Short Stories

Pride

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“You’re too proud!” she said as she walked away from me and towards her car, her footsteps on the cold concrete floor echoing in my ears. “You’re way too proud; and one day it will be the end of you.”

———-

It was a warm late June evening. I had just arrived to the coffee shop; my mind was distracted but still allowed me the clarity to order my drink: black coffee. I sat outside, as far away as possible from any living being, to enjoy the freedom of chain smoking. I was early, not only because this is one of my characteristics, but because I needed to go through the scenario I had imagined thousands of times, and to rehearse my lines thoroughly in order to excel in my role. I was tense, as though this was the audition of a lifetime, one which was either going to make or break me.

I lit a cigarette and looked at my watch. “Fifteen more minutes”, I thought as I prepared myself for the show. I grabbed my smart phone and started flipping through the different social media sites with which I am registered. But my mind was still going through the lines, incapable of relaxing. I put off my cigarette and lit another one, as though this gesture would help make time pass by quicker. Or maybe it did. I looked again at my wrist watch and noticed that she was 7 minutes late. I gave away a faint smile; she was never a punctual woman.

I lifted my head only to see her standing in front of me. I stood up and said hello. She put down her purse and was about to walk inside to order her drink when I interrupted her. I asked her to take a seat and offered to buy her drink. After all, I was not going to let her pay for it, not this last one at least. She accepted my offer and I left her there looking as stunningly gorgeous as I had always known her to be. My heart squeezed inside my chest, but I was able to control it. I had been practicing for this moment and I was not going to allow my emotions to ruin it for me.

I came back outside and put her drink in front of her. She thanked me for it then said, “You didn’t even ask me what I wanted”.

“Black coffee, or have you changed that preference too?”

She obviously disregarded that comment and went on writing a text on her smart phone. I sat down and patiently waited for her to finish. I did not want her to be occupied with anything because what I had to say was of utmost importance. She needed to be focused and attentive, which she was not at that moment. She put down her phone and looked straight into my eyes, a gesture that used to be capable of bringing down my walls and melting my defenses. I looked straight back at her, putting all my troops on the front line to protect my fortress.

“So?” She started, her words harsh and authoritative. “What’s up?”

She was agitated, fidgeting in her chair like a wounded bird. I looked at her in silence, trying to understand the reason behind her anxiousness. I did not want to give myself any hope by making much of it. So I was silent when in fact I just wanted to grab her, shake her hard and ask her to wake up. But I sat still.

“Listen, I can’t be late. I have to get back home and get ready for tonight.”

The faint smile never left my face as I listened to her frozen words.

“ So tell me, what is it you want to say?”

There was a choke in my throat; I had been wishing she would just go back to being the person I once knew – compassionate, caring and full of love. But instead, I had to face the heartless creature that sat right facing me. It was a sad situation but it had to be, and I had to remain composed and in control.

“If you’re angry”, I uttered, “I’d rather we sip our coffee in silence and not talk about anything. I am not here to fight.”

She fixed herself on the chair and said, “It’s just that there is a lot going on right now.”

“I am sure of that.”

“But I’m okay. Tell me.” Her tone was calmer, as though she had regained control.

A full hour went by as I tried to perform my well-rehearsed words. I was interrupted by a phone call from one of her friends, and then I resumed my speech. All the while she was trying to find fault in what I had to say. She had never been that kind of woman; on the contrary, she was always attentive and open-minded. She had always tried to see from the other’s point of view, especially mine. But this time, she was in attack mode; my words, to her, seemed like missiles that she tried to fight off. It was tiring me, and so I decided to put an end to it. I stopped talking. Two minutes went by where silence was ruling over us.

“Basically”, I said breaking the awkward silence between us, “I guess what I am trying to say is that this is our last coffee together. I think it is better for both of us.”

She didn’t respond, she merely looked at her watch. I knew my time was up, so I stood up and told her that we should leave. She immediately agreed and got up to her feet, grabbing her purse and her phone as quickly as she could. We walked together towards the elevator and down to the parking. Neither of us said a word, but the silence was too loud.

“So, you’re not going to call me?”

I didn’t respond; I just continued walking next to her in silence.

“You’re too proud!” she said as she walked away from me and towards her car, her footsteps on the cold concrete floor, and her words, echoing in my ears. “You’re way too proud; and one day it will be the end of you.”

I stood there for a moment, hoping she would hear the child within pleading for her to come back; but I was too proud, as she had just made clear. I smiled. She had always been able to see right through me, to read my innermost thoughts like an open book, to hear the unspoken words loud and clear. But this time, it was different. This time there were storms and thunders that had blinded her; there was commotion and noises that had turned her heart deaf and dumb. There were wars waging with their bombs and missiles and casualties. And surely, I was one of her casualties. But I was too tired of bleeding for a lost cause… and I was too proud. So I smiled, one last time to the memories, and walked away knowing full well that the healing will eventually come, but the scars of the wars I had lived will forever remain.

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