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umbrella

30 Jan

The light above the stairwell flickered. It always flickered. Ben said I had a ghost still deciding whether or not to turn it off.

“Light’d be out by now if there weren’t worse than lonely spirits in the dark,” he said. And we raced up the stairs to my apartment where on our third anniversary, Ben surprised me with dinner reservations at La Bruine. He wore a suit jacket, jeans, and Reeboks, and I squeezed into a too-tight sequined maxi dress. We ordered our food in fake French accents and fought fits of uncontrollable laughter through the appetizers. It’d always been a thing with us. With me, really, feeling too dumb, too young to admit Ben was my Forever.

Just before dessert, he dropped a diamond ring in my glass of white bordeaux. “This is it,” he said. “Your cheesy romantic dream proposal.”

And it was. It was stupid and corny just like I said I’d want. Someday. A someday I imagined when I was twenty-five, at least. When I wasn’t just a cashier at Whole Foods. When I knew how to cook. When I knew what the hell a second mortgage was, maybe. Not then. Not yet.

“Be my wife,” he continued. “Grow old beside me. Sing the words in my heart, love, and say you will.” He threw his napkin to the ground and on both knees clasped my hand.

When I whispered that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t work, I believed it. He kissed my cheek and said he understood. He was sorry. He’d box our dessert and take me home. On the drive back, he said he got a job offer in Washington. It paid well. He’d be working with some buddies from college. He’d love if I could move there with him. We could hang out like usual. Nothing else had to change. But it already had, and we knew it.

It’s been four months since he left. Four months since I slammed the door of his truck and screamed that maybe it was better this way. Maybe it’s fate he had to go. I’m glad you’re leaving. Don’t call.

And he didn’t.

I think of him often. So calm. So unafraid.
Seattle’s nice, he’d say. Weather’s not half as bad as we thought.

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