Start free writing with these words: I never thought I would go through with it until I heard … – – –
I never thought I would go through with it until I heard the bells on Christmas morning. I lay there staring at the ceiling. Instead of cracked plaster and peeling paint, I saw her face. I heard her voice saying the words.
“This is our last kiss.”
And she turned and walked away.
“No.” I said to the ceiling. “That was our first kiss. For the rest of our lives.” I showered, dressed and ran out the door into the cold December morning. I ran all the way to the subway and barely caught the crosstown train.
I had no idea what I would say but I knew that I couldn’t let her go. I had wasted enough time already. I had no reason not to commit to her.
Other than my fear of commitment, my fear of being tied down.
Tied down to what? The woman I loved with all of my heart, the woman that I couldn’t imagine living without. Sure, I had my doubts. But they were about me. Would my love be enough for her? Would I be good enough for her?
The half hour train ride seemed to take forever but I was finally pounding up the stairs to her apartment. I raised my hand to knock on the door, closed my eyes to composed myself and rapped once.
Opening my eyes at the rustle of paper, I saw an envelope taped to the door. With my name on it. I stared for a moment, terrified of what I would find when I opened it. I watched my hand reach out and carefully peel the tape free of the door. Shaking my head, I slit the envelope open, pulled out the folded sheet and opened it.
“Love, I’ve gone to Paris. The job offer and my lifelong dream of being an artist is too much to pass up. You’ll always be in my heart. The special moments that we’ve shared will always be cherished memories. I want to stay in touch with you, Love. I will write because hearing your voice would put too much pressure on our fragile relationship. Please write back, telling me of your daily life, of your struggles with your manuscript and finding a publisher. I want to hear the news you get from your family back home. I’ve come to treasure the stories of your sisters, your mom and dad, the small farm you grew up on.
“You see, Love. I never had a family, a home. I could never bring myself to tell you how I grew up an orphan. The only home I knew was the cold, bleak institution where I slept in a room with a dozen other girls. A flimsy mattress on a three by six steel cot, a footlocker with clothes that were either too big or too small. Meals eaten off of segmented steel plates.
“When I said this was our last kiss, I really meant that it was the last kiss I would ever have. Your kiss will always be on my lips, Love. No other will ever mean anything to me, your good heart and soft touch is pure bliss. It’s unthinkable that I will ever give my heart to someone else.
“Please understand that I have to prove myself to the world. Just as you left the safety of the home where you knew exactly who you were; mom and dad’s son, brother to your sisters who was expected to take over the family farm. I have to leave the city that is the only home I knew. I have to find out if I’m good enough to be my own person, to be good enough to be loved by you.
“Keep my heart safe, Love.”
My hands trembled as I folded the letter and put it back in the envelope. I carefully placed it in my inside jacket pocket and walked back down the stairs. I walked through the sleet back to the subway. I came to a diner and decided that I should have a cup of coffee. I felt for change in the bottom of my pocket and found I had enough. I stood under the awning and shook off as much of the sleet as I could. As I passed through the small entryway I smiled at the urge to slip out of my wet shoes and jacket so I wouldn’t track the wet inside.
It was busy inside. I made my way to empty stool at the end of the counter.
“Be with you in a minute, honey.” The plump waitress smiled at me as she came by, both arms loaded with plates.
“Take your time. I’m in no hurry.” I looked at the wet floor covered with street grit. Christmas day in the big city. They were shorthanded and full up with people like me who had no one and nowhere else to be.
The waitress came by, grabbed a cup and saucer, poured me a cup and set it down in front of me. I smiled and met her eyes as she started to pull out her pad. “All I can afford is coffee.” I gestured over my shoulder. “If you’ve got a mop, I’ll clean that up for you.”
She paused, a slight frown on her lips as she looked at me. “Country boy, aren’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I glanced at the floor, then back at her. “This is easy compared to what I usually clean up.”
She laughed. Reaching under the counter she grabbed an apron and handed it to me. “Hang your jacket behind the register. The mop is back here.” Without waiting, she turned and went through the swinging door.
Late that afternoon I recognized the super from her building when he came in. He looked frazzled. During a lull I talked to him about taking over her lease. He said he was so busy trying to keep up with stuff he couldn’t begin to think about it. I offered to help so he’d have some extra time.
My two new jobs actually left me with more time to write. I smiled when I received her second letter at my new address.