The cafe was bustling with conversation around me, it was a sunny Saturday met with blue skies above and a symphony of honks and beeps below, courtesy of everyone on their way to wherever they were going. The waitress waddled toward me, and served my coffee. Looking back now, I honestly believe I’m content with my life, happy even. Are you really? Because if it wasn’t for my experiences in the past, I’d never have the chance to do so many new things, fortify my friendships and achieve the things I’ve achieved. I can confidently look back with no regrets. I call bullshit.
“It’s not bullshit!” I yelled.
Suddenly the conversation surrounding me came to a halt as I was met with a collection of curious eyes and little specks of giggles around the cafe. I continued to sip my scalding hot coffee, in the hopes that I could somehow hide in this venti cup, away from all the attention. Thankfully, it didn’t last long, no more than ten seconds until the herd of sheep around me went back to minding their own business. My phone begins to ring, spasming rapidly on the table.
“Hey! We still on for tonight?” The caller asked.
“Yeah. I’ll meet you at the place. 7pm?” I replied.
“Are you gonna drive?”
“Nah, I don’t like driving to be honest.”
“That’s fine, I didn’t want you to drive anyway. It means we can drink!”
“Sweet. I’ll see you then.” I said as I hung up.
I skulled the rest of my coffee and left. I was torn between feeling excited and nervous for tonight. I guess that’s an acceptable feeling to have in this case. But it’s just dinner. Nothing special, just dinner. Looks like you’re going on a date.
“It’s just dinner.”
A couple hours pass, and it was time to get ready. Starting from the bottom, I had these suede dress shoes on, cuffed olive green chinos accompanied with a black collar shirt with specs of white. Moisturizer. Cologne. Wax. Almost there, one last thing to complete the look. Walking over to my desk, an assortment of watches displayed in front of me. I reached over for my Daniel Wellington watch. White face, blue needles attached with a chocolate brown leather strap. You’re wearing that watch? Really?
“What’s wrong with it?”
6:48pm. I was at the front of the restaurant. A couple minutes pass, and my mind does what it always does. Examines every possible scenario that could transpire. She hates dinner, hates me and storms off while giving me the bird. She has so much fun with me that we race back to my place to have sex. She stands you up, and you end up waiting for hours on end only to realise you got played and she was never really into you. She has a great time, and you forget about all your problems, even if it’s only for one night. Or you could tell her about me.
“Fuck no. No way. No. Just leave me alone for this one night.”
“Damien?” A girl was standing right in front, awaiting a response.
“Cheryl! It’s been so long!” I said ecstatically as I went in for a hug.
We were greeted by the waitress and guided to our table. Cheryl looked really different since the last time I saw her. Her voice sounded different but in a good way. She had a distinct accent she didn’t have the last time. Her hair seemed like it had a life of its own and did this thing where it would at times, cover one of her eyes when she was listening to me speak. In my eyes, it enhanced the attention she was giving me. I think this night’s going to go well. Are you seriously going through with this?
“Just shut up, just for tonight.” I whispered.
“I’m sorry?” Cheryl asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing.” I laughed nervously.
“You’re so weird. I hear the steak here is good!”
We spoke for hours on end, about pretty much everything that came to our minds. One by one, customers would come in for a meal, pay and leave. We enjoyed each other’s long overdue company in a dimly lit atmosphere. You piece of shit.
“Hey Damien, can I ask you something?”
“Sure, what is it?”
“What happened to your watch? There’s a crack in it.”
I was surprised she noticed such a slight detail considering my jacket sleeve would sometimes shroud my watch. Don’t tell her. Don’t tell her you piece of shit.
“It’s a keepsake.” I responded.
“Oh, that doesn’t really answer my question.” She laughed.
“Right, it doesn’t, does it? I… broke it awhile ago, but it’s my favourite watch so I just continue to wear it.”
“Oh that’s fair enough! Why didn’t you just say so?” Cheryl said as she dug her face back into her meal.
The waitress did a lap around the restaurant doing last calls for drinks. We bought another round. About thirty minutes pass and we were the only ones left.
“Time to go? I’m exhausted.” Cheryl yawned.
“Sure, sorry I lost track of time.”
“I had a great time! Don’t be silly.” She laughed.
We left the restaurant, and I waited with her until her ride came. It was unforgivingly windy and cold. But it was the best date I’ve had in such a long time. Don’t lie to yourself. You don’t deserve to be happy.
“Just shut the fuck up!” I screamed.
Cheryl sitting across from me, taken by such surprise found it difficult to find her words. A couple minutes pass allowing her to regain herself.
“Um.. but… but I… I didn’t say anything.” She said meekly.
“I’m… I’m so sorry. It’s not you. It’s just that-”
“My ride’s here, I’m just going to go.” Cheryl said.
That was a whole week ago. I hadn’t spoken to Cheryl since. Here I lay, in my empty room with only cobwebs keeping me company, with dirty plates on the table and even dirtier clothes on the floor. Maybe I really don’t deserve to be happy. You finally fucking understand. I think it’s cowardly of me though, if I don’t even apologise. Don’t speak to her. Leave her alone. I should at least explain myself and my actions. You’re just thinking with your dick. Just leave that girl alone. My phone begins to ring. Cheryl was calling. Don’t answer it.
“Damien. Are you alright?”
“I’m… I’m fine. Cheryl look, I’m really sorry about the other night.”
Silence filled the call for a little while, it was probably only a couple seconds but for me, it felt like an excruciating eternity.
“It’s fine. You must be going through some things huh?”
“You could say that.”
“Does it have something to do with the watch?”
“… you could say that.”
“Want to meet up? We can talk about it if you like.”
“I don’t think you’d want to.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.” Cheryl laughed.
What did I do to deserve someone as understanding as Cheryl. You don’t deserve her. I mean, I was so rude to her that night but she’s so insisting on clearing the air. Just leave her alone. We ended up meeting at my regular cafe. People surrounding us in every direction once again, each table wedged in so close you’re indirectly eavesdropping on four different conversations. I’ve only been here for five minutes, and I already know that a woman named Susan slept with her best friend Carol’s boyfriend and from that, Susan caused a relationship of five years to crumble. But wait there’s more. A guy named Alex got promoted at his law firm but apparently he doesn’t deserve it because he’s an egotistical and manipulative dickhead.
“Sorry, could you repeat that last part? It’s so noisy here, I couldn’t hear anything.” Cheryl said with her hands cupping her ears toward me.
“I was in a car accident two years ago.”
Not only are you seeing this girl again, but you even told her about the accident. You are a piece of work. I had to, I can’t be a sack of depressed crap forever, that’s not how someone should live. That’s not how she would have wanted me to live. You’re so naive.
“Oh my god. Damien that’s awful! That’s the reason for the crack in your watch?”
“Yeah. My… um, wife gave it to me as an anniversary present.”
A harsh breeze attacked the cafe causing all the green umbrellas to panic in an unsynchronised dance.
“Your… wife? You… you’re married?”
“Well, I mean it’s not what you think, like, I’m-”
“This was a mistake.” Cheryl said as she stood up.
“No, wait, Cheryl… just hold on, I can expla-”
“I don’t want to hear it Damien.” Cheryl interrupted.
With that, I was left behind at the cafe, surrounded by strangers gaping with curiosity, trying to figure out which cafe conversation was most intriguing. Well that turned out splendid.
“What do you know?”
“You should’ve chased after her.” A lady from across another table muttered.
“Shut the fuck up Susan, nobody asked you.” I said as I stormed off.
I want to fix this. Oh because it turned out so well the first time. No, I need to fix this. You don’t deserve to be happy. You keep saying that, but who are you to decide. You know who I am. It’s been two years, I’ve got no reason to feel guilty. Keep telling yourself that. Just leave me the fuck alone. I’m going to do this. There’s nothing you can do to stop me. What do you think you’re doing? What does it look like I’m doing? I’m starting the fucking car. You don’t drive remember? Or to put it more accurately, you refuse to drive. Well, I don’t have a choice now do I? Now leave me alone. You and I both know I’m not going anywhere. Keys in the ignition, the roar of the car itself makes me jolt. Gripping the wheel, I could feel my hands trembling.
“Holy shit, I’m really doing it. I’m driving! I’m fucking driving!” I yelled for anyone to hear.
I’m here. 42 Magnolia Street. Nothing’s changed since. The paint on the fence was chipping away but it still resembled that first coat of rosy pink. The wooden front door still stood strong and the weeds had grown to unbelievable lengths. What the fuck are we doing here? I entered the house, straight to the master bedroom. Get out of here. Deep breath. Another one. And another.
“Hey babe. It’s me. I’m sorry it’s been such a long time since I’ve visited.”
I placed a bouquet of flowers on the bed, her favourite. Yellow tulips. Get out. Now. I sat on the bed, as I stared at a picture.
“Babe, you don’t know hard the last two years has been. I’ve hated myself, I’ve blamed myself, I’ve even tried to kill myself. But I know you wouldn’t want that. I know you’d want me to be stronger than this. And I haven’t. I constantly berated myself into believing that I don’t deserve to be happy. Not after what I did to you. But I realised you’re not the one holding me back from happiness. I am. It’s me. It’s always been me. I didn’t come here for forgiveness babe, I came here for your permission. To finally be happy. I met someone. I know it’s the last thing you’d want to hear, in this home… our home, our home for the total duration of ninety-four minutes. But this someone, she… she understands me. And I want to be a better person. Not the person who I’ve become, not the person who lies in his own filth just waiting to die. I want to be happy with someone that understands me, who cares for me and loves me. Like you did. My mistake, like you do. So if it’s alright with you, I’d like to be with this person. Her name’s Cheryl, I think you’d really like her. She’s kind, and she’s humble, just like you. She’s a little terrifying, just like you. She’s very beautiful, just like you. Well… it’s about time to go. Know that I love you. I’ll always love you.”
I sat on the bed for a little while longer. Tears running down my face. You think a little speech is going to make this all right? It has to. It’s all I can do to make this right. You don’t deserve to be happy. Yes I do. And you can’t say otherwise. Because you’re not my wife. You’re me. You’re what I created out of the grief and guilt. You don’t dictate my life. Now for the very last time, leave me the fuck alone. I don’t need you anymore. We’ll see. After paying my respects to my old home, I left. Never looking back. The car roars once more as I gripped my hands onto the wheel. Only this time, I wasn’t trembling anymore. The world looked differently now, the open road, the sky, everything seemed brighter. I found myself at someone’s front door. Without hesitation, I knocked. The door creaks open.
“What do you want?”
“I wanted to clear things up. And I wanted to see you.” I said.
“I thought you don’t drive.”
“It’s a long story. But I’d like to tell it to you, if you have the time.”
“I thought you’re married.”
“Like I said, it’s a long story. Mind if I come in?”
The door creaks all the way, with Cheryl’s hand gesturing me to come in. I found it babe. After such a long, grueling expedition, I found it. I found happiness.