PERSONAL TALK-BY JEFFERY MASSEY Thursday, April 02, 2009

Chattering loudly, the occupants of that CTA express bus were oblivious to the somber actions of the middle-aged man leaning his head listlessly against the rain-drenched window up front, near the driver.

She texted-(3:18:48 PM): "Ok "

He texted-( (3:57:29 PM): "Almost off, ehh? Must have been quite a day for U. I'd like to hear about it. I missed talking to you and texting you all day "

His eyes were hidden from most as he wipe away small tears trickling down his unshaven cheek while he frantically punched away text messages to his girl. He knew his responses were subject to be disregarded or worse, misunderstood.

Her-(4:00:24 PM): "Ok big boss here"

He-(4:01:26 PM): "Maybe later on then, OK? Luv You more Baby."

He-(4:11:35 PM): "No need to answer these msgs-I had a decent day-I met with some people regarding new work-maybe I might have an opportunity to write"

He-(4:13:14 PM): "I've been thinking of you all day-Good thoughts about how far you've come-I'm really proud of U-Keep up the good relations love."

As he continued on his journey home his mood was expectant; he fervently hoped the fairly good news of a job opportunity would enrich the impending stagnation that fell upon what was once a bright and fulfilling young love affair.

So, with hopes high he pressed letter after letter and word upon word on his cell phone to his lover. He wanted to tell her how he would stop by her job at the chicken shack to say hello and tell her of the good news in person. He wished that she might welcome his visit as further proof of his never say die optimism and his active motivation to please her on his own initiative. Yet, in the back of his mind, the last few communications between them boded an ominous air as if the blue sky on a sunny spring day suddenly fell prey to the onslaught of black storm clouds coming over the horizon.

The tone of her texts were ever the more terse in tone and often harbored satirical connotations. He began to fear directly responding to them and chose to ignore the abruptness of her every word. In many ways, he opted out of reading the handwriting on the wall for fear it would signal the end. He wasn't ready to toss in the towel just yet. In his heart, there was another chance to save what was left of their hearts.

He bit his tongue as he browsed over her refusal to allow his visit to her job. She spoke of not wanting him to create a scene and she'd assumed all he wanted was to keep pressing her with what she described as 'that personal talk'. It was not his intention, but he didn't understand why she had felt the need to warn him in that manner, as if he were a bothersome child chasing down his mother with childish demands on her time. Worse, he thought, maybe she had begun to see him as someone no longer able to maintain an appropriate balance of his emotional need for her.

Desperately, test after text was sent. The responses came ever the more slowly until finally there were none.

(4:16:29 PM): I've been praying about your condition with the back and all-I know things are getting better and your mood will improve

(4:19:01 PM): God does things for a reason-Perhaps all this is bringing us closer together-Strengthening our belief in Him and each other I pray

(4:21:04 PM): I will be here for U under any and all circumstances-whenever you like-without pressure-only understanding.

(5:25:15 PM): Off yet?

(5:27:33 PM): Yes

(5:28:36 PM): Very Good, how do U feel? -Hope to hear from U soon

He sighed with a tone of forlorn emptiness as he turned off the phone and exited the bus. It wasn't his stop and getting off there would leave him a few miles away from home. It no longer mattered to him as the cold gray rain wrapped his body in a chilling veil that matched the mood within his soul. As the screaming fire truck rumbled headlong toward him, at 4:48 p.m. into the middle of the intersection, he was in another world totally detached from his oncoming fate.

The girl hit the cash register at the chicken shack and for a moment wished the two shabbily dressed customers, who reeked of cheap wine and stale cigarettes, would go away. At least, she thought, that damn phone had stopped that incessant buzzing which always signaled her another boring message would be coming her way from tat good-for-nothing zero of a boyfriend she had. She felt irked in ways that weary travelers on vacation in the warmth of a Caribbean port feel when the cruise had gone on too long. She longed for the freshness of new times and the promise of unknown adventures with promising strangers.

A soothing wave of relief befell her as judgements she'd placed were passed onto he whom had bedeviled her into a lackluster relationship. It was she mused, his entire fault for not keeping up to all he'd promised her; he'd known she couldn't stand to be bored. If the damn fool had kept his job, she quipped, things might've been different. It was 4:59 p.m. when the buzzing came again but with strangely powerful vibrations unlike anytime before this. Painfully aggravated, she looked down at the cell phone screen and saw this text had an attachment. Jolts of remorse racked her abundant frame as she recognized the photo of the two of them, in happier days, sunning in the park near the old fire-station intersection. Maybe, she thought, he wasn't such a bad guy after all and deserved all the chances he needed to stay happy with her.

She longed for his touch and recalled nights of midnight dancing barefoot in her living room as sweet jazz filled the air and love immersed them both in passion. She sighed with desire just as the TV at the chicken shack announced the special report of a man being run down by a city fire truck.

As if frozen in time, she tried not to listen but caved in to the curiosity of morbid fascination as the accident was reported to have just occurred near their park, by their old fire station at 4:48 p.m. With horror she looked at the time of the last message she would ever receive from him.