He spent most of his weekends there. The combination of the quiet neighborhood and the ever rotating number of silent companions sated his desire to be calm but not alone. He liked it here: the open patio, the breeze flowing through the trees, and the house roasted beans. It was easy for him to just sip his cold brewed coffee in silence, rationalizing to himself that he was okay. That was his favorite part: the rationalizing.
Most of the time, he just sat, wrote, and waved amicably at the strangers who acknowledged his presence. But, she…she was different. He saw her there regularly. They exchanged glances, even the occasional coy smile, but not once did they speak to each other. That was it. That was the extent of their relationship: an awkward dance of sheepish niceties. A glance here. A smile there.
Eventually, she broke the silence.
I see you here all the time. Figured I should at least get to know a bit about you.
She immediately shook her head in a subtle, nervous fashion, questioning to herself why she had said something so tired, so trite.
Well, my name’s Clark. And, I must really apologize to you for not introducing myself to you earlier. I tend to keep to myself.
His response was warm and kind, inviting almost.
She sat herself down in the open chair at his table.
I’m Emilia. It’s nice to finally be able to put a name to the face.
They both smiled and sat in each others company for a few moments, and it was in that moment, that very moment, that their relationship was perfect.
I’m going to be honest with you, Emilia.
The interest could be read on her face.
What we have now is perfect. It will only be downhill from here, and there’s only one way that this is going to end.
Her face changed to one of a confused intrigue. She had no idea where he was headed in the conversation, but she knew that she wanted to hear it.
I am only going to hurt you. Whatever this was going to be - friendship, something more - it will only end in the tragedy of you seeing me in a hospital bed. Tubes everywhere. The plug will be pulled, and you will see my body convulse as if the life within me is fighting desperately for its survival, for its last chance.
She could only sit there as tears slowly welled up in her eyes. She could see the pain in him, and it was a pain that she knew all too well.
My body will rise from the bed, giving you that small hope, one last sliver of hope, that I will be okay. But, that hope will be ripped from you in seconds as my body falls lifelessly back into the bed. The color will leave my motionless, broken body, and you will know that with the loss of color comes the loss of life. You will be in pain, more pain than you ever deserve. And, I cannot, with all of my heart, put that burden upon you, upon anyone. I do not want to hurt you like that.
She didn’t know what to say. Who would? And, after a moment, she got up and left.
They saw each other a week later. They shared glances, coy smiles. They both saw the pain in each other, and they both understood.
They never spoke again.