The weather wasn’t nice enough to be sitting out in the elements that day in the park. A higher temperature and less humidity would have made for an environment more conducive to creativity. No one else was about – the sidewalks were bare, the gazebo was empty, and a path leading to the pier was an endless arrow aimed at the water with nothing and no one obstructing the way. Claire asked herself what was the point in choosing here to write. The silence was pleasant, if not lulling her into a drowsy daze.
She sat on the bench in a position that was awkward enough to keep her alert in a second attempt with the pen and paper. A double layer of clothes meant to keep out the cold didn’t add enough warmth under her coat to make the experience any more pleasant. Maybe she was trying to pay a penance by sitting out there chilled and uncomfortable. She had already mentally berated herself enough for that morning’s conversation with Max. Now she was adding a physical aspect to her punishment, and it was reaching a maximum sentence.
Claire had wanted to spare his feelings but needed to tell him her sentiments weren’t the same as what he’d confessed the prior evening. The conversation was inevitable. She thought an ostensibly budding relationship was futile. His growing affection simply outweighed her apathy.
How could Max help but be hurt? It wasn’t easy being on the receiving end of a breakup. A mutual friend had introduced them as friends, not taking a chance at matchmaking. The friend knew Claire planned to take a job offer that would move her to another city soon. A chance meeting at happy hour was not the “hook-up” Max assumed it to be. Claire needed a clear mind to make her transition, not a messy goodbye scene before her departure. Her actions were no less hurtful, though.
She’d been rejected before. It can come as a blow to anyone’s confidence, which she knew much too personally herself. However, this was a first for Claire, being the dumper instead of the dumpee. It didn’t feel any better.
This brisk afternoon she sat facing a lone pigeon who pecked the ground for any morsel it could find. The bird was intent, its head bobbing back in forth as if admonishing her bad deeds. Paranoid guilt made her imagine the bird was mocking her with each point of its bullet-eyed head – a finger jabbing in shame. Almost as if her mother was saying … again, “You. Should. Not. Have. Done. That!”
The weather mirrored her melancholy. Claire sat reading a sad poem to inspire her own writing. Sometimes she’d practice free verse, word association if nothing else, get the creative juices flowing. On good days it was happy thoughts in more cheerful times.
That’s what it should be today, vibrant sunshine illuminating her journey into the new life awaiting her. Not the gloom of this overcast outing to further dampen her spirits. But did she actually owe him an apology letter?
Claire felt she deserved a good future. She’d earned the new work assignment after so many years of dutiful service and sacrifices to put in overtime. It was her time to make good in the world. She asked herself why she felt guilty for spurning Max’s affections. She owed him nothing. Her mother’s voice in the back of her head was a heavy enough weight without his words echoing similar sentiments of “how could you do this to me?” That old recording was still playing in her mind.
Claire glanced up to spy a slight break in the clouds, just one glimmer of light trying to show through. She squinted in the haze to make sure she wasn’t imagining it. No – surely enough, the sky might clear. It just might turn for the better. Maybe she could get up and walk out of here. The path wasn’t blocked, and it didn’t matter if she was alone.