Cara looked up as the tiny bell above the gas station door chimed softly. A woman entered. She wore a crimson red coat and her violet hair was up in a haphazard bun. This must be October, she thought. October was the librarian of this small town. As their eyes met across the aisle, Cara noticed the distant stare in October’s eyes. Her eyes seemed to be lost somewhere else. Perhaps, replaying memories of a different time.
The soft crash of a few packets of crisps caught Cara’s attention. October had knocked them off the shelves. Cara noticed she was shaking, ever so slightly. The clerk at the counter seemed unconcerned, busy on his phone. So, Cara went forward.
“May I help you?” she asked the stranger, whose name she had on a list in her mind.
Those unfocused, lost eyes focused on her now, still not quite present.
“No, thanks. I’ll just be leaving,” October replied, her voice quiet. She quickly picked up the packets, placed them back on the shelf, and walked hastily to the counter. Cara followed.
“Are you all right?” she asked October.
“Yeah, you can say that,” October replied, her voice shaky.
Cara was familiar with the look in her eyes. It spoke of loss, loneliness. It also spoke of resolution. Cara began, “I…”
October, however, cut her off, “I have to leave now. Sorry…uh, bye.”
As she left, Cara heaved a weary sigh. October lived in a sad little town. People were always leaving. And, those that stayed quietly decayed, collecting dust, replaying dreams and memories. There were the ones who left and there were the ones who were left behind. October belonged to the latter. Why? The answer was simple. Not everyone had the privilege.
October’s town, like many small towns, was divided between the rich and the not rich. The privileged and the not so privileged. October was not so privileged. She lived on the other side of town, where dreams were caged beings, never set free. Dreams on that side of town suffocated and died. And, in the end, the people all faced the same fate. They continued living their lives in the cage of a town that crushed their dreams. However, Cara knew October’s fate was different. October planned to write her own fate. But, was that possible? Cara guessed that October herself did not know the answer. Yet, today, on an overcast morning when the sun was lost, October had attempted to escape her cage.
The gunshot reverberates in the empty parking lot of the gas station, jarring Cara out of her musings. The sound is expected and the present serves to end Cara’s expectation. She knows what has happened.
However, she has her duty to fulfil. So, she runs to the parking lot. Her heart beats steadily in her chest. She stops abruptly once she reaches October’s car. Looking inside, Cara notices the blood spatter on the dashboard. Crimson, vivid, warm, present.
October’s eyes are glassy, her life lost, her fate wrestled back. Her left hand is slack and it clutches a small handgun, nonchalantly. Her right hand holds a letter close to her heart, crimson droplets of blood like invisible tears adorning it.
The scene has revealed itself to Cara, expected, anticipated. The day’s job is done. Here is the last soul to be collected. Here is the end to what the day demanded of Cara.
Cara was always gentle with the bodies. She closes October’s glassy eyes with a feather-soft caress. “Rest well’, she whispers.
And then, Cara starts walking. Walking towards an unnamed destination with the letter in her pocket. Walking where Death rested, carrying the remnants of a person who, perhaps, had defied fate.
* * *
I hope you get this. Somehow. Wherever you may be. I would like to apologise. I cut you off. I lost contact. I left your letters unanswered. For that, I apologize. It was wrong of me.
I didn’t think you would need me in this new life you would be beginning. And, I didn’t want you to be weighed down by your small-town friend. I realize that you might be angry with me, you might be hurt. And, I am so sorry that I hurt you. When you left, life lost most of its colour. And, it’s become difficult to breathe every day since.
But, I don’t intend this letter to ruminate on my sorrows. I know that I am to blame. I expected things of you and I was wrong to do so. But, it hurt, Rue, to keep my feelings caged up. Sadly, that was the only way. I didn’t want to ruin our friendship. So, I kept quiet. I never realized that it would distance us. I am sorry that it did.
I know that we once hoped for forever. You and me against the world. Know, Rue, that in my dreams, we exist beside each other, happy. These dreams are my respite, where I am free.
I remember us laughing, smiling, your eyes the colour of dark chocolate. I remember braiding each other’s hair. I remember spending entire days in the park, looking at the sky and flowers. I remember gazing at you as you talked. I remember holding hands. I live in these memories now, Rue. They are my world because our time has come to an end.
You left and I don’t blame you. You had to live your dreams. But, tell me this. Do you still love the scent of cigarettes? Do you still paint? Are lavenders still your favourite flowers? Are you well? Are you happy?
I don’t intend to know the answers to my questions. Perhaps, I don’t deserve to. So, I’ll imagine that wherever you are, you are happy, you are well. I only ask that you imagine the same of me. Imagine me happy and at peace with myself. Imagine me laughing.
This is goodbye. I am so sorry, Rue. But, this is how it had to be. Swimming is a lot harder without you by my side. So, I have decided to give drowning a chance.
Remember, Rue, I love you. Always.