Happy with a Twist
I still remember the first time I met you. It was September 3rd. We met on the second floor of the library. Well - to be more specific, our eyes met. From the black leather couches on one end of the room, to the tables on the other side. You were reading a book, or at least pretending to since you kept getting distracted by other people or your phone. I was catching up with some homework and decided to take a small break. I grabbed my water bottle, opened it and took a sip. When I sat the bottle back down, I looked across the room and there you were. Looking at me with those gorgeous blue eyes of yours. I still remember. You were wearing your favourite blue sweater and those ripped jeans that you thought were cool, but nobody else did. We just looked into each other's eyes. Not smiling, not grinning, not doing anything but looking. It felt like forever. Then a person started talking to you and our eye contact broke. I was so embarrassed that I stumbled to the bathroom to calm down again. When I came back you were already gone. I felt so incredibly silly for feeling disappointed. After all we just looked into each other's eyes.
It wasn't until later that I saw the note. You know, the note you put in between my notebook pages. It was so cute and innocent. One simple sentence. "Tomorrow, same time, same place". I was wanted. I was noticed.
I didn't know if you really meant it, but I showed up at the same time and at the same place at my little table across the room from the black leather couches. You arrived late, still wet from a shower and slightly out of breath. As if you were running. I watched you from my little table, waiting for you to see me. You were searching the whole room, and when your eyes landed on me your whole face brightened. You smiled, bit your lip, dragged your hand through your damp, dark hair. But most importantly, you walked over to me and sat down.
That day we didn't do much work. Instead we passed notes back and forth. Simple things only.
"I don't feel like working."
"Do you also like rain?"
"Nearly done with my work."
"Your scarf matches your eyes."
That was the last one you gave me that day. It was around 3pm when I opened it and I couldn't help but smile. And so did you, pleased at my reaction. I replied with one word, "coffee?". You smiled and nodded. We went to the place downtown. You bought me my vanilla latte and a blueberry muffin. We sat down and talked. We talked for hours, until dinner time when we decided to grab food from the café next door. This time I got to pay for your wrap and my sandwich. We walked all the way back and you insisted on knowing a short-cut which ended up taking us half an hour longer. I didn't care. I was happy walking across town with you, or anywhere.
You walked me back to my dorm, but we didn't want to say goodbye, so we stayed up, sitting on the stairs, looking at the stars. A peaceful moment. It felt like we talked about everything and nothing. Interests, favourite anything – your favourite tea was 'Butterfly Pea Tea' and mine was 'Apple and Cinnamon' – and about Fate. We sat and talked for, what felt hours. I didn't want it to end. But it had to.
It wasn't until October 5th that you officially asked me out. On a proper date, was how you called it. And it was. You prepared a picnic for us at a secluded beach not too far away. It was only us two. You made some small sandwiches, you cut up some fruits, bought two blueberry muffins. You even managed to sneak a bottle of white wine in an old apple juice box. It was sweet.
It was that day, on the beach that you asked me to be your girlfriend. I said yes, and it began.
We spent hours, days, and weeks together. We studied, watched games, went on runs, and did so many more things together. I hung out with your friends, and you with mine. Everything was working. Everything was perfect. We were happy.
But you had to go.
I remember that day so clearly. February 7th. You were at my place watching a movie. You know, a typical stay-in kind of date. We celebrated our 4-month anniversary, well two days after the actual day but we didn't care, we liked celebrating. The only reason we stayed in was because I was sick. I had a bad fever, so you called for a movie instead. With all kinds of snacks and one thick blanket for me. It was late at night when we finished our movie marathon, and you asked if you should stay. You know, to take care of me. I hesitated. Of course, I wanted you to stay, but on the other hand I knew you had to get up early the next day, and I felt too sick for sharing a bed. So, I decided to let you go.
The call came late at night, or early in the morning depending on how you see it. The message: "come to the hospital".
I rushed over as quickly as I could, still wearing my reindeer pyjamas. You know, the ones you loved so much because they made me look so innocent and young. The red ones with the black reindeers printed on them. I still had messy hair when I arrived at the hospital with its cold, grey walls. When I walked in, I didn't know where to go but then I saw your mother sitting in the waiting room. I've only ever seen her from pictures, but I recognised her right away. She looked up when I walked in and her grey-blue eyes meeting mine. I walked around the small coffee-table that was filled with flowers and months-old-magazines that nobody really reads.
I asked her in a broken voice where you were, and she only whispered that you were in surgery. We had to wait.
We waited for hours in the waiting room, pacing back and forth, flipping the pages of magazines the nurses lay out for the patients, and having small talk. We tried everything to distract ourselves from the time moving as slowly as humanly possible. At one time I could have sworn that the hands on the clock moved backwards. We were stuck in a room full of people arriving, waiting, leaving. The room got quiet at times and at others it was filled with chatter. Your mom and I felt like the only constant, sitting on two chairs and waiting. As if the world had forgotten us for a brief moment.
And then, the doctor brought the news.
The second I spotted him rounding the corner and walking towards us I knew. I just knew it was bad. From the way he walked slowly, the way he avoided our eyes, the way he awkwardly looked at the chart in his hands, but most importantly the way his eyes were filled with sadness and guilt. I still see his eyes in my dreams.
When your mother saw him, she dashed towards him, over chairs and tables just to reach him. I followed her slowly, a part of me almost believing that I read the doctors signal wrong. That you were fine, that you were awake, that I could see you again.
No such luck.
"I'm sorry" … "We tried our best" … "There's nothing more we could have done" … "The injuries were too deep" …
These four pieces of a conversation are the only thing I remember. The rest is a blur. After the conversation with him, and after your mother started hysterically crying, we were asked if we wanted to see you one last time. Your mother agreed automatically, no questions asked. But I was not so sure. I wasn't sure if I really wanted to see you. I hesitated again and after a few minutes I decided, yes. I wanted to see you one last time, even if it was just so I could say how sorry I was for letting you go that night, and to say goodbye.
We were led to a small room with a single bed. In this bed, there was a body already covered with a sheet. The nurse who was standing in the room, pulled back the sheet. Revealing you. You with your gorgeous dark hair, your light skin. Your blue eyes were closed, and your arms were crossed over your stomach. You looked so peaceful, as if you were just sleeping. As if you would wake up any second. Just like all those mornings we spent together. I was hoping for it, that you would just open your eyes, give me a lazy smile, and kiss me. Just like every morning.
No such luck.
You were lying there completely still. It took me a minute to realize that your hair was too flat, your skin too pale, your chest neither rising nor falling. It took me a minute to realize that you would never wake up again. That you would never smile at me again. That you would never kiss me again. That I would never see your blue eyes again.
And that's where it hit me. And I couldn't breathe. I was standing in this cramped room, your crying mother at my side, staring at your lifeless body. And the only thing I did was not breathe. Well I still breathed but it felt like I couldn't. It seemed impossible, so I panicked. I still remember that I grabbed onto your mother's arm trying to hold myself upright. My chest started to ache, it felt like my lungs were pressing themselves against each other. I fell to my knees, my entire body shaking.
So, there I was, on the ground at your side. Clutching my chest and holding on to your mother. She was so sweet in that moment. Forgetting herself for a moment. Distracting herself from loosing you and for a second focusing on me, the stranger who loved her child. She sank down next to me and hugged me. She hugged me and told me to let it out. To let it all out and to breathe. And that's what I did. I took one breath in and when I let it back out, I started screaming. Screaming, screaming, screaming. When the scream finally stopped the tears came. They started coming and wouldn't stop. The tears fell so fast that I couldn't breathe properly. My screams and tears transitioned to sobbing, which lead to more tears and endless screams.
And your mother, the angel, was there on the ground with me. Holding me, rocking me, and most importantly: crying with me. We shared the pain together.
I don't know how long we were on the ground or when the doctor came back to talk to us again. I don't know when I whispered one final goodbye or when we got back to the waiting room. I don't know how long we were in the hospital afterwards or how we even got back to your house. Your mother and I didn't want to be alone after you left, so I stayed there a few days. Sleeping in your bed, wearing your blue sweater and simply remembering. Your mother and I shared stories about you, looked at photo albums, spent time in silence.
But I had to get back.
I drove back home. And upon entering my empty room I started crying again. I cried for days and for nights. My friends, including your friends, stopped by and kept me company. But there was nothing that could stop the pain. Not for a long time.
But now here I am. Years later, in front of you.
Being here is difficult for me and it brings back all these painful feelings. The sadness, the depression, the emptiness. I worked so hard to get over you and it took me months. Years actually, to get back on my feet. It was difficult to get over you.
But I managed. I finished my degree with a one-year study delay and started an internship at a small editorial company. I also started working as a bartender on the weekends to pay off my bills and to afford food. I managed both quite well and I'm sure you would have been proud of me.
The bar is where I met Alex. We worked the same evening shifts on Saturdays and quickly became close friends. We understood each other on a deeper level, the pain of loosing someone close to us. For Alex it was losing a sibling to cancer. Five years before I lost you. Alex helped me cope in the most patient way possible. Time, patience, and love. I started to trust again, just like I used to trust you.
It was June 9th when Alex proposed, and I said yes. We were happy and good for each other.
Don't get me wrong. I never once forgot about you, I thought of you daily. The smallest things triggered my memories of you. Like the blue sweater that still hangs in my closet, the necklace you once gave me, you know, the one with the golden sun. Every time I saw your favourite flowers, forget-me-nots, a painful tug reached my heart. But I've learned to handle it, thanks to Alex it became easier to see the reminders of you. And the pain switched to a small second of a sadness.
I don't even know, why I am telling you all of this, just so I can relive it all over again. But I guess I just want you to know, know for sure that my actions were okay. That you never blamed me. For letting you go. For moving on. For finding our love in a different person.
So here I am, standing in front of you, and hoping you understand. Understand that I blamed myself for so many years. I never forgot you and you always had a shard of my shattered heart that I managed to tape back together.
Forgive me, won't you?