I do not know about you, but I keep things that old girlfriends leave behind. Some people say that you have to get rid of everything, just throw it all out, but I can not do it. I mean, how do you just drop everything that reminds you of someone you once liked, even loved. I have been told that I am sentimental, and that may be true, but I like things that remind me of my life. I look around at some friends’ apartments, tidy and free of knickknacks and things, and I can not imagine their life. I understand why someone would throw objects away, especially in horrific or abusive relationships where the letter, book, etc. can be a trigger, but I have not had that experience. Not that all my break-ups have been rosy and all, but most have been amicable.
When I say I keep things, I do not mean everything. I have no use for hair ties (although I keep the clips, those can keep a bag of chips nice and shut), no use for salad dressing that I do not like but she did, no use for the one sock with Santa on it that must have a mate around here somewhere. I also get rid of the last thing they gave me, especially any letter given after the end. Nothing hurts more and keeps you in the pain than to read and reread a letter about either getting back together or how better your life will be. That last letter is meant as a favor, a blessing or a hope, but it always hurts just a little more. Best to let that one go.
So what do I keep? I keep the gifts, the little notes and reminders, the objects of affection and the pictures. I may box them up for the first few months or so after the split, but after a while they make their way out of the back of the closet and become another thing on a shelf, another small piece of my history. I have stuffed animals, engraved lighters, a painting or two, all gifts and treasures of my past as on display as my other interests. They are gifts given of love and kindness, for the most part, all displays of affection from the better parts of my life. When I look around my place, my space, I see moments of my history and things I would like to recall, not the bad moments when it all had to end. Even when it was my fault.
I really think I could have had something with Natalie. We only spent about a month dating, and I was resistant at first, but there was something there. Hell, even The Board saw us dating before I did. I guess it was obvious. I am always the last to know about these things, after all. We were compatible, not just as people in the same career, but as people in general. We argued about which was better, Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, and settled nicely on Willow as a compromise. We talked late at night about programs for the library, about how things could be better. For that month, I had hope that my life had been leading toward something. Then I messed it all up.
I still do not know why I kissed Ava. Or if she kissed me. Whatever the why, I know the outcome. Natalie saw and left town. Last time I saw her was at Dave’s wedding two weeks ago. Now, after Betty’s death, plans have accelerated and she is coming back to take over the children’s librarian position after Darling “vacated the position,” The board said the original agreement was for her to take over Betty’s position and they are holding fast but will allow her to act as children’s librarian for the time being. Personally, I think they have someone else in mind.
I stepped out of the library and walked the requisite fifteen feet to the small metal bucket before I lit my cigarette. I knelt down with my back against the wall, balancing on the balls of my feet. I pulled out my phone and started scrolling through my twitter feed, trying to think of something interesting that had happened to tweet about when a shadow fell across me.
“Hi,” Natalie said.
“Hey,” I said.
I tried to stand up but had been caught off guard. I fell to my side, catching myself with my phone hand. I heard a small crack.
“Well, shit,” I said, looking at the small crack on the phone’s casing, “I think it’s okay.”
I mostly said that to myself, but Natalie answered anyway.
“You spend too much time on that anyway,” she said.
“You’ve been talking to my mother,” I said.
She smiled. I liked it when she smiled.
I cleared my throat and took a drag off my cigarette.
“Are you back... Moved back in town yet?”
She brushed her hair off her forehead and looked away from me. I took that as a bad sign.
“No, not yet. Two weeks. I’m just here to sign some paperwork. Plus... Evan, I wanted to tell you before someone else did.”
“What is it?”
“I... Someone else is moving back with me. He’s a really great guy, you’re gonna like him. He’s... well, he’s a lot like you.”
“Good to know you have a type.”
My inner self slapped the shit out of whatever part of my brain controls my mouth. I was stunned at what I had said, almost as much as she seemed to be. She just stared at me. Then she slapped me, too, hard a cross the face and walked inside. Her heels clicked on the pavement.
I leaned back on the wall and put my head down. I held my forehead, sliding down the brick until I was back in my kneeling position. What the hell was that about? Why had I said that? What part of my dumb, jerk ass reptilian brain thought that was okay? I always wondered if I was a good person, but, shit, at times I can throw that out the window.
Was I upset that she had a boyfriend? That they were so serious that he was moving here with her? I took a drag off my cigarette and decided that I was, but I had no right to be. We had been dating for a month, apart for two months, what claim do I have to her? What claim did I ever have to her?
Jesus, what kind of person am I? And what kind of drama filled soap opera had I allowed my life to become?
I finished the cigarette and went inside. Mom’s door was closed, the pebbled glass with the word “Director” stenciled in yellow obscuring any view. I picked up three books and went upstairs.
I walked to the far back of the nonfiction section where the window overlooks the back parking lot. I used to wait here after school reading on the days my dad was home from offshore. I would wait until Dad drove up in his green Chevy and pick up mom and me and take us home. From this view, you can see the Bannville Corner Diner and the parking lot the library shares.
There I waited until I saw Natalie walk out and head toward the diner. I saw a man with red hair meet her and they hugged. He picked her up and swung her around.
They got in a grey sedan and drove off. I sat there on the window sill with the books in my hand and watched the car disappear before I moved.
I have a lot of growing up to do, it seems.
Check out more articles on www.bannedlibrary.com Add us on, Facebook, Google+ and @bannedlibrary on Twitter!