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Worth Nickels and Dimes
Don’t leave me alone. It’s what we say when our mother’s turn off the nightlight for the first time. Again, those words fall freely from out lips when our friends urge us to talk to that cute boy across the room. Yet, when they are most relevant is when you feel that everything inside of you will wither and die when the person you gave everything to decides to walk away and keep your heart as a souvenir. Sleep on it, they say, but you can’t so you jack yourself up on caffeine and stay in public places so you won’t drown yourself in tears. Well, that’s what I do.
For three years my hand belonged in his. His arms were my circle of protection. Love was the flavor of our kisses. Something came to life in his eyes when he saw me. I felt the earth move under me when I remembered the flowers he’d brought or the letters he’d written. It ran deeper than any pen on paper or word spoken to the wind. A warm look or a soft smile was all it took for us to communicate in reticent whispers.
I didn’t expect him to take a knife and stab the living heart out of our relationship. Words like “there was always something wrong,” and “we haven’t been happy in a long time,” and, my favorite, “I don’t deserve you,” peppered his lame excuse of an “easy” let down. It wasn’t easy to sit and listen to him describe how much I needed someone else because he was not good enough. It was just the opposite.
My polished nails tap the glass tabletop. Hard. Other patrons give me sidelong looks, disapproving of whatever private thoughts are driving me to forget my manners. I am a little ashamed of myself, but with all of this dirty laundry tumbling through my head I can’t help but feel a little separated from reality.
I take a sip from my paper cup, hoping it will drown all of my decrepit thoughts. Only after I’ve swallowed do I realize that I’ve forgotten to put sugar in the brew. I gag and stand to fetch some sugar and creamer to take away the edge of my black coffee. As I approach the counter, the teen boy smiles politely as he flips through a Sports Illustrated magazine. He doesn’t know it but I can see his swimsuit edition peeking out from behind a bucket of hot chocolate mix. Without a word, I return his friendly smile and, having doctored my coffee, return to my little corner to mourn.
I’m about to launch myself into a mental harangue about my misfortunes when the bell on the door jingles like Christmas. Who else but my worst nightmare would walk in?
He’s just as I remember. Tall, handsome, and with the personality that could sell used cars. He’s wearing a pressed shirt of robin’s egg blue. The strings in my heart tighten painfully as I note that it compliments his chocolate eyes and dark hair. His smile is one of confidence and simple pleasures. I remember this smile used to brighten his face just before he would kiss me. He is still my man on a white horse. There is only one thing wrong.
Wrapped around his arm is a blond woman with cute legs and a million dollar smile. She is laughing, no doubt, at one of his jokes. He has a great sense of humor. I want to lash out at her—to blame her for the betrayal that was thrust upon me by the man who holds her hand and tickles her under the chin. I don’t want to pin it on the man whose admiration I still desire. So, my comprehension of the situation is slow.
This woman is not some sultry vixen who lured my boyfriend away from a soft and endearing relationship full of love and comfort. In fact, she is probably just as victimized as I am. Does she know that less than a day ago I was the one on this man’s arm? Was she with him then? If she was, did she know?
I stand. I don’t know if he realizes I’m here yet, but he will. I’m not really thinking, but what do you expect of a person who hasn’t slept in at least 36 hours? My mind is no longer thinking of him, but the woman he is with. As he begins to order, I tap her on the shoulder. Surprised but not rudely, she turn to me.
“Yes…?” She asks.
I put my hands on her shoulders. I hear nickels and dimes hit the floor as he undoubtedly recognizes me. He stutters as he tries to stop me.
I say nothing but the honest truth to this woman. “You deserve better than him.”