Would you like to tell me a little bit about that friendship, Maggie? It might help us both understand how you are feeling.
Susan sits back in her chair. I notice the box of tissues on her desk, the jug of water, the stress ball with a winking smile. I feel like she is waiting for a story. And again the idea of telling the truth, the desire to let it all come out.
Susan would you like me to tell you a story? Because I have one I have been working on for years. It’s about love, mostly. The kind of love you find in movies and songs, and also in quiet afternoons. It’s about a girl. A girl who loved a man. And how this man knew she loved him because she told him. Once and many times after that because you only stumble with such words the first time. So she loved him, Susan, and he knew it, and it was then that the battles began. Because love can so often feel like war, don’t you think?
She fought so hard for his attention, and surrendered more than she ever intended. She lost days because of hours, and saw the under-side of more nights than one ever should, alone. She cried to friends, and to the moon, and one night to him, where she discovered this man she loved unmoved by her tears. On that night she made her deepest acquaintance with loneliness yet. And for weeks, months after, she held him off with this loneliness, wrapped it around herself, and waited for the love to lessen.
But Susan, the girl continued to love the man. The love had snaked its way in to her bones and anchored in the deepest part of her. She missed him and began to forget the sharper edges of their relationship. She remembered instead the way he had touched her wrist on that very first night. She remembered his worried eyes and the soft pad of his thumb against her lip. She remembered him singing in her ear, and the rough of his neck, and the tremble in his throat when she undid his tie.
She began to polish the grooves out of her memories and soon only shiny surfaces remained. She slipped these memories in to her pocket and took them out at night in the dark. She started to hold on to every last night and let go of every next morning, and soon her loneliness recalibrated into longing. And when only longing remained, she took the memories out of her pocket and laid each one before him.
And it turned out the man had been waiting all along. He welcomed her return and held out his hand. When she took it both were full of forgetting, this man and this girl who could not write their own conclusion. The end of their affair was not destined to be quick and strong. After a time it got to be that they could not tell the difference between falling down and getting back up. But Susan, they held on tight, just the same.
Until the day he went away for good, and he left her with those memories in her pocket. She is trying to carry them alone, but their weight makes her so heavy she fears she might sink under and drown. Susan, can’t you see how she’s drowning now?
We worked together, I say to a point over her shoulder. On the National accounts. I was, well, his Girl Friday, you know? But then we sort of drifted apart.
I fix my eyes on the box of tissues. This is really the only story I can tell. Ours is a book of stark, blank pages where the words have been erased. A history redacted because once upon a time we carelessly promised that we would leave nothing of each other behind.