Do you want anything at Barnes and Noble? I texted her. I think I’m gonna go on my lunch break.
We haven’t dated in months, she texted back. Lose my number.
I figured I’d still get her a good book anyway. There’s a ton at the store.
I found some bestsellers on the front table. They had orange and blue on the cover, so I guess that made them popular. I took them to the counter.
Do you know anything about these? I asked the employee.
Sir, the mask must go over your nose, she said.
Well, she wasn’t wrong. The elastic is losing its formidability. I guess we all are.
On the way back to work, I noticed a terrific car wreck. Who knew plastic could wind up in such shapes? I pulled up behind it, noticed a young girl crying in the grass, trauma flowing in and around her. I have had trauma. We all do, it’s so modern and vibrant.
Are you ok? I asked.
My fucking car is wrecked, she said.
Let’s not be so sure, I said. I walked up to her. I debated waiting until the cops or something showed up, but lunch breaks don’t last forever.
Would you like a book? I have two, I said.
Yes, I have two, I said, showing the appropriate amount of fingers.
No, she said, and went back to crying.
I’m sorry. I just wanted to take your mind off of all this.
But she said nothing. I left and drove back to work. My boss, like creeping death, tutted, pointed to the clock.
Late again, he said.
I was helping a victim.
A likely story.
But I was kind of like a hero, I said.
My boss walked away. But the thought gnawed, sewn its way into my psyche. I did a good deed. I helped! It certainly wasn’t on my list of things to do this morning.
I was a hero, I texted her later. I helped process trauma.
Seriously, she texted back. We’re done, sorry.
I bought you a book. It might help us understand what happened to us. Maybe we can reconnect. Maybe we can learn to move again. We moved so well.
I don’t want a book. I don’t want other things. I wanted you. And you couldn’t give me just you. You always had to give me something else instead of you. And I’m fucking sick of it.
But I gave myself earlier today. I’m learning. We can regain ability in terrific ways.
She didn’t respond. On the way home from work, I noticed much more trash than normal on the streets. It was concerning. It made me think of where I grew up. I stopped and pulled over to take a closer look. There was nothing I would have ever wanted, but there was always something in there that someone could use, and I have to admit, it made me feel better. Across the street, there was a bar, and the bouncer was smoking and watching me. And in this, I felt better – I had entered someone’s life again, briefly. I waved. He shrugged. I stood in the trash, fiddling with my mask.
Kevin Richard White is used to rejections. He has written some things, but not all things. He lives in Philadelphia. You must please follow him at @MisterKRW over there on the Twitter.
image: Stephanie Jacobs