A short story …

It’s five-o-clock on Friday … the work-week has ended and I am looking forward to heading home. I start the daily ‘leaving work’ ritual – shut down the computer, change into my walking shoes, clear my desk and start the round of goodbyes and have a nice weekend conversations.

I think I am almost done when Cecil walks over.   “I have received the daily report from the Head Office and they have called out some exceptions that I need help with”, she says twirling her ponytail with one hand. “I have logged of now. Lets look at it on Monday” I say, thinking this will be enough to make her go away.

She is in a chatty mood however. The weekend excitement seems to have taken over her and she is now distributing it to all of us. She talks about her weekend plan – she is going to her friend’s for a barbecue on Saturday followed by a birthday party on Sunday. I think about my non-existent weekend plans and pretend to be excited.

She finally leaves after what seems like an hour and I once again attempt to leave.   Robert asks if I would like to join ‘the gang’ for a drink and I politely refuse. I don’t mind the drink with ‘the gang’ once a while when I am up for some gossip and idle chatter, but not today. I want to be left alone today.

I am glad to be finally out of the office. I don’t want to give you the impression that there is something wrong at work – that’s not the case. I like my job and what I do. I just feel bit exhausted today. It has been a busy week at work and outside and I am now longing for some time thinking about what’s happening and organise my thoughts. Or maybe I just want a little bit of time when I am not thinking anything in particular.

I just need some space.

It’s a nice summer’s day and I decide to walk home instead of taking the train. I mentally map out the journey home to include a walk by the river and also through a big park.

As I walk, I am not thinking about anything in particular, its just a collection … a jigsaw of mixed thoughts that aren’t adding up to anything just now. Whatever it is, it’s making me feel uneasy … I can’t catch the emotion behind these thought, it’s a bit unsettling, uncomfortable. I don’t feel like this often but I know that something somewhere has troubled me, it’s just a matter of thinking back and dealing with it. Maybe my walk will help, maybe I will be ok by the time I reach home.

I start at a leisurely pace, observing the crowd pass by beside me. This is what I love about big cities like London … they give you an option to be anonymous, to belong to a crowd. I lose myself in a crowd – a crowd of passersby, of tourists, of those rushing to catch their trains, of those enjoying a nice summers day and maybe of those who are feeling a bit lost like me.

I carry on with the crowd for a bit and then head towards a quite spot by the river. I love looking over the water, the quiet waves, rhythmic, help me relax. I find a bench and sit down … hoping the calm will help me sort out my thoughts.

I am lost in my thoughts when I hear the sighs. It takes me a while to realize that the sound is closer than I thought … she is sitting on the same bench as me … and she is crying. Its not a loud cry, I can hear muffled cries, I see the tears roll down her cheeks, the tissue in her hand – wet from her tears – she is clutching it tight … she is looking at the river … just as I was.

I am not sure if I should ask what’s troubling her. We all generally walk by uncomfortable things, things that may put us in awkward situations. I contemplate for a minute and then asked, “Are you ok?”

She looks at me surprised; her eyes red from crying. Then she nods. I accept the response and look away. Guess I have done all I can – it is strange that in this city of so may people, we don’t know how to deal with emotions, something that is so natural make us so uneasy.

I am not sure what to do next. If I get up and leave, she may think that I am offended so I decide to sit for a bit more. I am once again lost in my thoughts, back to my own emotional jigsaw when she starts to talk …

“It just happened all of a sudden, I am sorry if I bothered you. “

I look at her and before I can say anything, she continues …

“Its actually happened after a very long time, I thought I had managed to get over it, that it will not bother me again. But here I am. Obviously, it does still bother me, obviously I am still hurt.” She bursts into tears… I am not sure what to do. Should I console her?

Thankfully she starts to speak again and saves me the misery of deciding how to react.

“It just happened all of a sudden … it usually does. Comes out of nowhere … I will be checking my phone one minute and then all of a sudden I see his name in my contact list. Or a friend comments on his facebook page and it shows up on my wall. Its these little incidents but they manage to create such a big emotional reaction.”

I look at her, mainly wanting to make sure that she is talking to me, still not sure if I am meant to react or just listen. I decide to go with the latter and she continues.

“Its such an absorbing experience as if you are by the sea and a big wave comes out of no where and leaves you soaked. It just absorbs you, over powers. For those who didn’t see it happen, everything seems ordinary but you are deeply impacted. Worse still, it all happens inside you – nobody else knows what is happening. If I break my arm, you will notice, won’t you?”

I look at her, look at her questioning eyes and nod. She smiles “but when it hurts inside, nobody notices. You just stay how you are, your heart beating faster, your emotions rising like that wave in the sea but nobody else knows”.

She pauses for a bit and then starts again. “It was like that at the start, I would feel as if the earth was shifting from under my feet, as if I was about to fall. The tears would come unannounced. Sometimes it lasted few days, other times I was ok the next day. It’s been difficult but I have coped and I thought I was getting to a good place now.”

She adjusts her jacket and her hair, and looks at me. It seems like she has just realized that she is talking to a stranger. She looks back at the river and carries on. “I had thought I was ok now, that I had moved on and this afternoon at work, we were just laughing and joking about a colleague who had managed to embarrass herself at our office outing some time back. I remembered that I had taken a picture so started to look for it on my phone. I was going through the photo gallery and there it was, a picture of ‘us’, me and him, looking so happy. I had thought I had deleted them all but this one was obviously still here. That’s when I felt the wave, that wave of emotion, all over me, suffocating me, it all happened very quickly. I remember pretending that I was on a call and used that as an excuse to leave the conversation. I sat at my desk all afternoon trying to lose myself in work but that didn’t happen so decided to come for a walk.”

She wipes a tear and looks at me. “I am sorry for offloading all this on you. I am sure you have your own problems and were sitting here for some peace”, she says looking down at the tissue in her hand, smoothing it out.

She looks at me and smiles uneasily. I smile back and say “I am sorry to hear all this, you obviously loved him a lot. Hopefully things will get better for you”.

“I hope so too”, she says. “At least I have deleted that photo now” she says and laughs a little, wiping away a stray tear from her cheeks.

“Thank you so much for listening to me and sorry I have burdened you with this”, she looks at me apologetically. “Its ok, honestly”, I try and reassure her. She starts to gather her bag and her mobile etc and shifts uneasily, indicating that she is ready to go.

I try and make her feel comfortable by looking back at the sea, letting her make the decision if she wants to talk anymore. She stays a bit and then gets up to leave. “Thank you so much”, she says and heads in the direction that I just came from. I look at her as she joins the crowd of people that I was a part of some time back. The crowd is as accepting of her as it was of me, it absorbs her, gives her the anonymity that she is after – she is one of many now.

I sit on the bench, looking in the direction of the crowd and then look again at the river. I am still puzzled at what just happened. How easily she just sat there and told me what was going on for her. I feel a bit strange, but also relaxed.

The anxiety from an hour or so ago that I had is all gone now, there is a sense of satisfaction; satisfaction of being there for someone. I don’t know if talking to me helped her, all I did was listen but in some ways what just happened was healing for me too. Maybe it gave me something that I was missing.

Whatever it was, I feel a sense of emotions rising within me, I feel more human, maybe more vulnerable – just like her. I also feel calm, a sense of deep happiness. I get up from the bench and continue my journey. I walk all the way back home, smiling to myself. My earlier confusion is gone, I feel richer, satisfied, as if my life has a purpose once again.

I feel like one feels after meeting a very good friend – the kind of friend you have an honest conversation with. I feel the satisfaction of that honest chat with my friend – even though I hadn’t said anything and the lady on the bench had done all the talking!


Daily prompt: Complicated