Sorry guys…. dropping the ball all over the place:
The sky was a dazzling cornflower blue. The bluest blue. The kind you read about in fairytales, but never get to see in real life, especially when real life is spent cooped up in office buildings, staring at beige walls.
But today was a blue day.
In fact, it was a blue-and-red-and-gold-and-green day, with autumn leaves burning brightly against the blue of the sky, almost cartoonishly bright, as though they’d leapt off the pages of a picture book. And the leaves crunched under his feet, the way leaves are supposed to do, but nearly never do in real life.
Which would have been lovely, if he had been paying attention to it. But he was not paying attention to the blue-and-red-and-gold, or the crunching of the leaves or the soft breeze. His eyes were focused on a small brown dot, growing swiftly smaller as he continued to look at it. He stared at the distant brown dot, willing it to become larger, to return to him.
But brown dots are very stubborn things, and it continued to grow smaller as he watched.
She ran, faster and faster, her woolly brown peacoat flapping in the breeze. She ran so quickly that he knew he could never catch up. In fact, he wasn’t about to try. He watched the brown dot as it receded into the distance, running further and further away from him.
It didn’t matter. He knew how all of this was going to end.
It is nearly impossible to outrun your problems. It is almost as difficult, he thought, to try to outrun someone else’s.
With a heavy sigh, he turned and began leaf-crunching his way back through the woods.
It had taken such a small handful of words, he noted, sadly, to ruin what could have been the perfect autumn day.
They had been walking down the path, his cool fingers twined in her warm ones, when he said it, dropping the words into the silence like stones.
“I finally went to the doctor yesterday,” he told her. “He says…. He says it’s cancer.”
He’d stumbled over the words a bit, but they came out just the same, shattering the perfect day more effectively than any bomb could have.
She had looked at him then, and he watched her eyes grow wider, as though growing larger to contain the swell of tears that had suddenly developed in them.
She stepped back, her hand slipping from his, as she looked at him. She looked at him like he was a puzzle she couldn’t solve, trying to look at that familiar face and find what had changed. Nothing had. Yet.
“Cancer?” she asked. Her voice sounded small and sharp, like a lost bird.
And that was when she took off running.
He leaned up against the car. He’d been there for a while, waiting. He’d tried a dozen different positions – sitting in the drivers’ seat, the passenger’s side, trying to find the right pose for when she came back. He’d even tried sitting on top of the trunk. His legs had dangled like a little kid waiting for an appointment at the doctor’s office.
And so it happened that when she returned, slowly, with a strange new tiredness in her step, that he was leaning up against the car with his arms folded across his chest.
She met his eyes once more and took his hand, letting her fingers lace into his the same way they always had, except that now it felt somehow different.
“I love you,” she said.
“I know,” he said.
“We’re going to fight this together,” she said.
“I know,” he said.
“Everything is going to be ok,” she said.
He said nothing. He knew how this was going to end.
Instead, he gathered her into his arms, pressing her warmth against him. She let him twine his fingers into her long brown hair, now tangled from running and wind. She relaxed against him, breathing in the familiar scent, some mysterious mixture of laundry detergent and cologne and something else that she could never quite name and would never be able to duplicate. She took a deep breath, inhaling his scent, as yet unchanged and untainted. And she let the tears fall, knowing that nothing would ever be the same.