And I fell.
I fell forever, and then it ended.
I sat in front of a cafe, Nadia’s favorite cafe, and waited. I knew she’d come by eventually. She had to, and I would be here when she did. I had already purchased a coffee, and I took a gulp. It burned, I hadn’t waited long enough. Not my problem. It tasted good, I missed coffee.
People passed by on the sidewalk, bundled up in jackets and long sleeves against the cold wind that wound between the tall buildings. They weren’t her. Past them, on the street, cars stuttered by, screeching and honking. I almost took the car this morning, but decided not to. I hadn’t been back long enough to have that sort of coordination, as shown by my stumbling down the apartment stairs. But it hadn’t taken me long to remember how to walk, and once I did, the strange looks mostly disappeared.
My neck itched. He wanted back out. He wanted control. No. I shoved him back down, stood up. I didn’t have much time. I needed to find her and tell her how sorry I was. Should I leave and try to find her? I wasn’t sure where she lived anymore. Here, though, I knew she would come here. My side itched. I smothered him and the itch went away. I scratched my side anyway.
And then I saw her. The man accompanying her held the cafe door open for her, and she smiled at him and walked in. I’d never seen him before. They disappeared inside. I moved to follow them and froze. What if she didn’t accept my apology? What if this was all pointless? I felt a push again, stronger this time. I fought it. I won again. I shuffled into the cafe.
My eyes took a moment to adjust. I looked, and there she was, Nadia, at a table in the corner, as beautiful as I remembered, though her hair was longer. She faced me, the man across from her. I hesitated, but not for long. She looked up as I approached. There was no recognition in her eyes. I hadn’t expected any.
“Hi,” I said. Hi?
“Hi,” she replied. “Can we help you?”
The man turned around and looked up at me. A flicker of disgust passed his features but were quickly replaced with a patronizing smile. “Hey, man. You okay?”
I looked down, realized I hadn’t buttoned the shirt properly. My hair was messed up. I’d forgotten to brush it. My pants were on. I would have known by now if they weren’t. Not good presentation. Not how I wanted this to go. I glanced back at her, looked down at the man. My mouth hung open.
He repeated himself. “You okay, man?”
I pointed to her, and said, “I wanted to talk to her.” Not good. Weird. Probably creepy. “Sorry, I mean, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for leaving without saying goodbye.”
There, I said it.
She looked confused and disconcerted. The man looked hard at me, then back at her. “Do you know this guy?”
Her eyebrows came together. “No, I don’t.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Nadia,” I said. “I just wanted you to know that. I hope you can forgive me.”
She looked thoroughly confused and more than a little upset. She really didn’t remember me. I didn’t matter to her. This was a mistake.
The man stood up, towering over me. “I think you should leave.”
Mistake. “Goodbye.” I stumbled. I ran. I made it through the door, out of the cafe, no looking back. I headed into the street. If a car hit me, so be it. My life was over. Screeching and honking. Then the man inside threatened to take over, and I retreated from the street, headed back to the apartment. He calmed down but didn’t disappear completely.
Nadia hadn’t accepted my apology, didn’t even know who I was. What was the point of coming back, being here?
I entered the building the apartment was in.
It was too late to take it back. Had been too late as soon as I’d jumped. I should have at least said goodbye. Too late now. Everything was too late now.
I climbed the stairs. I passed the floor the apartment was on. There was a struggle inside me. It grew more frantic with the elevation, as if he knew.
This time I tried. I tried to say goodbye, even if it meant nothing. Even if I meant nothing. And soon I would be nothing once more.
I stood on the roof of the building, at the edge. Below me, small cars, tiny pedestrians, ants. Struggle. My time was nearly up.
I leaned forward, releasing my hold. There was no reason to take him down with me. Not his fault. He scrambled to safety, away from the edge. I whispered a thanks to him, even if it meant nothing.
And I fell.