It’s a dull Wednesday morning though I don’t even keep count of the days anymore, they all feel the same. Mamé normally starts watering the lawn then she wakes me for breakfast and a walk, but I woke up earlier than her today. There’s only so much sleep a person’s body can take before it gets tired of it. Under normal circumstances I would crave for ten hours of sleep but right now I miss the assignments and stack of notes that needed further summarizing. Crazy how one can never be truly satisfied.
Looking up to the balcony doors I realise I haven’t closed the curtains and I can see Aram with his head in his hands, sitting on the half-broken deck chair which my father threw out almost six years ago. Aram fixed it but it seemed like it broke again. I miss him playing the guitar, since I’ve been back, I haven’t heard nor seen him. Up until now I thought he moved out and finally got his life together.
I switch the lamp on and his head tilts upwards. “Annette?” He inspects me and I grab my jacket as I stand up switching my rooms light on then opening the doors.
“Aram, how long has it been?” he walks closer from his balcony deck and I see the red in his eyes, taking me back to the nights where his 17 year old self poured his heart out, to a 15 year old me, about his dreams and his pain.
“Too long,” he sniffs as I zip up my jacket “I’ve thought about greeting you as you walked by with your grandmother, but you know the lock-down and…”
“A simple wave from the porch would’ve been fine.” I smile and he looks shyly down to his feet.
“Maybe I just didn’t want you to see me like this.” He scratches his head and I try to comb out what it is he does not want me to see. Is it the beard, thick and dark just like his hair. I used to love running my hands through the soft darkness that was his hair.
“See you like what, Aram?” I ask stepping closer to the railing so that we can lower our voices.
“It’s been three years, Ann.”
“And?” he looks up at me with confused bloodshot eyes. Some nights those eyes made me weep, made me scream to whoever, whatever that was listening to help him or to make me able to help him.
“I haven’t seen you in three years, Ann. You’ve lived a life without me for three years.” Aram catches my eyes and I can see in the night of the morning the tears flickering. “Three years Annette.” He solemnly repeats to himself. This whole time I’ve been thinking the other way around, three years that he has been living his life without me but no. His eyes still show how he cares.
“You wanted to stay, I asked you to come with me but you saw it as a sacrifice that you just weren’t willing to make.” My voice lowers as the tears sit in my throat waiting to emerge.
“No! Don’t you dare put this on me, you didn’t want me to go I would’ve been a burden a deadbeat artist in the streets of Strasbourg.” Aram says accusatively and my eyes can’t help but water. “If you’d just asked one more time, if you hadn’t walked away, if you just fought for me, I would’ve boarded that flight with you.”
His head shifts to the sky which is slowly starting to fill with the light of the sun. He then turns around entering the door behind him and closing it, not looking back, just like I hadn’t three years ago.
It’s been a week and she hasn’t opened her dolphin print curtains yet. She has no right to be mad. Right? Annette seems so different though, the tone of her voice more mature, the feeling behind her eyes so content, she’s even ditched the raven pixie cut and went for a golden-brown bob. She’s no longer my Annette that sat up all night listening to my strumming and whimpering.
“Aram! Honey, how are you doing?” Annette’s grandmother stands in awe on the balcony with a broom in her hand. “You have a beard now just like your father.” She smiles and I wish I could give her a hug, especially when she was cooking, the spices would cling to her like perfume.
“I’m fine thank you, mamé. How is the lockdown treating you?” I wonder if she’d rather be back at home in France than here.
“Better than the rest of the family, they act like they are in prison but I keep busy.” She says as she looks back to Annette’s bedroom. “Have you two spoken?” Mamé asks nodding to the room.
“Yes, but I might’ve been a little rude. Can you tell her I’m sorry and that if it’s fine with her I’d like to see her again tonight, please mamé?” I ask knowing how stubborn Annette is but still having a little hope.
“You two hurt each other too much, you are still hurt.” She points out as she sweeps “But I will tell her.” Mamé promises and winks.
His lights are on.
Mine are not.
It’s been five hours and my eyes are getting tired. I should just accept that she’s not coming, she’s not coming back for me.
“Aram?” I whisper and hope he hears but he's not answering so I throw my shoe on his balcony.
“What the hell! Couldn’t you just have called my phone.” He fumes and I can’t help but laugh hysterically so much so that tears erupt, and I start crying. “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to yell”
I shake my head and look over too my slipper lying on his deck chair “We were never going to work out.” My voice shakes and my tears flood my face as his face comes to realization.
“You stopped loving me, didn’t you?” he questions so soft, so innocent.
“I never stopped caring, these past three years have proven that, you were always on my mind.” Aram opens his mouth as if wanting to say more but closes it. I want him to speak, I need him to understand but he turns around switching of the light.
I want to know when her feelings for me stopped and why she couldn’t have said something, anything earlier. Maybe I just wasn’t worth an explanation.
“Did she come? You two spoke, didn’t you?” mamé comes out with a chair and a cup of tea in her hand, I remember how she couldn’t speak a word of English and she'd speak French as if my ten year old self understood. Later on, when mamé started learning English I’d ask her to tell me stories in French just for the familiarity of it.
“Have you ever loved someone who just… just couldn’t love you back?” I hear the hurt in my voice maybe me wallowing in my self-pity was what made Annette lose her feelings for me.
“Bien sûr, I think everyone has once had feelings for someone who just couldn’t feel them back, Aram.” She sips her tea and I realize what a stupid question that might’ve been but then again I didn’t ask for assurance. “I am one of the lucky ones who found love more than once and you, you’re still young, you tend to fall in love many times at that age. Just keep your heart open.”
“What if I don’t want a new love, what if it’s been three years and my heart only opens for one person, what then?”
“Dear Aram, we can not force our hearts to stop caring but we also can not force another’s to start.”
It’s another dull morning and it’s been 9 days since I last saw his lights on, it’s been two that I haven’t slept, aching for an hour’s rest while more than a week ago my body grew tired of it. Crazy how one can never be truly satisfied.