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“Why would you treat me this way?” I wonder as I walk the aisles of the bookstore. My hand slides smoothly over the dusty stiff book covers while my eyes glance across the room, spotting you sitting on a couch cushion, sipping black coffee. Why black coffee?
I shift my gaze to the immensely tall bookshelf and come to a halt in front of the J through K section. I slowly pull a book down, quickly passing my eyes over the cover then flipping through the pages, waiting for something to peak my interest. Waiting. Why wait?
I close the book and find my legs working before my mind does. I am now closer to where you sit. You are focused intensely on the music playing quietly in your headphones and the book with a familiar cover that rests on the table. What is that book?
“How could you ignore me like this?” I ponder while I peer through the bookshelf nearest your table, wondering if you know how you act. My mind fills with short glimpses of curiosity as I make my way to the chair farthest from you. I sit and unlock my phone, sadly smiling as your picture, my background, flashes to life within my screen. How did we end up this way?
I open the messages app, scrolling down the long list of non frequent contacts until I see your name, the last text dating back to February 29th. I exhale and press the tab, infinitely scrolling upwards through the catalog of our endless messages. The scrolling pauses as a phrase catches my eye, “I’m sorry, John.” Sorry. Oh how I wish I could delete such a pointless word from my vocabulary. The word appears over two thousand times in our messages within the three year span the chat has been alive. Is it still alive?
My mind flips through the metaphorical pages of our story, remembering each heartache you caused with each message you sent. I remember each fight we had, always ending the same way. You say, “I’m sorry,” I say, “it’s okay :),” an added smiley face for comfort. You say, “I love you,” and I say “I love you too.” The mess would be over and I would be happy, in spite of the growing dread within my heart that you would finally say you’re done with me. Why can’t I be done with you?
A few excuses always seemed to find their way into your messages, somehow burrowing themselves into our story like termites into wood. Your reasons became the words I would tell myself to excuse my anger and sadness that spawned from every interaction with you. “I’m sorry Jane, I just have some things I am going through that I don’t want to talk about. I didn’t mean to direct the anger at you.” I’d reply, “it’s okay, John. I hope you feel better.” I wanted to feel better.
Your voice appears as I look up and see you talking to a girl who is next to you on the couch. I lock my phone and pretend to read a book from my bag, ignoring the words on the page and listening to the words you speak. “Hey, I just needed to talk to you about a few things,” you say. The girl replies, “Anything for you, John. You know you can always confide in me.” Her hand connects with yours. Why can’t you confide in me?
It’s an affair, isn’t it? An emotional affair. You two talk for hours as I sit at my chair, clutching my book, my eyes red and swollen as tears sneak their way down my cheek. You’ve begun ignoring my messages, pretending you don’t see them or get the notification. Did you think I was stupid?
I reimagine our conversation from just weeks ago, your words playing like a story in my head. “Our relationship is like a story with lots of twists and turns and surprise cliffhangers that never become true endings.” That was what you said as we sat together, my head on your chest. “Is it at least an interesting story?” I ask. “Of course.” You reply. “I promise I’ll never be the main character in someone else’s story like I am in yours.” I say. “I’ll never want another main character beside me. No other book is as important as ours.” You reply. I look up and glance again at the book in front of you, the cover still pinging familiarly in my mind. Then who’s book is that?
Are you writing a story without me? Authors cut out characters all the time. Even ones they thought were the most important. My train of thought crashes violently as her shrill laugh fills the air. Your comforting laugh collides with hers. You two are not meant to be main characters together. I watch her stroke your arm gently, tauntingly even. My normally nonexistent temper runs short, the common sense within me shoving the rising anger down with a struggle. You said she wasn’t anything more than a friend. Isn’t she more than a friend?
My fingers flip the pages of the book within my hands, frays of dust falling with each turn of the page. I sigh and rise, distracting myself from your betrayal as I walk to the dusty shelves once again. I pull out a book, the cover blank and mysterious. The book folds open easily to a page worn down by overuse. I look at the page and quickly pass my eyes over the words, taking in the story. I am not the only one who’s main character has left them. I open a few other books, reading the stories of lies and hurt that lie within them. Is their story like mine?
All of these books, a tragic story buried inside each, belonged to a pair of people attempting love and happiness, each resolving with the same ending: sadness. Every cliffhanger is concluded with a break-up, their story of intimacy fading into nothing. The cause of ending varies per book, the most common being a new main character. Will that happen to my story?
I glance back at you, hoping you notice me as I flip through the failed love stories. You don’t notice. Instead, you continue looking at the girl in front of you, telling her your secrets and treasures that you’ve never shared with me. Are you finishing our story without me?
My hand passes against the dusty shelves of the now dim bookstore, my eyes wandering as they take in every cover. I spot a familiar title, the book from my bag, as it sits next to every other forsaken love. Is our story just another dusty cover on a bookshelf?