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Each day, I wait patiently outside, hoping but never receiving the glimpse of her I want. I get madder each day, crazier, until my thoughts rocket off the inside of my brain, reflecting off its soft pink walls like a trampoline, looking for an escape route but finding none.
Stop thinking, I tell myself. Stop thinking. I have done this for a while now, my thoughts are resting, hidden, invisible, and I stare blankly at the passer-by’s with no thoughts but the empty memory of her face that night. It’s been so long, who says I can remember? What if my memory is feigned, not real, a dream, a fantasy? I shudder. Stop thinking.
Laying on the bench, no--my bench, the one I have owned for the past year, the one I have slept on each night, ate on each night, sat on and used to search for her each night. I have become a stranger to myself.
I have learned not to hope over time, it destroys you, crushes you, implodes, but somehow a small glimmer must have escaped the clutches of my dreariness because still, I wait.
In my free time, I contemplate ways of suicide. Jumping in front of a train, off a building, in front of a car, having my ribs pulled apart, my heart pried open, my brain smashed against concrete. Headlines would appear in the newspaper surely, Homeless Man Commits Suicide, there would be a small flurry of feigned sympathy and then they would flip to the next page, feigning sympathy for the next victim of rocketing thoughts.
I think of her face, tears streaming at the man she once knew, weeping for his name, his old personality, the way he used to hold her. She would have no one to comfort her, hold her, tell her it’s alright. I contort my face into a quick grimace and look away.
A cardboard sign sits next to me along with a jar filled with empty pennies. The sign reads one sentence, “Help me.”
Few people do.
Ignorance, it’s always the ignorant ones who feed me their money, not knowing that most of it will go towards beer and cigarettes. Thank God for ignorant people, I snicker. The most I’ve received was a fifty dollar bill, used on a empty Friday night of which I have no memory except for the flash of bright lights and the names of alcoholic drinks.
I don’t notice her until it is almost too late. She walks through the door to the building busily, quickly, hurried, her blonde hair is shorter now. I stand up, a grin spreading over my face and stumble after her, calling her name desperately.
She turns, clueless to who is calling her names. I hug her in an embrace and she pulls away, repulsed, and slaps me. It stings, more so because it was from her, a red hand mark is starting to appear on my cheek. I can feel it.
“Go back to sleeping on the sidewalk, you pervert.” she speaks coldly.
“Melissa, it’s me.”
I see the recognition creep up on her face and she stares at me, horrified. “Ben?”
I nod, a grin spread across my face, my beard tickles my lips and then I am ashamed and my smile disappears. I look disheveled. How foolish of me to think she might actually take me back!
“Well how are you?” I can tell she feels uncomfortable, forced into this position, she feels awkward.
“Not the best as you can see.” We both put on forced smiles and chuckle nervous laughs. Fake. That is what everything has been so far, fake.
She keeps glancing at her manicured nails and I notice something I haven’t noticed before, a wedding ring and I stumble back, taking it like a blow to my stomach.
“How long?” It is scarcely a whisper, more of a breath, but I can tell she heard me.
“Excuse me?” She appears genuinely puzzled and I can’t tell if she is acting or not.
“How long have you been married?” My words come out slowly, calm. It scares me.
“Oh.” There is a long pregnant pause filled with staring at chipped nails and then she answers. “Since a month after...we separated, maybe.”
I wouldn’t use the word separated. I’d use, she picked up and left, taking all our belongings. A month? Maybe? Soon, it becomes clear.
“You were cheating on me?” It’s a desperate squeak.
“I’m sorry Ben,” and I can tell she is. “I have to go. I think you need help.”
I stand there and watch as she walks away. She utters a small proper goodbye, more out of politeness than anything else and walks even faster into the building.
And then she is gone and I am back to contemplating thoughts of suicide.