Much to Learn: The Middle

With thanks to Paolo of Wholebean and I

Mark and Sarah’s story began here

Sarah bounced up the steps to her front door before the motion sensor for the light even activated. Although a bit woozy from too much time at the pub, her happiness provided more than enough energy to speed her quick trip home. Even her friends had noticed, though they had no idea what warranted her good mood. They had no idea what significance this day held, this one year milestone since she had taken the plunge that had led her to Mark.

Mark.

The thought of him was becoming somewhat bittersweet. It had been far too long since she had last seen him.

Patience, she chided herself. It was probably better to go slowly; each time they met she was exposed to a wealth of new experiences and emotions. Better to allow herself time to savour each experience, to make the memory a part of the woman she was growing to be. No need to rush things, he would always be there for her. He had said so himself in one of their very first exchanges:

“I will act as your mentor,” he had told her, “and rest assured I will be looking out for you at all junctures of your new path of discovery in this mentor capacity.” At the time she had been taken aback by the offer. They had not even met, and yet he was will to invest in her. It gave her a warm feeling that lasted through the long droughts between visits.

It had been just what she wanted to hear. She had yearned for a mentor, someone to confide in, to look to for guidance. However, that sort of thing doesn’t happen with contact just once in a blue moon. She wanted more frequent contact, to get to know one another well enough that advice could be given and respected. She thought he had wanted the same, he had said so himself, with words at least. His actions lately had said something entirely different. Had she missed something? She pulled up his last message to reassure herself, taking comfort in reading his words for what must have been the hundredth time.

“I don’t want you to think I am not there for you because I think we are both wired differently to many of our other friends and I feel we understand and respect each other for that. The gaps will be there from time to time I’m afraid, but I will give you my full attention when we do meet up.”

She read the message twice through again, just to be sure, allowing the panic to ebb away. He certainly did give her his full attention when they’d had time together. Calmer, she logged onto the site on which they had met, a site that had frightened her at first but of which she now had plenty of fond memories.

She began mentally composing her message to him as she pulled up his profile, only to stop short at what she saw.

It was gone.

She stared at the page in shock, unable to understand what had happened. Gone were the photos, the brief blurbs of personality. She told herself it must be some sort of technical glitch as she refreshed the page, only afterwards reading the single line that remained.

“I am regretfully announcing retirement from the lifestyle today. It has been a difficult decision to make, but one I cannot avoid any longer.”

She sat for a long moment, stunned, as bits of memories rattled through her mind like pieces from different puzzles that had no hope of fitting together. That simple fact didn’t stop her from trying, and she continued to make sense of this new development, reliving each of their meetings, looking for signs of this sudden departure that she may have missed, until the exhaustion of the late hour mercifully carried her off to sleep.

***

The next day passed in a haze. Sarah focused on her work, delving into the details of the most meaningless tasks and allowing the pervasive mundaneness to block out all thoughts of Mark. It was a brilliant strategy for most of the day, but within the privacy of her apartment that night, surrounded by memories of his visit there, she had no defence from her roiling emotions.

She mentally played back their time together, read through his messages, trying to see if there were something she had missed. Some clue that it hadn’t been as wondrous as it had seemed.

She wondered if it was something she had done, something she was. Or maybe she had just been naive to think that anything could develop from becoming attached to someone already attached.

She had wanted the fairy tale, the happy ending, but life doesn’t work that way. She remembered Dresden’s assertion: “there’s no such thing as a fairy tale.” Life doesn’t provide neat, clean closure. The more intense and meaningful the experience, the more open ends are left when one decides that it is over, however the end is defined. The open ends are good, providing something on which to tie new experiences, unexplored paths to set off down on a rainy day.

But Dresden and Murphy had managed to make a story that had no ending. She knew that it wasn’t a pink and fluffy happily-ever-after, but there was no denying the power in their relationship. It was something special. Something enduring.

And it proved that such things do exist.

She had thought she might have found that with Mark, but she had been wrong. She would find that some day.

For now that hope, that faith, would be enough. Enough to keep going, keep searching. Enough to change the locks, on her door and heart, and move on.

Glancing around the sitting room, her eyes fell on the cactus that Mark had brought for her on his housewarming visit. She was supposed to get rid of such things now, wasn’t she? She picked up the pot carefully, and managed not to prick herself; perhaps Mark’s lesson in clumsiness had subconsciously taken root. She carried the plant over to the rubbish bin and paused. It seemed arrogant to take out her frustration and grief on a defenceless plant.

She set the pot on the counter and leaned back on the kitchen table, eyeing it as though it was an adversary to be conquered. She laughed at the ridiculousness of the whole thing. The cactus was barely three inches tall, topped with oddly flamboyant orange flowers and decidedly getting the better of her. She examined it closer, and noticed that the flowers were merely paper creations glued on, held in place with blobs of plastic. Artificial bursts of passion that had no place on the prickly plant.

Retrieving a pair of kitchen shears, she carefully removed the blossoms, tossing them into the bin.

The cactus was plainer now, shorter, but real. And it would have a place in her home.

As would memories of Mark. Perhaps it was a mistake, but it was still a memory, once the pain had dulled, to carry and treasure. It wasn’t perfect, but it was real.

She shook away the tears with a laugh. After all, this wasn’t the end, just a decisive middle.

The End

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