Twinkling stars illuminated the dark sky as I sat against the rustic bench beneath the large oak tree. A crisp breeze flew past me as I rubbed my palms together in hopes of warming my chilling hands.
Sparkling city lights flickered in the distance as footsteps echoed around me. My eyes roamed over the numerous people making their way around the city as voices littered the air. Leaning against the sturdy bench, I raised my cup of steaming coffee and sipped it as I continued to stare mindlessly at everyone and everything.
Regardless of the noise surrounding me, I let out a relaxed breath and shut my tired eyes. Calmness brushed over me in waves as I relished the feeling of fresh air after long hours indoors. A peaceful aura enclosed me as I allowed my thoughts to wander carelessly as I remained seated on the bench.
I sat there unbothered for a few minutes before a familiar voice greeted me.
“You know, for some reason every time I’m out here shopping, I can never stop myself from walking by this bench in hopes of seeing you here. I guess I got lucky today.” Her high-pitched voice stated as she slid in beside me. Glancing at her features, I noticed a few minor differences since the last time I had seen her. Her face was more mature now, yet she still had the same sparkling blue eyes. Giving her a quick side glance and a fragment of a smile, I sat up.
“Knowing you, that probably means you walk by here often.” I replied as I motioned my hand towards her numerous shopping bags while turning to face her.
“You’re not wrong.” She laughed lightly as she brushed a stray hair out of her face. She stared at me smiling for a few seconds before the smile dropped from her face. A frown soon clouded her features as she fiddled with her fingers aimlessly. I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion at her change in demeanor as I watched her stare at the cement floor.
“I know we haven’t spoken in years, but I’m always around if you need somebody to talk to. You can only bottle up your feelings for so long.” She uttered in a small voice as she lifted her gaze to meet mine. She wore a look of sympathy as she stared at me. The look marring her face was the same look I received from anyone who was aware of my circumstances. Little did they know that the looks of pity did nothing for me, and only reminded me of the past I had tried so hard to bury.
Masking my emotions, I wore a poker face as I turned away from her and stared ahead at the gleaming lights. “If you’ve experienced the pain I have, the only way to cope with it is bottling it up.” I responded gruffly as I ran a hand down my face. She let out a deep breath from beside me as she shuffled closer to me.
“Fine, if you don’t want to open up to me, at least find somebody to share your pain with. How much longer are you going to live like this?” She questioned, frustration leaking through her words.
I kept my gaze fixed ahead as I muttered a reply. “Until the day I feel in my heart I’ve redeemed myself.”
She let out a bitter laugh as she heard my response. “How soon is that day, Mason? All I want is for things to be normal again. Things to be perfect again.” She exclaimed as she placed her warm palm over mine. Turning to face her, I looked into her hopeful blue eyes. As I sat there staring, I was engulfed with memories of my life before everything had changed. I saw a younger version of myself; careless, naive, and happy. Her eyes invoked the memories of myself I had buried long ago. Her eyes summoned the demons that haunted me to this day. The same demons that would never allow me to feel happiness again.
Sliding my hand out of hers, I stared into her eyes one last time before turning away. Lowering my voice, I answered. “You’re foolish to believe that things can be normal again after experiencing what I have. Things will never be the same, Olivia.”
Her bright blue eyes welled with tears as she stared at me angrily. “Why! I was your girlfriend before everything happened, I can help you through it! Please just let me bring back the old Mason.” She cried as as she grabbed my hand and squeezed it again. Looking towards her, I stared at her tear stricken face and sighed in frustration.
“Things can’t be normal again because I’m not the same Mason.” I said as calmly as I could before lifting my now cold cup of coffee and sipping it.
“So this is my closure? After 3 years of wondering where we went wrong and why we broke up, this is what I get?” She laughed mockingly as she angrily wiped her eyes.
“We were broken up months before things changed. You refused to accept that things were over.” I replied as I avoided her gaze. Although I felt bad for being harsh, she needed to understand things once and for all, and sweet talking wouldn’t do the trick.
She seemed to have gotten the idea that I wasn’t willing to open up and let out a tired sigh. She scrutinized me for a few seconds as if she was trying to see past the permanent mask I had put, but turned away and began gathering her bags after realizing that she wouldn’t elicit the response she wanted from me.
“I guess this is it then. I really do hope things work out for you, Mason. Remember, I’ll always be your friend, and I’m only a phone call away.” She whispered soothingly before lightly squeezing my shoulder and making her way back down the broad street. I watched her back as she strolled through the street before ushering for a taxi and getting in.
Glancing at the watch that lay upon my wrist, I rubbed my hands over my eyes before picking myself off the bench. The events of the day were catching up to me and I was only hoping to make it to my apartment without any encounters from anyone else. Before I made my way back home, I bent down and grazed my hand over the silver placard embedded into the bench I was previously seated at. My eyes danced over the words I had read over nearly a million times as I let out a deep breath.
In loving memory of Nicholas James Reed
A loving son, brother, and friend
July 17th, 2013
“I love you, Nick. I’m always at peace when I’m here with you.” I whispered to nothing in particular before making the long trek back home on the dark and starry night.