“A grande Americano with an extra shot and no room for cream please,” a woman in her late twenties cheerfully requested from the barista.
She was dressed in a black suit jacket, black slacks, and a bright red blouse with shoes and a coat to match. Her silk, chocolate hair barely touched her shoulders and she constantly combed her fingers through it, which caused it to be heavier on her right than her left. She wasn’t skinny, but fit from years of sports and most recently her new hobby – kick boxing. Her tan from summer was fading and her winter color was starting to take over. Her dark eyes, which were intensely focused on her iPhone, had slight bags under them and a fresh layer of makeup on top.
“Americano with an extra shot, no cream,” called out the barista.
“Thanks,” the woman smiled, grabbed her cup, and quickly shuffled her short Asian legs out of the coffee shop.
She briskly walked down the street and hugged her coat closer to her as a slight gust of wind blew. It was late October, but the weather was just starting to hit that crisp nip, so everyone still had their heavy coats stored in back of their closets and dreaded the day they would have to wake it from its slumber.
However, she didn’t mind the cold. The cold reminded her of childhood memories where she would bake chocolate chip cookies with her mother or the time she broke her arm ice skating and had to skip soccer practice for a week. Not a warm memory, but she was never a graceful woman and she accepted that. The cold also motivated her to get to her office quicker, which was filled to the brim with papers, but at least it was the perfect temperature.
Her head was slightly tilted towards the ground as she was lost in thought about her responsibilities for the day.
I have to notarize a few more documents, I have a skype meeting with one of my clients at 3:35. I can’t forget to file that motion, which I can do on my way to the bank at lunch. I have to-
A voice shook her out of her trance and her breath hitched. It was a voice she could recognize anywhere and at one point it was a voice that she longed to hear.
“Is that you?” A five foot nine man, who was her age, quietly asked on the busy street in the middle of a business district. She wanted to turn around and cry. She wanted to run. She wanted to splash her coffee in his face and slap him. Instead, she stood there with weak knees and shaking hands as time came to a screeching halt.
“Hello?” Suddenly, she let go of the breath she was holding and was surprised to find a tear rolling down her face. The man walked in front of her and tried to peer at her face, but she turned away. Why should she let him see her in this state after all that time she took to heal from the pain he caused. She refused to give him that power anymore. She refused to be that twenty year old girl, screaming in her dark room all alone while tears streamed down her face into the pillow that muffled her sounds.
Instead of answering, she walked around the man her age and didn’t look back. She could hear quick foot steps in back of her, trying to catch up to her, but she didn’t look back no matter how much she wanted to.
He suddenly manifested in front of her and she cursed her genetics for her short Asian legs.
“I knew it was you, even though you cut most off your hair off and lost a lot of weight,” the young man panted out. She finally allowed herself to look at him, which she immediately regretted. He was still handsome, not the type that would stop you in your tracks, but the type that you knew only you could appreciate. The type that had a heart of gold and the awkwardness of a turtle. The most genuine smile and consideration for others beyond Gandhi (just to you).
The type that you would forever hate yourself for if he ever got away.
She stood there staring at him as he stared back. Time always seemed to get away when she was with him, but for the first time ever it seemed to drag on. Then it hit her: he said he knew it was her, but he didn’t know her.
“You don’t,” she whispered.
“What?” He leaned in closer to hear her, but she stepped back.
“You don’t know me. You never have,” she needed to leave, but her body seemed to stay glued in that one spot.
A few moments passed before she spoke again.
“You don’t know me. You might have known a girl when she was twenty and naive enough to believe in every word that a young boy whispered into her ears. Words of promise. Promise for a future together. Promise for everything she could ever dream of. Promise that he would be by her side even in times of doubt. Promise that he would never leave her when times got bad. Promise of children and a house. Promise that even thought she was battling her own demons, he would be the support she needed. You knew that girl, you don’t know me,” she stepped around him.
“You never knew me either,” he shouted over the wind that seemed to grow with the tension building around them.
“You’re right, I didn’t. You didn’t let me. That girl you knew, she was young. She got angry easily, but trusted too quickly. Even after she told you about her past and showed you her demons, she hoped that you would love the broken parts of her as much as you claimed to have loved the whole parts of her. But you didn’t, you couldn’t. However, she doesn’t resent you for that. She can’t resent you, that’s the worst part. No matter how much of a monster you made her feel like, no matter how much pain you gave her in a form of a broken heart, no matter how betrayed she felt when you called her a mistake, and no matter how much she struggled to smile again after you left her, she couldn’t bring herself to resent you because that would mean she still cared,” she said and somehow she managed to keep her voice steady and calm.
“I never called you a monster-”
“Yes, you did. To you I was someone unloveable. Someone who was too much. Too damaged, too emotional. I was just too much and you were scared of that. You couldn’t fix me, but I never wanted you to. I knew you couldn’t and I never once asked you to. When you started to realize that I was too much, I stopped being the shiny new toy that you wanted. That’s all I ever was, a toy. Something new, something that gave you attention. But when you realized that this toy was too difficult to maintain, too much to handle, you tossed it away,” she finally turned around and stared him straight in the eye.
“You were the one who tossed me away first,” he said with venom in his words.
“I was upset, too upset to talk. It took me a while to calm down and I told you so. I never once said I didn’t want you or that I wanted to leave you,” she glared at him. She pushed her nails into her palm in order to stop her from crying in front of him. She promised herself that she wouldn’t cry anymore. No more crying over guys who didn’t care.
What felt like a century, passed before she spoke.
“You don’t know me. Please don’t ever say you do. If anyone asks you if you knew or know of me, tell them you don’t because you really don’t. After you left, I put back the pieces differently so that you couldn’t recognize me. So that I couldn’t recognize the old me. It took me months, years to learn and accept that I am not a monster and that I was only a new, shiny toy to you. I was someone who lived so differently from you, that you were curious and wanted to live a different life. I was used by you. I was a mistake to you, while you were a lesson to me,” she spoke with a gentle voice that held so much hurt and eyes that begged him to leave. He stood there with an unreadable look on his face and clenched fists.
“So I beg of you, treat me like the stranger you’ve always wanted me to be. That way, I wouldn’t be a mistake for you,” with those final words she turned away and left him to become a face that blended in with the many strangers that passed her on the streets.
Suddenly, they were strangers with the same memories, but she knew that memories fade, just like sadness and pain does. Happiness will come and until that day came she promised to forgive herself and those around her.