I walked a few blocks in the cold, holding my coat close to keep the chilled air out.
Walking is comforting; it gives me a chance to relax. Walking home; I've always wondered
about the people I passed, every one of them unique in their own way. Worthless in their
uniqueness. Each one of them holding something that can create and conquer, or destroy
and relinquish. Something that could free them or keep them captured. We're all like that
though aren't we? Doesn't everyone have some dark truth that we wouldn't want the people
we associate with to know? I'll take me as an example. I don't have secrets that can hold
any worth. Nothing great that can tear apart, likewise nothing that can help or heal.
Secrets that to me are shattering.
This is the case with most people. I believe that there are very few among us that
truly have no demons to face. And those people are the lucky ones; because without these
fears, they can truly love themselves and live out their lives in peace.
So out of self-hate my paranoia was born. I figured, if I hate myself so much, then
everyone else must hate me as well. Maybe even harm me? That's the way I constantly
thought and felt.
Until the day I met Shelley. Incredible Magnificently glowing hair, and a
complexion to match. The first thing that attracted me to her was the first thing I noticed;
her hands. The smoothest, softest touch you could ever imagine.
She came into the store one day to buy a used paperback. I didn't notice her then
since I was too busy reading. I only caught a momentary glimpse at her to give her the
receipt, and felt the softness of her hands as they brushed against mine. That was my first
encounter with her.
A few weeks later she returned to purchase another novel. Having finished my
book a few days earlier, I now had nothing to do but wait on customers and stand idly by
waiting for the time to pass. When she came to pay for her book I noticed her hands
again; all at once I knew it was the same woman. I looked up from the change I had
placed in her palm.
I caught a full view of her as she brought her head up. She had a wonderful set of
sleepy doe-like-eyes wonderfully round, acutely aware and innocent. A thin wasp of hair
was hanging in front of her eyes. She reached up and brushed it back behind her ear as
she put the receipt and change in her purse.
"I remember you." I said.
"You were in here buying a novel a few weeks ago wheren't you?"
She turned her head up to me.
"Yes I was" She paused a moment."My name is Shelley by the way." She said
with the tiniest hint of a smile.
"Shelley..." I repeated.
"A little odd I know, but my parents liked choosing names for their children that
aren't really in fashion in anymore."
The store was empty, as it usually was on a weekday afternoon. This gave us
plenty of time to just converse about nothing in particular. Of course like all new
meetings we started off with the simple questions like, "where are you from?" and "what
type of music do you like?", The usual parade of questions that follow. Hearing her talk
was an experience. A type of high I guess would be the best way to describe it. Most
people usually get this feeling from doing drugs or getting drunk to the point where they
numb themselves. I got it from hearing Shelley talk. Intoxicating, and for the briefest of
moments I forgot myself. I forgot my paranoia, and the heart-ache and the madness that
accompany each other. I forgot myself in the beautiful, dreamy eyed Shelley.
After a few hours she said goodbye and we parted company. By this time we had
moved on to another section of the store and had been having coffee. I was able to watch
her move across the carpet and exit the building. A feeling of emptiness crept up inside
The days came and went and all I could think about was Shelley. In the few hours
we had spent together; thoughts and feelings had been replaced by her. The days at the
store seemed brighter, somehow less demeaning than they where before. The emptiness
was still there; but it was not as burdening as it had been.
I started to think that maybe life wasn't as bad as I had thought it was. That all the
wicked things I had done in the past no longer mattered. I had reason now to get up in the
morning, reason to fall asleep at night without fear and frustrations. I didn't know what
caused Shelley and I to meet at that point in my life, all I knew was that there was
no better time. What happened that day between us was a pure and simple connection. An
understanding of each other that had somehow connected us in perfect unison. Where
was she now though? Was all I wondered about. Had our connection been a pure fantasy
on my part? A delusion of something existing that simply wasn't there?
I didn't know what I would do if I never saw her again. At least for one talk. We
had poured our lives out to each other. Our souls, if you can believe in such a thing. But
the days came and went and all I could do was wonder.
By the end of the month the last leaves had fallen from the trees outside the store.
The nights were getting colder and the days shorter. Still thoughts of Shelley occupied
The store was deserted this late in the evening. As families would be getting ready
for a nice sit in front of the television with a nice cup of cocoa or hot tea, to match the
season bell above the door jingled and I looked up to greet the customer.
It was Shelley.
She was wearing a beige colored overcoat and a pair of simple black shoes with
matching gloves to keep the warm inside.
"Hello..." she said.
I couldn't think of anything to say, so all I did was stare at her. Then finally my throat
decided to work again and I replied to her a simple,
It looked like it'd been days since she last felt a good nights rest. The beautiful
glistening eyes that had drawn my attention had been replaced by bloodshot, swollen
misrepresentations of their former beauty. Her cheeks where stained with tears. She had
She had been crying hard.
She held a small box with a plain white envelope taped to the top of it. I didn't
know what was inside.
"I didn't know if I should have came back here or not." she said. I had been so
focused on the box that I jumped a little when she spoke.
"I figured I owed you an explanation, that much at least." She went on.
"Explanation for what? What's wrong?" I said. The words coming out like a first
grader stammering a sentence.
"Dear...Dear sweet...." She tilted her head to the side a little and reached up to
stroke my cheek, not being able to finish the sentence. I reached up with my own hand to
cup hers. I could feel a choke in the back of my throat. The tears where beginning to
swell up in my eyes.
"Dear sweet troubled....I can't speak to you anymore. I can't come back here
anymore. I thought that I could change things this time. After the afternoon we shared, I
was certain I could change things for myself. I was wrong. You spoke of your trouble,
but vaguely. I didn't speak of mine at all. I have too many ghosts to hide. To much
wickedness in my past to be able to find a peace. So much that I cannot bring another
person into it. I know that you feel we had something, could have had something more. I
feel it too. I've never felt it so powerful. It's enough for me to never see you again. I
couldn't live if I knew something happened to you because of the things I've done. I'm
sorry. Just remember the day we shared. A Love that grew from those very short, sweet
hours we spent together. I know you won't forget me; I know I will never forget you. I'm
sorry for the hurt I'm causing us both by doing this." At this I put my other hand on top
of our two already holding each other.
I stroked her hand a little before raising it to my lips and planting a gentle kiss on
her palm. She let out a sigh. I heard her hold back a choke as she pulled her hand from
mine and rushed out the door. My mind kept racing back to the start of her...
"Dear sweet troubled...." It was so hard for her to let me go that she couldn't even say my
name. Knowing that kept me from even thinking about the box she had left me.
It wasn't until a few days later that I got the courage to open the envelope she had
left on top of that little box. There was a sheet of paper inside. Neatly folded. I stared at it
awhile wondering what could be written on it...
"Dear," read the first line.
"I'm sorry for all the pain I know I'm causing you. I just wanted you to know that
I didn't see the same man you see; the ugly self-hating man you see everyday. Look in the
box and you'll see what I saw when we spoke."
The box was tiny. No bigger than a little music box. No design on the lid, just a
plain wooden box with a simple hinge.
I read the letter through twice before folding it up and putting it back in the
I looked in the box and found a small mirror. A mirror like a woman would keep
in a makeup kit.
Thoughts came to me about how I was before I met Shelley. I had been a man
unkempt. I never shaved or cared how I looked, in side I was a monster, a man with
nothing to gain or lose.. I had lost so much hope in myself that I didn't care what I was
like on the outside anymore.
Since the time that I had met Shelley; my physical appearance had changed along
with my inner appearance. I had a reason to be someone else. A reason to change the
monster that I was into a person, to have goals and ambitions. Even the creatures
of contempt and chaos that so intently haunted my nights where now gone because of her.
Something I couldn't possibly have done alone. Shelley changed all that in one simple
The mirror showed the person that I was now today. Neatly trimmed hair and
ironed clothing. Clean shaven face and clear complexion. My eyes no longer had a blank
listless stare to them. Instead they where now full of life and curiosity.
Shelley met me a dying man and looked past that. She saw in me what I saw in
the mirror. Myself...
It's another boring day. The people come and go. They pass me a few dollars for a
tattered paperback. Something to keep them occupied on those nights when sleep doesn't
visit. Those nights that sleep is scared away by guilty thoughts and pleasures.
Of course some of them are worse than others. That could destroy lives. It's their
entire fault though. Punishments for the choices they've made. But it doesn't bother me
anymore. I no longer look at them with disgust like I use to.
So I sit here and I write. Occasionally I'll look up towards the window behind the
register. Hoping that Shelley will forgive herself and she'd be standing out there in her
beige coat, with her beautiful hair blowing in the wind. The tears dried from her face and
a smile on her lips but all I see is the trees growing their leaves and the flowers
blossoming. Gently the spring breeze flutters across the walk, waiting and wondering.