A vignette piece focusing on a young man contemplating his relationship.
Originally written in 2010.
The bus trudged along 5th Street and Warner, as it always did, strangely empty considering it was well in the afternoon. Anthony leaned against the glass window, staring at the onyx clouds in the sky that threatened to burst within the hour. One hand nervously traced over his gold locket as the other impatiently flicked his cell phone open continuously. Each time the phone told his gaze he had no new messages. However, the phone did serve to tell him he had another 45 minutes on that bus.
Anthony had already entertained the idea of a nap. However, being a deep sleeper it wasn’t in his best interests to start dozing and miss his stop. For this journey the only activity Anthony had to do was people watch. Over the years he’d gotten good at it, better than most in fact. He could even notice the small details, such as how even girls with small purses could produce a store of make-up and beauty products from them. Every corner offered something different for Anthony, and whether out of boredom or force of habit, he always found his eyes wandering towards the corner whenever the bus was unlucky enough to catch a red light.
As the bus slowly plodded and then stopped at 5th and Apache, Anthony immediately felt his eyes dart to the nearest target. On the corner stood a young couple hand-in-hand, perhaps his age (which was 25), or maybe a bit younger. A graceful, bright, pink dress was draped onto the thin girl. Her beau was in a suit, but lacked the posture of an appropriate business-man which automatically classified him as a regular working-class stiff. The guy was average, the kind whose face you’d never remember. The girl was tiny, but the kind you’d still never lose in a crowd simply because of her smile.
Anthony frowned and snorted into the glass as he watched the couple. Couples held no interest for Anthony; once you had seen one couple you had seen them all. This couple simply would not be any different. Anthony backed away from the glass for a moment, rubbing his red cheek as if he had no idea why it was sore. A precursory glance around the bus reminded Anthony of his situation, and he went back to leaning on the glass and watching the couple.
The couple Charlotte and Richard, whose names were chosen by Anthony if only to make them seem the slightest bit more interesting, continued standing on the corner. Charlotte giggled at something Richard said and Richard blushed so much Anthony wondered if someone could have the genetics of a tomato. Of course now they were a cute couple, Anthony thought.
That afternoon, Richard would take Charlotte to a restaurant, possibly that new expensive Italian one on 5th and Columbus. They would probably chat over spaghetti, talking about how Charlotte’s history test went well and about how Richard was looking forward to a promotion if things went well with his boss. The flirty waitress would customarily interrupt them to ask about dessert. Of course, they’d cutely and simultaneously answer no. Afterall, they wanted to save money for their next date. At the conclusion of the meal, Richard would offer to pay, like a gentleman; Charlotte, obviously, would decline. Charlotte was an independent woman and simply didn’t need Richard to take care of her all the time. Richard would understand, it’s why he loved Charlotte.
Afterwards, the two would exit the restaurant laughing, Richard’s arm around Charlotte and his eyes smiling at her. Charlotte would give him a peck on his cheek and hold out her hand realizing the down-pour had started. There would be more laughing since neither had an umbrella, and, like a gentleman again, Richard would get them a taxi. During the ride, Charlotte would gingerly lean on Richard and play with his hand, tracing the creases in it. In the meantime, Richard would simply reiterate how much he loved her and how much he wanted to be with her that night.
As the two arrived at Richard’s cheap apartment, they would still be laughing. Charlotte would tell Richard his boss had a crooked nose and Richard would laugh, but nervously warn her to not spread that around. Of course, on such a happy night the two would have to crack open a bottle of wine. They’d drink it merrily, at first, and continue chatting about the small occurrences in the day. Charlotte would eventually narrate a story to Richard about when they first met and the two would spend some time reminiscing.
Some drinks later, Charlotte would suddenly tell Richard that he needed to stop being a wimp and stand up to his crooked boss. The sentiment would take Richard aback; he wasn’t used to such commanding outbursts from Charlotte. He’d smartly assume it was just the wine, and insist Charlotte stop drinking. Charlotte, however, would continue on with her rant that if Richard did nothing he would be a loser forever. Richard would be forced to defend himself, claiming that making waves would just get him fired. Charlotte wouldn’t stop though; she’d flat out tell him that he was just a puppet for his boss. As the rants passed through Richard’s ears, his own retorts would become more violent, accusing Charlotte of being jealous of his career. The argument would eventually lose its topic and travel onto tangents; Charlotte would tell Richard off for flirting with the waitress and Richard would complain Charlotte never let him get her anything. A slamming door as the doubly bright pink girl stomped out would signal the end of the relationship.
What was a poor stiff like Richard to do? Charlotte was passionate and he was average. There was nothing he could do to stop her. Rather, there was nothing he wanted to do to stop her. It was her own fault for drinking so much. In fact, maybe she was just a liar who was finally expressing her true feelings to him. At least, that’s what Richard would convince himself was the truth. Richard would just lie to himself and decide he didn’t want Charlotte anymore. He’d move on, and find a less wonderful girl who’d at least be easier to handle. Ideally, Charlotte would move on too. She’d find a more suitable man, one who’d be worthy of her and not a wimp like Richard. In the end, Richard would still simply do nothing. The next and last time he’d see Charlotte is when she came to pick up some stuff from his apartment.
The bus pulled away from the curb, taking Richard and Charlotte from Anthony’s sight. Anthony sighed and sat hunched in the tacky bus seat. Even imaginary, Anthony felt a little pained from the course of Richard and Charlotte’s relationship. He wondered if perhaps all relationships were destined for that route. It was believable since feelings were easy to hurt. Relationships were fragile, and from Anthony’s past experiences, easy to break away from. There was always someone else out there to love you.
Gingerly and tenderly he opened his locket and stared at the blonde framed face in it. He touched it as though it would melt. Thoughts of Richard flooded his mind, and he thought that if feelings were so easily hurt, it was possible they were easily mended too. At least, that’s what Anthony decided he would hold hope for. Anthony flipped his phone open, not caring there were still no messages for him. His fingers typed, erased, and then re-typed again. Eventually, they settled on a nine tap message: “Im sorry.” In the end, she was that important of a girl to him.