My feet thud down the street as I walked familiar roads for the first time in years. I managed to skillfully avoid any unnecessary contact with old faces, afraid of the recovery of buried memories and wishes. After two years, I managed to put everything behind me. All the people that meant something to me, all the paraphernalia that allowed me sweet moments of nostalgia, and places that were central to the life I left behind had been all but forgotten. The only thing that managed to get me to return to that sentiment-ridden place was a prescription from my shrink for closure.
Already I'd met with the most important of the people from my past, and listened for how hours as they droned on about how much they missed me, how things have been so different since I left, and what their new lives entailed. Only my two closest friends really ever reached out to me and kept in touch, and even they eventually gave up. How the others managed to convince themselves that they were disturbed by my absence perplexed me. When I first arrived back in town, the two close friends who did keep in touch completely embraced me, and it was like no time ever passed. I had only one person left to see before my assignment would be considered 'complete', and he'd be the hardest to face. I already knew where I'd find him, and my heart threatened to jump out of my chest from the dreadful anticipation of speaking with him again.
The old music store still brought a smile to my face as I thought about how many hours I used to spend there with Dylan, We never really bought anything which pissed off the owner to no end, but she still loved us. She always said that even though we were bad for business, we were the only people our age with a true appreciation for good music. As I entered the shop, I noticed two things. First, Lily, the owner, was nowhere to be seen which lowered my already subterranean spirits. Second, instead of Dylan being near the shelves, browsing for new records, he stands behind the counter, grinning a heart-stopping smile at a customer who looked more intrigued by Dylan than her product -- which she happened to be holding upside down.
I quickly grabbed an All Time Low record and got in line behind the fake customer. After a couple more minutes, she ended up not getting the record and walked away giggling. While Dylan put away the record, I slipped mine onto the table.
"Funny, I used to have a friend who loved that band," he chuckled as he began to ring up the record without looking up.
"Funny, I used to have a friend who would listen to that band with me."
At the sound of my voice his head snapped up and a wide grin swept over his face. His eyes, still as emerald as ever, glowed with a happiness that I hadn't ever noticed before.
"Lily! Elyssa is buying a record!" he shouted to the back.
"It's on the house, lord knows how many more she may ever buy," I hear her call from the back.
Dylan laughed and continued to grin at me. "You have no idea how much I missed you," he told me, coming in for a hug, but I instinctively back up.
"Oh yeah, it shows from how often we've spoken," I snap without thinking.
The grin suddenly dropped from his face as he recoiled at my tone, and guilt sat contentedly in his eyes, as though it knew it belonged there a long time ago. He grabbed his coat and cell-phone, muttering, "we should talk" under his breath. I silently followed him out of the store and to the park where we used to lie in the grass and talk about any random thing.
"So, you’re back in town," he sighed. I nodded, sitting on the opposite end of the bench.
"Do you want to tell me why? You wouldn't come back without a reason, especially not without your parents. I know you."
"You knew me," I corrected him, and he visually flinched. "Closure," I finally said.
"Who gave you that idea?"
"You're shrink? You never mentioned anything about a therapist."
"I don't have a therapist, I have a shrink. And you never asked."
"Why'd you get a therapist?"
"I've been diagnosed with extreme social anxiety."
Silence. In all fairness, how could anyone reply to that? When I answered him, I didn't really want nor anticipate response. I no longer thought my shrink was right, not about the closure anyway, though it was too late to back out by that time.
"So how do I grant you closure?" he asked relatively cheerfully, especially for having just been blamed for my mental illness.
"I don't honestly even know where to start."
And I didn't. Dylan messed me up so badly, but he didn't even know how. His friendship had meant the most to me before I left, and we hadn't spoken since two weeks after I left. Sure, I didn't expect any forevers, because people come and go. I did, however, expect some valid reason for us drifting, or for us to al least drift apart slowly. But he was angrily ripped from me by the only person who seemed to be able to fill my shoes in his eyes. A girlfriend so jealous of me that she demanded I be removed from his life, and him, so taken by her that he listened. I never liked him in that way; he was all hers, but he did play a more significant role than he could ever imagine in my life. Up until our lost contact, I thought I did the same for him. He left me questioning everything I knew about myself and how I related to anyone. I wondered if all of my relationships were completed warped in my point of view, making me skeptical of everyone.
"Start by telling me what went wrong," he coaxed me.
"Okay. We were close, so close that it terrified me. I'm pretty sure you knew I never felt totally comfortable being completely open with someone, and you let it happen anyway."
"Well, you intrigued me," he replied quickly. I only managed to cough out a strained chuckle before continuing on with my speech.
"When we were preparing for graduation, I prepared myself for ending all connections with this place at the end of the year, because I knew people changed."
"You mean you had no belief in your friendships?"
I shrugged. "I just saved myself from the disappointment of destroyed hopes."
"But that's why I'm here. No one else mentioned anything about the future to me. We all left it to fate. But you, you promised me. You said we would stay friends. You gave me hope."
His face dropped and he began to eerily resemble a dying fish as his mouth flopped open and closed. "I meant it. I swear I did. I always hoped we'd stay friends."
"Hope was where you went wrong. You gave me the one thing I always abhorred the most."
"I'm sorry. I had every intention of keeping in touch."
"I never wanted to take up all of your time. Only wanted a text once in awhile to confirm the functionality of your heart. But I could finally let this go, let you go, if you could just tell me why. Tell me why you were so quickly able to choose her over me. Why did I think we were so much more solid than we actually were?"
Once again, the human being I once spoke to turned into an animal in a stunned state. His face contorted into that of a cow with a new gate as he searched his most likely vacant brain for a reason why everything happened the way it did.
Eventually, a tenant must have moved into his unfurnished brain, and the life slowly seeped back into his eyes. Fear and guilt battled for a seat in his asphyxiating irises, communicating that his words would be neither easy for him to say nor easy for me to hear.
"I was afraid of how much our friendship meant to the both of us. I didn't want something so strong to prevent either of us from living our lives, dating and going out. And should something have gone wrong between us, we'd be completely destroyed."
"Well congratulations, you successfully avoided your own destruction at my detriment," I say calmly.
"But you have to know how sorry I am. For everything," he pleaded. I didn't know if he was waiting for my forgiveness, or perhaps just my acknowledgement.
Finally able to release the breath of fear that his words would break me, my mind cleared and I looked at him, like, really looked at him. He was hurt, and sad, and guilt ridden. He regretted everything.
"I'm sorry too, but the difference is you're completely forgiven."