The If Certainty (A Story)

He walked along the slippery path, the warm sun hitting his back. Around him, the blanket of snow melted lazily, and the tree limbs grew lighter as the burden of snow melted and clumped away. The air was cold and crisp, but no wind caressed him. He would have welcomed a cold wind to challenge the torrents eddying around in his head.

He learned a new lesson recently, but it was an intangible and elusive one, its tentacles tingling around the fringes of his thoughts. He couldn’t help but to indict and convict himself repeatedly.

Early in the morning, he noted her absence from his notifications. He watched as the 14,000 messages disappeared. He thought he was deleting just one because of his unfamiliarity with the app. He had saved several of the great stories written in tandem, and for that, he was thankful. It felt a little like he was emptying as he watched the unexpected progress bar work its way across his phone.

She opened up to him the shared experience of writing stories like an artful duet; it was one he hadn’t expected but also recognized immediately as innate. Even if their connection had remained at writing stories, it would have filled him. He was outmatched from the beginning. Of course, there was more than just writing, as sublime and fulfilling as that was. The ‘more’ was a welcome shock to him, full of firsts and laughter.

He wasn’t quite sure what he had done wrong, but he knew with certainty that she hadn’t been guilty of any misdeed. Which only left him accused and guilty.

Anyone who says that you can’t forge a connection over the expanse of geography is wrong. Without the obstacle of space between, they would not have misstepped as they danced. Proximity parts the clouds. In so many ways, interacting with ideas, laughter, and clarity is a much better way to get inside someone’s head. But nearness would have erased the divide that ultimately undid their overlap.

He learned that people who make such connections with warmth and laughter are rare. He had let one down. He found himself paying the price with empty moments. Instinctively, he looked at his phone again to see it blank.

He walked faster and faster, knowing he could not outpace the absence.

He continued to walk, his eyes watching his shadow lengthen. After thirty minutes, he stopped and waved, wondering whether his affirmation would travel through time and geography.

He whispered to himself as he started walking again, the sun on his back. Only the scattered pine cones beneath his feet heard him.

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