His eyes were tired and rimmed with dark circles. It seemed ages since he’d last slept but he was sure it had been longer. Just before dawn sometime within the last–he imagined it had been at least a week–his mother had died. Just slipped away in her sleep, and now his eyes wouldn’t seem to close.
He needed rest but he also needed a vacation–with alcohol, a lot of alcohol. Instead of trying another futile attempt at sleep, he began to Google places he might go to catch his breath. Trees, Oregon, Jack Daniels, loss. Search terms with nothing in common. Maybe it would lead to somewhere worth going.
Instead, those words led to more words than he thought could ever exist. In those four words he found what he had been missing. He found her. Again.
He clicked on the post even though he knew it wouldn’t lead to a vacation spot and because this was really about distraction, not necessity. He recognized the photo because he posted one just like it a few months back. But underneath there were these words that made his heart beat faster, his breath catch in his throat. A poem. He kept reading, one after another. And after a while, he began to know her, to really see who she might be, and the pain of his mother’s death began to ease. He thought about the girl who penned this ache, this loss, and wondered how she captured absence so completely.
His phone rang, springing him free from the grip of this strange woman’s pain, from her unending loss which he recognized as a kindred to his own.
“Hello,” he stammered into his phone.
“It’s me. Just wonderin’ if you’re coming over after work.” Her voice was sweet and so different from the words he found online, the words that he couldn’t shake.
“Not tonight. I’m already tired. Tomorrow?” He wondered if she could here the reservations in his voice.
“Ok,” she whispered. He could imagine her face, her pink cheeks deflating with disappointment.
“Tomorrow. I promise,” he said, but even he could hear the lie in his voice. He couldn’t hang up quick enough.
Work felt like medieval torture when all he wanted was to keep reading. His hands kept betraying him and he walked out with three tetanus-shot worthy cuts on his hands. Worry and food prep didn’t go hand in hand.
In the dark of his room, the computer beckoned him, her words lying in wait, ready for his hungry eyes to devour their hidden meanings. All night at work, he couldn’t stop thinking about those poems, and he had started to believe she was talking about him, such similarities between her love and his own life. He began to read, her pain once more consuming him, and then he saw it–his name at the top of the screen. It was a letter addressed to him, or at least someone with his name. There, screaming out across the world, poetry written for him, hundreds of lines. He realized these words were his.
He spent the remains of the evening and most of the next morning reading every post she had written. When he finished, he opened his closet and gingerly reached for the old shoebox. His fingers traced her old words and his mind raced with her new ones. The sun’s first rays were reaching through the fall clouds and sending heavenly light down to the land.
With her letters in his hands, he dialed the phone and waited for her voice, the one already echoing through his entire body.