“She already moved,” she says. I clutch the letter in my hand, and it crumples a bit.
“Thank you, sorry.” I glance into the house, a husband prepares dinner, scooping rice out of a cooker onto glossy white plates. His wife stands in the doorway, waiting for someone who clearly doesn’t work for postal services to put his envelope back in his bag, and walk away from their crumbling grey steps leading up to the porch. “Sorry.” I repeat as I turn around, the heels of my brown shoes scraping against the concrete.
I look at the letter, Clara’s name written in cursive, with a pleasant slant and perfectly centered on the envelope. The ink comes in clean strokes, displaying my effort to find a high quality pen. A note written at midnight, for which I had rummaged through drawers for paper and pens, and ignored my phone completely because letters mean more than texts. I had sealed it with wax, coming in a splotchy wine red and spreading across the letter upon impact of the stamp.
A week ago she took me out for coffee and insisted on paying for my seventeen dollar mocha as I held the tall cup with a peeling sticker, listing the six extra ingredients I added. She sat me down at her favorite table, beside a window veiled by maroon curtains, spilling over the glass. We walked through the rainy streets, boots sending ripples through puddles of foggy water.
A week ago she moved closer to me on a park bench, crossing her legs to avoid splinters from the chipping wooden surface. She put her foot on top of mine, letting her white shoelaces tumble down on my own as she continued to laugh.
A week ago she took me out drinking, and when I started slurring my words and stumbling across the bar, she dragged me out to her car and drove me back to her place. She sang along softly to “Prairies” while I drifted into a state of unconsciousness with my eyes still open, watching the blurry street fly by.
She wrapped my arm around her shoulder as she took my hand and helped me shuffle up the stairs, laughing at my drunk jokes that would’ve been executed much better had I been sober. We sat on her couch for hours, talking about the miscellaneous, none of which I remember. And she stayed next to me, holding her knees to her chest, waiting for me to regain my energy.
And then she sat through me screaming my heart out to metal full blast in her apartment, which was surely not appreciated by neighbors at 2am, but they seemed to tolerate it. Either that or that’s why Clara kept walking to the door to yell at people to “Shut up, we’re having a good time!”
The next morning I awoke to her sitting on the arm of the couch, while I was lying with my knees bent, taking up the rest of the sofa. My headache felt like a sharp pain in the back of my skull, but nevertheless I had spent the morning talking like nothing was wrong, because how can something be wrong when you’re staring at someone you love?
I burnt my finger on a frying pan trying to make breakfast for the first time in months, in an attempt to impress a lady. She seemed to like it enough that her smile soothed the burn, more than the rain had on our walk to lunch.
She had giggled when she lent me a faded pink raincoat- I had come unprepared as it wasn’t raining the day before. It was far too small for me, and the tightness of the jacket’s sleeves caused my own shirt to cling to my skin.
We cut through the trees which concealed the edges of the park, letting droplets of water fall from the grass onto our jeans. The specks of water on her face outlined her scattered freckles as she trudged through mud, letting her black boots sink into the ground before lifting them.
Her lips stayed tilted upwards at the sight of seeing me, hair soaked and dripping, with damp clothes and dark eye bags.
We stomped the dirt out of our shoes in the entryway, to go into the cafe for only a split second before requesting to sit outside. We were alone on the patio, underneath an umbrella that hardly sheltered us from rain. The waiters took a while to serve us, as we were out of view and the outdoor space wasn’t very lively.
We walked back to her apartment, briefly stopping inside to grab my keys. She insisted on driving me home, which I had strongly protested against, as I didn’t want my wet clothing to soak into her car seats. She hugged me goodbye and kissed the back of my hand before stepping back into the driver’s seat, and pulling away from the curb, leaving me in front of my dull blue house.
A week ago it seemed like she was in love with me.
I open the couple’s fence gate, the wife doesn’t move from the door- making sure I don’t loiter. I smooth the creases across the letter as I take long strides away from the house. I could text her and ask for her new address, ask her if she’s still in LA or if she’s moved across the country. The corner of my phone jabs into my side as I walk, but I leave it there to remind myself that disappointment isn’t the only pain in my stomach.