“I’m really sorry,” she says.
“I can’t believe it,” He rests his face in his hands, his elbows resting on the small cafe table. People around him continue their conversations about all manner and ilk of things without stopping to acknowledge his heart- freshly broken, shocked and awed. He looks around. At an adjacent table, two young women discuss their boyfriend’s various faults, cackling loudly. At another, he can see a small group of teenagers awkwardly flirt with one another- boys trying on various forms of masculinity, while the girls try desperately to differentiate themselves from one another without, of course, being too weird.
“If it helps, I really couldn’t believe it when I heard it either,” she says. “I’m really sorry,” She grimaces at him. She is good at consoling because she does what her brother is unable to do- she wears her emotions on her face and, as he looks up at his sister, he sees the strange blend of sympathy, of discouragement and of utter, bleak confusion.
“She’s getting married,” he says.
“Anna is getting married,” he says again, stretching the sides of his face and then scrunching them together.
“Are you trying to see if it’s more believable the more you say it?”
He pauses. The moment seems glacial.
“I thought I had gotten over her. My Anna,” he says finally. He waits another moment. He bites his lip. “Not my Anna anymore.”
His sister’s eyes go glassy with tears and she bites her lip. He averts his eyes quickly, looking at the table. He begins to trace the wood grain with his finger.
“What are you going to do?” she dabs the corner of her left eye, composing herself.
“What is there to do?”
“Do you want to go after her?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you want to call her?”
“I don’t know.”
“What about a text?”
“What do you want me to say, Linds?” he says, somehow both ferociously and barely audibly. “Yes. Yes, yes and yes. I do. All of those things. I want to drive to her place- recklessly, may I add- and pound on the door and demand to see her. I want to scream and shout and curse and berate her. I want to shake her by the shoulders and beg to know how a person can say that they love you, that they cannot imagine life without you, that they cannot conceive of being with another man and then tell you- in a fucking email– that they’re sorry, that they were wrong and that, though they meant what they said when they said it, they don’t actually love you and need you and want to be with you and that they’re confused and sorry and sorry and sorry.” He drifts off.
“She said that?”
He stares up at the ceiling. He considers the light fixture.
“I really thought she was coming back, Linds. I did,” he chuckles. “I still can’t believe that she hasn’t. I thought for sure that she was going to come to her senses and realize that I was the right one all along. So I told her to go ahead, to leave me and “us” for a while and travel and see the world and take it all in. I told her to take each moment by the balls and see everything she could. Because I knew deep, deep in my bones that she was coming back, regardless of where she went and who she met and what she saw. I knew that she would come back and that, no matter what was said and what hurts we inflicted on each other, that after enough time had passed, she was going to show up unexpectedly and we’d look at each other and all would be forgiven without a word and we would start over again.”
His shoulders slump, he sighs heavily. “I guess I just wonder how much of the woman in my head is real and how much of her is an ideal that I’ve created while holding on so tightly,” He breathes in deeply. He pauses. The moment seems glacial.
“That’s why I don’t think I’m going to do anything.”
They lean back in their respective chairs. The din of the cafe grows louder while their table, somehow, stays exempt from the noise.
“Perhaps it’s time you say it, then.”
“Why? What good would that do?”
“Let me rephrase that. Perhaps it’s time you acknowledge it- that you loved her, that you love her.”
“Aaron, you really can.”
“But I don’t think I want to.”
He looks around. The women are still laughing about their boyfriends and how inept they are. The teenagers are still flirting, still hoping, still fumbling with childish hands their social graces. He looks at his sister. She, as ever, is wearing her emotions on her face. She is wearinghis emotions on her face, acknowledging his broken heart. Acknowledging that he is lost, profoundly hurt and still, despite everything, deeply in love.
“Say it,” she says. “Say it.”
The moment seems glacial.