Seeing something after only picturing it in your mind for so long, was always a strange thing. There were always those slight alterations, those few freckles, you’d forget within your internalised portrait. I’d, in a way, forgotten how she looked. Her smile was the same. Her scent, a combination of her vanilla perfume (which hadn’t changed) and the fresh cotton of her clothes, yet with the hidden hint of tobacco that she clearly wished to disguise - unsuccessfully. I knew that scent would never change, as her mum had bought her that same perfume when she first moved away from home, and since her passing, she never let the bottle even verge on half- empty, just in case it stopped being sold. The smoking was a habit I never favoured of hers, but I got used to it. I knew it was her warm hug in the winter, her old friend on a summer’s evening, and that bit of reassurance that was unobtainable for me to provide. I could sit here and reminisce over our relationship forever. I could think about how I was terrible. I could also think about how she was terrible. In actual fact, literature loves to tell us all about the beauty of love: it’s perfection; it’s inability to break your heart in every possible way. As far as perfect goes, she was far from it. But sitting here, now, looking into those sage – coloured eyes, little specks of brown, she looks prettier than I’d ever thought she could. I wonder what she must be thinking about me. Is she thinking I look tired because I have spent sleepless nights working on a novel which will probably be the death of me? Is she remembering the time I told her I wasn’t in love anymore? Is she remembering how the last time we saw each other, we agreed we would never see each other again, and I walked away, wiping the tears which temporarily burnt my cheeks? I suspected by the slight pain that tinged her eye, that in fact, she was.
I fidgeted in my seat, suddenly feeling embarrassed. I’d not dressed up for the occasion, as I didn’t want it to appear that I had intentionally meant to look nice. That would be trying too hard. She clearly had a similar idea, but she always looked better than me without any effort. She was wearing a brown, round – necked jumper, with the same blue jeans (slight fraying at the knee) that she had worn when we were together. The shade of the jumper complimented her auburn hair like the warm tones of an autumn tree, the leaves being her green eyes. But what did I know? That just sounded like something a writer would say. I am a writer, of course, but that’s all fiction. I scanned the coffee shop, to see if anyone was looking at us: sensing my apprehension and her discomfort. Maybe we looked like a couple. That thought settled my nerves for a little while. I wasn’t sure why I was overthinking, as like I previously mentioned, this wasn’t one of those extraordinary love stories, and in reality, we were just two people that had fallen out of love with one another. A man with his cold cappuccino and a woman in her, now I come to look closely, relatively average brown jumper. Even so, I smiled at her, with the image of her sat in this very coffee shop came to mind, of which seemed like a very long time ago.
We spoke for a while. It was a little forced at the beginning, and nervous laughter often overpowered most of the conversation, along with regular distant glances out of the window to the busy street. I considered how every person that walked past that coffee shop, in that moment, had their own life and their own love stories to tell. I wondered how many of them would write about it as I did. I wondered how many of those I would obliviously come to read someday. No one here knew of where we had been half an hour before we walked into this small, cosy café, and no one knew where we would go to the second after we walked out. That was one of the more bizarre concepts of life that I could never quite get my head around. Who else was sat here, discussing the breakdown of their relationship with an ex-girlfriend? Catching me deep within my own thoughts, she picked up the plastic bag next to her, which I assumed was filled with my things. Having caught me by surprise, I snatched the bag in humiliation, hoping that no one would notice this exchange. I had been told this would be the hardest part of the experience, as though they are passing you back the memories you shared, ridding any part of your life that is still the slightest bit prominent in theirs. I didn’t feel this way, however, as I did really miss that baggy band t-shirt that she’d taken from me after the first night we had slept together at hers. She’d even had it in her suitcase when we moved in, hanging it up in her wardrobe as though claiming it as her own. I would be lying if I said it didn’t sting a little, though.
After the closure was…closed, we headed to our separate homes. I had thought, when I’d walked in earlier that day, that perhaps things would be reconciled. That is what often happens between two people that decide they need closure. Perhaps that’s more common in couples who reunite after a few drinks, in one of their homes, dimmed lighting, often a mistake. The bitter taste of cappuccino in my mouth and the dryness of the aftermath of small talk for the past hour. She seemed to have a weight lifted off her shoulders, which comforted me, thinking that she had struggled just as much as I had to become accustomed to loneliness again, but that she now knew she was going to be okay. Sometimes the quietness was bliss, but every now and again, the solemn silence truly was exhausting. I paid the bill (as I always did, despite each penny spent reminding me of my unfinished novel), and we parted ways. In a heart-wrenching rom-com It would seem fitting to say that it was raining, a little windy, but perfect weather to walk home after a breakup. In actual fact, it was. We live in England. The sky was a plain grey, and the walk home was the same. I never spoke to her again, but life continued, as it does.
“How many times have I got to tell you? Mark, the readers aren’t going to like it. We’ve been waiting for some material from you for months now; people are losing interest.”
“But it’s reality, Sir. The kind of books we write nowadays, the kinds of books we read… they’re a façade. Heightened expectations of love nowadays are damaging real, happy relationships. Content is no longer enough for anyone. I wanted to express what real love is like; what real breakups are like; what real life is like. I think people will appreciate it.”
“No one wants to read that, Mark. Rewrite the chapter and come back to me when it’s done.”