Monday, May 31, 2010

The Death of Virtue: Part II

There it was again. Reality detached itself from his mind. Vertigo was all Peter knew. The impact of her words sent him careening. Except this time the words stuck with him. Reality was gone; all that was left was dizziness, burning, and those three words.

Annie could not get comfortable. The wooden coffeeshop chairs were harsh and unforgiving. She shifted her weight in every way possible, and yet her body ached. Annie knew it wasn’t the chair that made her so uncomfortable. Despite her best efforts, she could only look at the cold, ceramic table from under her clenched right hand.  The phone line was silent, hollow.

Telling Peter the news was difficult. That was an understatement. Telling Peter was excruciating.  The news was heavy enough, relaying it was a burden, but explaining to someone who rejects all ideas of hope and afterlife that one of their best friends was dead? That was near impossible. And yet, she knew she had to.  Peter deserved to know.

And now he knew. She had done the most difficult part; she had played the messenger. So, why didn’t she feel any better? Why did her stomach still churn, her heart still ache, and her head still throb? The silence from the phone wasn’t relieving any of her anguish.

She was expecting him to take the news badly. They had known each other for nearly their entire lives. She was expecting tears, yelling, rejection, anger, even a hang up, but silence? The absolute void staring her in the face from the other end of the phone line was even more unbearable than the actual dialing of the phone. And that had taken her ten minutes. She just kept staring at the keypad, heart fluttering, palms sweating, and stomach nauseating. She ran through every scenario she could think of, every one of Peter’s typical reactions. But she never expected silence. And now she couldn’t handle it. She had to say something. Anything. Any noise would make this echoing, evil silence disappear.

“Peter. I am so so sorry. I’m sorry about James, I’m sorry it happened, I’m sorry you had to hear about this fro-“ Peter cut-off her hurried and unpolished apologies.

“ Yeah, Ann. Me too. Thanks for telling me. I guess we’ll probably be talking soon.” Then, nothing but the slow, measured beep of her phone telling her the call had ended. Annie looked at the screen. Contact: Peter R. Call time: 3:50. Three minutes, fifty seconds. That’s all it took.

Annie shook her head, sniffed and coughed, wiped her eyes with the back of her sweaty palm, and closed her phone. Nearly four minutes. It took her longer to order her coffee than to tell Peter that James had died. ‘God. I hate this’ The thought screamed in her head as she subconsciously threw her paper cup away and shuffled towards the door. With her head down and her mind a hundred thousand miles away, Annie didn’t even notice the man in front of her until she bashed straight into his left shoulder. Normally, Annie would have felt terrible. Normally, Annie would have stopped, apologized, helped to pick up the 3.36 in change that sprayed from his hand across the painted cement floor. Normally, Annie would have looked the man in his dark green eyes and tried to form any bit of human contact with the stranger.

But not today. Today was far from normal, and so was she. Annie hurried through the glass doors without even thinking of turning around to see the man whose path she had just interrupted hunkered over the floor, delicately picking up every coin. Her soul ached so badly, and her focus was so keen on contact with people far away and long gone, that she didn’t even notice the immediate, physical contact she had just initiated.

It all just hurt too much.

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