Opportunity Lost (short story)

I’m trying not to look bored. Karen is talking about work. I guess it’s good to be talking about something. At least the food is good. It’s nice that Karen wanted to come out, but, I wonder if she really wanted to see me or if she just had a night to fill and I was the name that came to the tip of her tongue. Still it is nice of her. We’ve known each other for so many years, since early childhood, maybe it doesn’t make a difference if we really like each other anymore. Maybe there’s just something for being with each other, for knowing that she was there with me when I wasn’t who I am now.

The restaurant is lovely. Karen always had good taste. I usually hate fusion food but this is done right, I’ll have to remember this place. I wonder if I should tell Karen how much I like it? She always likes to feel like she’s the dominating one in our relationship. I don’t want to give her more to work with. There are lilacs in the corner, real ones. You don’t see real flowers so often anymore, it’s a nice touch. I will tell her I like this place very much.

I tell her, “Karen, really this place is wonderful. Thank-you for taking me here.”

She smiles graciously, saying “I thought you would like it, I came here a few weeks ago and there was just something about it that screams you. I made a point of taking you here.”

She is beaming and that is good. Nice of her to think of me. Did she arrange this night just to show off to me? That’s a mean thought, then, there is often a bit of truth in mean thoughts. That’s what makes them so mean. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that it is nice to be thought of.

I used to be the one who talked more than Karen. When we were young girls together in high school she was so quiet, I’m not even sure why we became friends. We were always so different. Funny, how in childhood just sitting next to a person can make you become friends for life. Maybe it’s not so different now, all these decades later, being friends with your coworkers, your neighbors. That’s ok though, I guess. She has been a good friend. I think she talks more now because of me. And maybe I talk a bit less now because of her. Maybe it’s good to talk less, maybe it’s better to listen. I wonder when we switched positions?

Of course I am listening to her and responding. It’s a pretty good conversation, she’s talking about how she’s aspiring for this new position. How it would be meaningful work. I hope she gets it. She deserves it. I just am not fully here tonight, my mind just a bit distracted. It’s like trying to stand on one foot, I’m just not able to get a steady balance tonight. I’m just a bit off. Nothing’s wrong, maybe it is just the weather. Sometimes I feel the changes in pressure in my head. Or maybe I’m just having a sugar low. Or maybe it is just one of those days. If I could I would just go for a walk by myself, maybe get some dark chocolate somewhere and just enjoy my aloneness. I wouldn’t do that to Karen though. This is where I need to be, this is what I need to do.

Out of the corner of my ear Karen says something I’m not expecting.

“Could you say that again?” I ask.

“Sure, sorry, I shouldn’t talk with my mouth full.” she says, “I was just asking if you’d heard what happened to Angelica? Remember, from high school? She was a bit of a friend of yours for awhile wasn’t she?”

“Yes,” I say, “I definitely remember her. What happened?”

Karen loves telling a juicy piece of gossip. I used to like that about her but now it just seems a little bit exhausting. Why does every conversation I have need to be so serious though? I wish I was more light hearted. She launches into her artificial sadness mode, whatever the news is she wants to seem like it hurts her even though it doesn’t. “Well,” Karen says, “My friend Susanna heard from her friend Laurel, who keeps up with everybody from high school, that Angelica was crossing the street after work a few days ago and got hit by some driver who just didn’t see her. Apparently, and I certainly hope it’s not true but I fear that it is, Angelica died right there on the spot. She leaves behind a husband and two kids. Tragic, isn’t it?” Karen looks at me with these big expectant eyes, does she know what Angelica was to me? She can’t. I don’t like her staring at me. I tell her that it is tragic and make small talk with her for a few minutes. I don’t want her to know the pain in my heart, it is private. It is just for me. I tell Karen about how excited my husband Paul is with the current lease rates on Toyotas, I tell her she should look into them. Then I tell her I need to use the ladies room.

I go in and thank  god it’s empty. I lean on the counter and I stare at myself in the mirror. Angelica is dead. When was the last time I thought about her? It’s been years. Does it make a difference to me that she is dead? Yes, yes it does. It should. Funny, how with Karen we have been friends for so long without really getting to know each other. With Angelica we were only friends that brief spurt of life, that one summer, yet, yet, still maybe no one in the world knows me better. Knew me better. She is dead. Do our memories together die too? Even when I never talked to her, never thought of her, it was still nice to know that somewhere she was out there and in her mind she would always remember me as that young girl who I’m not anymore, staring at her with eyes that could never have looked so innocent.

Both of our lives moved on after that. We loved each other but we were too young for that type of love. I think we were both afraid to commit to what a life like that would have meant. At least I know I was. It was innocent. It was wonderful. Do we idolize our youth for what it was, or do we idolize it just to have the memory of something beautiful in our mind, even if it is not true? Did her hand as it touched my face really make me feel the way I remember it? How can she be dead? How can she be dead? How can it be that all that time is gone, that life has moved on, that I won’t just wake up in my parent’s house and think of my sweet Angelica, my great secret. Everyone should have a great secret. Life is so unfair, that time only lets us go in one direction. I want to go back. I want to do things different. I want my life to be more than it is.

I have been in here too long. Karen will be getting impatient and start guessing why I’m taking such a long time. Just taking a really long shit dear Karen! I don’t want her thinking that I needed a moment to myself to think about Angelica. She remembers things like that, uses them against you because she doesn’t know how vulnerable other people can be. Just because she has such a thick skin shouldn’t mean that she should be allowed to puncture holes in others. I stare into my eyes one last time. Are these really the same eyes that used to sit inches away from Angelica’s face? My face has changed but my eyes are the same. I want to cry for what is lost, for what could have been and wasn’t. I need to get back to Karen.

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