Triscin sat on the porch of the Colorado cabin, his arms heavy inside the coat Eleanor had returned to him as he left the hospital. He stared down at the phone in his hands. He’d been scrolling through old pictures and thinking of deleting them, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Every time his finger got close to that dreaded trash can, every time he got close to shredding another strip from the paper mache sculpture he’d become, he froze. It was impossible. Triscin was looking at a picture he and Eleanor had taken on their way to Colorado.
She was sitting in the passenger’s seat of his then unsmashed car, her feet propped in his lap but her face turned away from the camera. He’d been grinning, eyes wide and happy in the sunlight shifting in through the windows. They’d stopped at a little cafe for lunch and he, like he often did but tried very hard not to, had ordered the wrong drink for Eleanor. She hadn’t spoken for him for twenty minutes afterwards.
Triscin sighed as he swiped the screen and found a picture he’d taken of Eleanor once they’d already arrived. She’d thrown all her luggage on the floor of the room, flopped on the bed, shoes still on, and fallen sound asleep. Triscin had taken her shoes off and set them by her bags. He put away her hang up dresses in the closet because he knew she’d hate for them to be wrinkled and then snapped a picture of her as she slept, a momentary angel. Triscin didn’t delete that one either.
The last picture they’d taken together was two days ago. Triscin was sitting next to Eleanor and they were sharing a plate of waffles because Eleanor liked them but not enough to eat four by herself. Triscin was more than happy to help her out, and the picture turned out cute; Eleanor had whipped cream on the end of her nose and Triscin had an arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer than she’d been in a while. That, Triscin thought, was one of the best pictures he’d seen. Ever. In the history of photography. He hearted it and clicked off his phone, leaning back on his hands.
It was rough being single again, especially when he felt like everyone more or less expected him to move on with his life. Muz had told him, while they were walking to go get donuts, “You’re bound to find someone who treats you better now that you’ve realized you deserve that,” and Triscin had been mulling that over since the minute she and Afra had pulled out of the driveway.
Triscin had gone inside and intended on playing Solitare with the rest of the group before they finished packing up, but instead he found himself pulling on gloves and heading back out to the porch. He’d been sitting there for hours. All he could do was scroll through old pictures and wish he could look forward to taking more, to making more happy memories with Eleanor. He knew they weren’t all happy times, but at least they looked that way in the pictures. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d run out of storage because his phone was so full of his memories, reminders of what was important in his life.
Pinterest had shown Triscin a quote once that said, “If you want to know what someone loves most in life, watch what they photograph.” If anyone had gotten ahold of his phone they would have known from the lockscreen to the last picture in his camera roll that what he loved most in life was a girl with green eyes and a smile that didn’t always reach them.
Triscin felt hollow without her and he hated feeling scooped out because of someone who had already taken so much from him. It was a strange ache, under his ribs and behind his eyelids, that made him want to call her and ask if she would take him back. “I’ll remember to always get your drink orders right and I’ll never recommend you wear the blue dress when you like the red one better!” he imagined himself saying, begging her to let him back into the life he recently knew better than his own.
He turned on his phone and of course found Eleanor’s contact under LOML <3 <3. He wondered what his contact name was in her phone. Probably now it was nothing. Triscin wouldn’t be surprised if she’d already blocked his number.
“Hey, mind if I join you in this time of deep reflection?”
Triscin turned around and patted the seat next to him, agreeing to a midnight chat with Gervassi. Gervassi sat down next to him with a sigh and leaned over to look at Triscin’s phone. “Thinking of calling already?”
“Um,” Triscin turned his phone back off and slid it under his legs, “Yeah.”
“I would be thinking of it too. You guys were like OTP in my book, you know that? I’m sure it’s not easy.”
Triscin nodded. “Not easy knowing your best friend doesn’t want you in her life anymore, hasn’t wanted you there maybe ever,” he tightened his fingers around his wrist and kept his eyes on his hands, “Knowing that the whole time she was thinking of someone else? Yeah. That’s not easy.”
“I wasn’t in contact with her for years.”
“I’m not blaming you, I just don’t know how to get over the fact that she really didn’t love me. I don’t know how to forget her.” Triscin handed Gervassi his phone. “Maybe you can hang on to that for tonight? I feel like I’ll call her and break everything further apart.”
“What more is there to break, though?”
“Why would you ask that? Wouldn’t it destroy you if Afra almost died…”
“I’m not done yet! Wouldn’t it destroy you if Afra almost died, but then she didn’t and instead she told you she’d been, I dunno, pining over one of her ex’s for the last few years? And then you called her after you’d broken up and she just told you never to talk to her again?”
Gervassi felt like he wasn’t doing very well in the way of helping his friend. The truth was, he didn’t think Triscin and Eleanor had the basis that he and Afra had. Of course it ended badly. It was a relationship built on late night arguments and early morning make ups, a cycle vicious as the girl who fueled its wheel.
“What if you called someone else instead to keep your mind off Eleanor? I’m obviously bothering you. Also I need to finish packing.” Gervassi stood up and noticed Triscin wearing Eleanor’s jacket, though it wasn’t hers to begin with. “She gave your coat back?”
“Yeah. Sure did. Do you think, um, would Muz want to talk to me? Not like talk talking but just as friends?”
Gervassi folded his hands in omniscient peace. “Ask the donuts, young Padawan.” Triscin took that to mean yes. Gervassi walked back inside.
“Guess I’m calling Muz, then.” Triscin picked up his phone from where Gervassi had left it. He found Muz’s number under Muzical ⭐️ and pressed call.
“Hi? This is Triscin?”
Muz’s laugh, loud and bright as Broadway, drifted over the phone and she answered, “Well, is it Triscin or not? This is Muz.”
“Yes, I’m me, um, Triscin, yes. Hi. Want to talk for a minute?”
Muz turned to Afra, who was focused on the stretch of highway ahead, and asked her if she minded.
“No, go ahead, I’ll think of how I’m going to explain all this to my parents when I get home.” Afra waved Muz on, curious as to how the conversation would play out. She wasn’t planning on thinking of explanations, she was going to eavesdrop and not feel guilty about it. After all, Muz had crashed Colorado all week. It was due time Afra nudged the table back a bit, even though she knew Muz would insist she and Triscin were the buddiest of buddies.
“Afra said she needs a karaoke break anyway. What’s up? Missing me already?”
“Kind of.” Triscin chose his next words with careful precision, not wanting to stick his feet in something he couldn’t get out of, “I was thinking of calling Eleanor and then Gervassi said not to. I didn’t really want to talk to her, I’m just not used to being alone.”
“Oh.” Muz tapped her fingers against her leg. She pretended to herself that she was fine, unbothered even, by Triscin using her number as a distraction. In truth, she would have loved to hear his voice just because he wanted to say hi, not ask for advice or talk more about the awful Eleanor.
“Yeah, oh. Sorry, I didn’t call to complain. You’re better company than she was most of the time, to be honest, and I need a friend.” Triscin could sense the tension between phones, even miles and statelines away. “Seen any neat roadside attractions on your way home?”
Muz couldn’t help but laugh. Eleanor had lost a good man when she let this one go, rather when she shoved him and his shattered heart out the hospital door. “We went to Waffle House!”
“That’s awesome!” Triscin added Waffle House to his growing Things Muz Gets Excited About. From the sound of it, the newest addition ranked higher on the list than Broadway, even, and he thought Muz was a serious Broadway fan. “I bet the people were super nice. The waitresses at my local Waffle House are cool. The lady that usually serves my mom and I, her name is Eva Ridley and she used to be in the Navy. You’d like her.”
“I’m sure I would. Other than Waffle House, though, we’ve only stopped at some random gas stations and they weren’t all that noteworthy. There was one guy named Phil who gave Afra and I free coupons for a cupcake shop nearby.”
“Did you take it?”
“No! Of course not. Afra ripped it up and threw it out the window.” The pieces of that coupon are still floating shredded down the highway, haunting the souls of those who dare entice young girls with the promise of carbs and sugar, two of the deadliest temptations. “We’re not stupid.”
“Good, and I know. Of course I know you aren’t stupid. I happen to think you’re very clever.”
Triscin glanced behind him and saw Ander sitting by the window, asleep. Little napping eavesdropper. “Well, sure, you’re smart, but not only memorization smart. Like, I feel like you could talk about something for hours and still make it interesting. That kind of clever.” He stood up and headed back inside, cold from the brisk high winds. “Okay, example. The elevator thing? That was cool.”
“I’m glad we went to get donuts today, Muz. You got me thinking about a lot of things and it was nice to be with someone who listened to me. I like having conversations, it turns out.”
“I’m glad we went to go get donuts too.” A minute passed where the two of them sat and listened to outside sounds. Crickets, maybe, but there was also a sifting drift of heartbeats feeling light in the company of a kindred spirit. After a few seconds Muz said something else, and Triscin laughed as he walked up the stairs, and they talked for forty more minutes without ever feeling a second go by.
When they got off the phone, Muz waited for Afra to say something weird that would make her spin into a tizzy, but her best friend was quiet, hands on the wheel and a lips parted in a satisfied grin.
“What?” Muz plugged her phone in; it was on thirteen percent, and propped her arm against the window frame.
“Oh, nothing.” Afra was pretty sure it wasn’t nothing, but she also didn’t want to push Muz into something that she didn’t want or didn't need. “Just glad you had a nice talk.”
On his cabin bed in Colorado, the last night he would spend there, Triscin deleted a picture of Eleanor before turning off his phone and going back downstairs to play cards. It was just one picture out of hundreds, but it was a start and as difficult as it was, Triscin felt the paving under his feet shift to a better road ahead.