Tina and I stood in the middle of the road, just down past our favorite eatery, each tired of the struggle of being together. She was the last good thing in my life, and she represented my fight to rebuild my life from the ashes.
I was fighting a losing battle, and I knew it.
To be fair, Tina tried to get me to see reason, but I’m not known for my abundance of reasoning. She sighed and said, “I’m sorry, Jake. It’s not you, it’s me. A relationship isn’t important to me right now, maybe in the future we can explore it together.”
I threw my hands in the air and turned to walk away. She touched my elbow to stop me, but I put my hand up.
“Fine. Let’s cut the arteries on this thing and let it bleed out already.”
“I’m too old for this playground psychology crap, Tina. You want out, I’ll give you one. Goodbye.”
Without another word, I walked out and never returned. From the middle of the street the last words I heard from Tina was, “you’re gonna throw away our friendship because I won’t go any further?”
The last time I saw Tina was from the rearview mirror, and she still stood in the middle of the road as I drove away-until yesterday.
I guess the truth is the last time I saw Tina was at her funeral, and she was in a nice royal blue casket surrounded by her friends and family. It looked like a nice service.
My return to our hometown was forced by the letter I’d received. It was from Tina and written on plain notebook paper, not the fanciful stationary she sent out to her friends and loved ones.
I’m sick and by the time you receive this and return to Hattiesburg, I’ll be dead. So, this is my goodbye to you. The day you left me in the road, I had found out I was pregnant. We had a son. His name is Marc, and he is going to need you. Please return as soon as you can.”
How dare she? Twenty years had passed, and she figured she better tell me we had a kid together on her deathbed? I shoved my few belongings in my Alice pack and waved down a taxi.
“Take me to the bus station, please.”
The lithe Arab man gave me a nod and pulled us out into traffic. Six and a half minutes later, he dropped me off. I shoved a twenty at him.
“Thanks, have a great day.”
An angry woman sat behind the counter, and one stood in front of it. The customer slammed her hand down on the counter and snarled at the teller.
“I done told you, woman. I bought a ticket, and it’s not my fault you’re incompetent.”
“There’s no record of you buying a ticket, ma’am. You don’t even have a receipt to show your purchase. If you don’t mind, please step aside. A queue has formed behind you.”
I turned around and looked for the queue, there was no one other than me behind the angry customer.
“Screw him,” the woman said, her voice raising in anger.
The teller waved me to the counter, and I stepped around the enraged woman who blocked my path.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“Yes, I need a ticket to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.”
“When would you like to leave?”
“Today, if possible.”
“The earliest we can get you on your way is midnight. Would you like to purchase that ticket?”
The enraged woman slammed her hand down on the counter and turned to me. Her dark eyes bore into mine, her mouth tightened into a deep frown. It did nothing to improve her looks.
“You get help, but I don’t. That’s some sexist…”
I nodded my head feigning agreement with her. The woman behind the counter focused on her task, taking my debit card from me and swiping it.
“Yes, ma’am. I can’t understand it either.”
“Can’t understand, what?”
“Why, I thought that’d be obvious ma’am. I can’t understand why anyone would not want to help such a well-mannered woman like yourself.”
The teller burst into laughter; the angry customer looked at me as if I were some space aliens who had just peed on her Sunday clothes. She turned and stormed away. The teller handed me my ticket.
“Thank you, for silencing that woman. Here’s your ticket.”
I found an empty seat and put my bag between my feet. Then, I leaned back and wondered how Marc would feel when I showed up claiming to be his father.