms started to sweat. The steps started blurring together until before I knew it, I was on his floor. My heartbeat was deafening as it thumped in my ears. I stood alone in the hallway, frozen in place. You can do this. You can do this.
I took several deep breaths and then gathered all the courage I had. The hallway melted into a tunnel right before me. I blinked repeatedly to focus, looking for number 413. There’s where it would all go down. Finally, I walked up to it and my feet were held to the floor by either a magnet, a trap or something akin to stage fright. My hands shook again, so much so I dropped some invites on the floor. Embarrassed, I collected them all again. I fished for the ring box and then threw the invites inside.
Slowly, I lifted my right hand, balling it into a fist. I pulled it back and then — knock, knock — I held my breath. This was it. Today was the- Before I could even finish the thought, the door opened. Surprised, I stepped back. Jared never left his door unlocked. He had far too many “valuables” to make such a careless mistake. Gingerly, I took a step forward, letting the door creak inward. I heard a breeze pass through, telling me the window was open. The door moved open just enough so I could see the inside. My bag dropped from my shoulder and splatted onto the ground spraying all its contents onto the floor. I abandoned it and made my way inside.
My footsteps echoed across the apartment, the sound having nothing to reverberate off of. I stood in the middle of the living room completely hopeless. A lonely chair stood in the middle of the room with a white envelope. Confused, I walked up to it.
“He left my chair?” I wondered aloud. The envelope simply had my name scrawled across it in Jared’s terrible handwriting. Clumsily, I ripped it open, careful not to tear the actual letter.
My hands shook as I tried to read what little piece of Jared I had left. It said,
I’m sorry you had to find out like this. I never meant to hurt you and I’m sorry you had to be a casualty in this decision. But the truth is I can’t be with you. We were never going to work out. You see, I’ve been deeply unhappy for a very long time. Longer than my job at the science museum. Longer than I’ve ever known you. I wanted to tell you. Please believe me, I did. But I just couldn’t. I know you and I know that you would have tried to help me get better. I can’t get better. This kind of sadness is not one I will be able to recover from. You didn’t know me. Not the real me. I wanted to be the romantic boyfriend you tried to see me as but I just couldn’t. As much as I wanted to remain with you, I knew that wouldn’t be fair to you. You deserve someone who will take care of you and treat you with the decency you deserve.
P.S. Keep the chair we found. It is yours after all.
My eyes were filled with unshed tears. I couldn’t believe what I had just read. I looked around and staring back at me were walls of cold, unfeeling white. Empty were the shelves that once held so many unfinished projects. Bare was the floor I hardly got to see from all the boxes of tools and pieces lying about. The Star Wars posters were absently gone from the walls leaving their outlines behind. A sad gasp got garbled in my throat and I felt my world collapse inside me.
“Jared?” I called out. My own voice returned to me. As moments passed I could feel the panic rising up my throat making its way towards my mind. “Jared!” I called, much more desperately this time. Instinctually and in a flush of fear, I quickly pounced my way to every single place in the apartment a person could hide. I checked the bathroom stripped of any semblance anyone ever used it. I checked the bedroom; there was nothing in it. I checked his closet, hopping against hope he would jump out and say “Gotcha!” Even though I knew with everything in me he wouldn’t. That wasn’t like him. But then again, neither was this.
This couldn’t be happening. It had to be a lie. It had to be. Without intention, I slid the mirror doors open, slamming them against the wall. The glass shattered everywhere. I shielded my ears from the noise and consequently got lacerations all over my body. I didn’t care. I needed to know if he was in there. I shook the glass off me and clutched to myself in horror. Nothing and no one was there.
“He’s gone.” I whispered. “He’s actually gone.” Then from within me, I laid on the ground and cried. My wails bombarded me but I couldn’t find the strength to care. I let my tears fall. I let everything go. “I can’t believe he’d do this to me.” This was it. Today was supposed to be the day.