I am working on an A-Z challenge, this one featuring short pieces of fiction. Today’s letter is H for Hello.
Dale walked the seven blocks to Golden Gate Park the same way he had walked every afternoon for the past two years. He had made it a ritual of his to get at least a moderate amount of daily exercise, plus he enjoyed the feeling of being in an environment, in which others shared the need for getting out and about. Instead of using the time to write or at least jot down notes for his current project, he sat on the park-bench, and reflected on the events of the past few days. He never felt so alone in his entire life.
There was a heaviness to his heart and he wished that he could explain what had gone wrong between him and Terrie. When she had first moved into the four-bedroom house, only a few blocks from the corner of Haight and Ashbury, it had seemed they had little in common. After all, she was a waitress in a local coffee shop and he was in his last semester at UCSF, due to earn his masters in journalism, with the hope of being able to use his degree to attain a position in the world of publishing. Terrie was as interested in school, as he was in waiting tables for minimum wage, plus tips.
But he had begun to frequent the little coffee shop, finding time at some point in Terrie’s shift, to drop by for either coffee or a sandwich, and they had eventually hit it off. Terrie was outgoing and animated, and that complemented his own introverted personality, so that he felt more complete when he spent time with her. When she had broken up with her long-standing boyfriend, he had asked her out and things had progressed nicely from there. It was not long before they had made the transition from house-mates to roommates. They joked about the empty room that now existed in the house being available for someone else, but there was no pressing reason to let the landlord know that that was the case.
In some ways they were so different, he being a meat and potatoes kind of guy, while she was a vegan. Therefore, when he had begun sampling some of the many different ways she could prepare tofu, and actually started to enjoy a meal comprised solely of a big salad, he had seen that there were different ways to go about the business of eating. Cheeseburgers gave way to veggie burgers, and French fries gave way to sweet potato fries. This shift in paradigms was one of the things he liked best about his relationship with Terrie. God, he felt so alone, so lost.
What had gone wrong? He wished he knew. The more time he spent with Terrie, the better he felt things had gone. So when she started gradually withdrawing, he had just figured she needed a little space. That was something with which he could identify. After all, she had never shared his interest in walking or his desire to spend time in the park. She just referred to it as his time, and she felt no need to interfere with it.
When she had announced that she was quitting her job, and moving down to SoCal, he was stunned. What was in SoCal he had wanted to know? Nothing, she had responded; she just needed a “change.” What was she going to do, he had asked? Nothing different than what she was doing now, she had replied. What did I do wrong, he had countered? You didn’t do anything wrong; I just need a change.
So he sat on his bench, feeling as alone as he had ever felt, and pondered the mysteries of the female species. If there had been some indication, if there had been some warning, if there were some sort of explanation, he would feel as though there was at least some hope. As it was, he just felt abandoned. Abandoned and alone. Alone here in the park, even though he was surrounded by humanity. He had his notebook out on his lap; he had his pen in his hand; there was nothing on the paper in front of him, that had not been there when he first sat down.
It had taken him eighteen months, from the time he had moved to San Francisco, to hook up with Terrie, and he could not stand the idea that he would have to start all over again. How did one go about doing that? What was the secret to finding true love? Just thinking about it gave him a lump in his throat, and he feared he would start crying, right on the spot.
A figure appeared beside him, as unexpectedly as Terrie’s announcement that she was leaving, and paused for a moment. “Hello there! What are you writing?”
“Writing? Not much,” he admitted.
“Is there room on your bench for me?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, “there’s plenty of room on this bench. Care to join me?”
And then, suddenly, there were two people on the bench, and Dale felt his loneliness and solitude slip away from him, like a cloud uncovering the sun.