Today is Saturday. I’m at a picnic table, an empty one, at a park by the riverside. It’s only a park because there are a few benches and picnic tables here. Otherwise, it would only be the river and some grass.
It’s odd how one thing can change the entire meaning of something.
I’m supposed to meet her here, but she isn’t going to show. In the spring of ’89, she gave me a gift, a special one. What she gave me was something she held so dear, she almost never let anyone hold it.
And she gave it to me. She didn’t intend for me to merely borrow it, but to hold it forever. She probably did that because she expected to stay beside me for that long. Knowing how important it was, I kept it near me, always.
On Thursday, I broke the gift. Not intentionally, of course. It was while I spent time with a friend that it happened. The two of us became careless and I forgot the gift was even there. By the time I realized, it was too late. I knew it was shattered before I even checked.
I tried to hide it from her at first. I felt ashamed that, in a single moment, I’d destroyed this precious gift so completely. My friend ended up telling her on Friday.
On Friday, I lost the gift. She couldn’t forgive me for breaking what she gave me, and so she took it back. She gathered up the pieces without even looking at me. She was crying, but wouldn’t let me comfort her.
She left with the broken gift.
And now it’s Saturday. My phone is ringing and I know who it is without looking: My friend with whom I broke that gift.
I avoided that friend since Thursday, out of shame and self-disgust.
I answered the phone. “Yeah?”
“I was beginning to think you changed your number…” she said. I could sense the anxiety she fought to keep out of her voice.
“I can’t talk right now,” I replied, my eyes fixed on the park entrance.
“We have to talk about this,” she insisted, less anxious now. “You can’t just make this go away.”
“I know that.”
Was that her? A familiar dress walked down the pathway, chestnut waves bouncing around her shoulders.
“…with you. It was special to me.” She’d been talking for awhile, but I’d only just tuned in again. “I just thought I’d let you know that.”
“Thank you,” I said intelligently. I sighed. This was difficult. It should be even more difficult. I deserved that. “Listen, I can’t be with you. Even if Demi can never forgive me, I can’t be with you.”
“You can’t tell me it meant nothing to you. I know better.” She sounded panicked now.
“It meant something,” I admitted, honing in on familiar dress lady’s face as she drew nearer.
It wasn’t her.
“I can’t be with you,” I repeated. “To me, you are a reminder of what I did. Even if Demi never forgives me, it would feel wrong to be with you.”
The line remained silent.
“I’m sorry, Sara.” I heard her sniff, but she said nothing.
I ended the call.
Demi gave me her complete trust in the spring of ’89. We shared many years of happiness and love because of that. But without that trust, we became two people instead of one–two people who could not even meet by the riverside to talk.
It’s strange how a broken gift can change the entire meaning of something.