The Longest Absence [Flash fiction]

A flash fiction scribble about leaving, and the people who keep doing it.

Don’t take this the wrong way but— I love you.

You’re a wonder, you and that crinkle at the corner of your eyes at the end of a hard day. We look like an inside joke, like a couple I’d just read about. We look like us in another universe, in beautiful New York where we’re happy and we just know this is our shot.

At the coffee shop, you slip something onto my empty plate. A tiny blank Scrabble tile. “You can make it anything you want it to be,” you told me once, “but it’ll never add up to anything.” You’re talking about anything but the board game.

Twenty four hours from now, a phone call with C: I am worried, I tell her, about how successfully I have managed to let go. I have moved into a time and place where I ask a question and those with an answer will answer me. It is simple and I cannot wait for the rest. After years of this roller-coaster (I love me, I love me not) I have thrown away the daisy and whispered, I do. I have moved out of foster homes and refused to believe I can’t build my own.

I know you have made your way back to me after forever, but I need to know what you are bringing back. I need your promise that our disappearing acts are banished, or over. I need a famine for our excuses, the death of my mistrust, the absence of your leaving.

Seventy two hours from now, a letter from J: It is simple, he tells me. You needed me. I wasn’t there. You don’t forgive me. There are exactly two things I have been doing every day since I met you. One, I have been writing this story, line by line, in my head. Two, I have been unwriting the part where we leave each other.

I’m sure you know— this isn’t even a story. Definitely not ours, probably not fiction. It wasn’t you in all those apologies, it wasn’t you that came back. It wasn’t even you in New York.

One hundred and sixty eight hours from now, to you: The path we’re on may never change but I promise one day you and I will. At least make it intentional. At least change your mind and stop leaving me.

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