By JD Langert
The man, in his thirties with gray hair, looked back at me with tired eyes. “I can’t.”
I gripped the leather material of loveseat beneath me, needing the anchor. “Of course, you can. Go back to whatever hole you came from.”
He sighed, looking down at the carpet. “I can’t leave until I make it right between us.”
“You can never do that.”
“Then I’ll never leave,” he said, unblinking.
I gritted my teeth, glancing around the living room for a distraction until my eyes landed on a picture on the mantle. His eyes followed me. “She was a beautiful woman.”
My head snapped back to him. “Don’t talk about my mother.”
“Yes, I suppose I don’t have the right, do I?” He pointed at an ugly, misshapen vase beside the picture. “What about that vase? Can I talk about that vase?”
I shrugged. “Whatever. My mother hated that vase.”
“Then why did she keep it?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “And I told you not to talk about her.”
“Please,” he said, frowning. “Haven’t I suffered enough?”
“Suffer? You don’t know the meaning of suffering!” I jumped up, fists shaking uncontrollably by my side. “Suffering is the terror those shoppers felt when they were threatened for some loose change. Suffering is the pain the cashier felt when she was mistakenly shot at on the way out. Suffering is what the child felt when they were told their mother was never coming home!”
I punched at his chest, but my fist went through his body like smoke.
He stared down at the hand as I pulled it back. I spun around and went to stand by the mantle, unable to look at him.
Behind me, I heard another exhale of air. “You’re right,” he said. “It matters not that I paid for my crime when the police shot me down. I have yet to repay the suffering I’ve given you.”
“You can’t.” I stubbornly kept my eyes on the picture.
“I do not ask for myself.” I glanced at him, eyes narrowed. “I ask for you. As long as I am here, you cannot move on. Please, so that both of our spirits may find peace, can you try to forgive me?”
I studied him. Here was the man who destroyed my life as I knew it. The man who embodied the twisted feelings I’d felt for so long. The man who haunted me just as I had haunted him.
The man…with tired eyes.
Something inside me loosened and I peeked at the picture again. Mother stared back at me, eyes warm and loving. Likely different from the eyes that man saw in me.
“It’s been forever since that day,” I said. “Yet, I still feel like it was yesterday. I could keep on hating you until the day I died.”
“But…” I interrupted him. “My mother wouldn’t want that for me, would she?”
My eyes connected with his, unblinking. “Go. I…forgive you.”
For a moment, he stared at me. Suddenly, he rushed me. I froze, uncertain what to do.
For the first time, his flesh connected with mine as he pushed me away. I stumbled to the side—
My head swiveled to the spot where I stood. On the ground, the broken shards of the vase glinted from where it had fallen off the mantle.
Remembering the man, I searched the room, but he was gone. For the first time in an eternity, I was alone.
I looked back at the shards on the ground. An overt, jagged mess.
Then, I began to pick up the pieces.