It was the only word she could think to say back to him, so it was the only word she said.
She had thought about him a million times, what she would say to him if she could do it over, what his life looked like now. It was funny, the things that called him back to her. A laugh in a crowded elevator. A song in a restaurant. A funeral procession on a back road. A skyscraper blending into a storm.
It was funny the things that didn’t make her think of him. The mug she borrowed and never returned. A dish they had shared. The route from his house to hers.
But one text brought it back. One text. An out-of-character text. Tender. Nostalgic.
Thank you for making me happy.
What was she supposed to say?
She was happy with Andy. He was good to her. He made her feel like a girl, loved. She wasn’t settling.
But one text and she felt like she was in the wrong. Like she wasn’t the woman Andy thought she was. She didn’t feel as pretty or as charming or as caring or as patient or as funny, or anything else. She felt ruined and cheap and unfair.
She knew she shouldn’t respond. It wasn’t worth it, she knew that. He wasn’t expecting it, and she didn’t owe that to him.
But she wanted to.
And she never wanted anything, or at least was never sure about what it was she wanted.
Somehow it said it all. It said I miss you everyday. It said you made me a better person. It said I’m sorry for what I did to you. it said I don’t regret meeting you. It said I don’t need you. It said I want to know where you’ve been. It said I hope you’re okay.
She didn’t know why he’d sent it, what late night motivations precipitated it, why now, why those words. She panicked, let scary thoughts into her mind. Was he drunk? Was he sick? Was he depressed? Had he just been fired? Was he dating someone new? Had he just been broken up with, again? Did his brother get married? Did his dad die? Was he moving? Why hadn’t he moved on? Why now? Why those words, those terrible, sweet, beautiful, scary words?
One text, and she didn’t know anymore.
All of her illusions, everything she’d told herself about him, broke, scattered, crumbled before her, inside her. All of the words she had called him were wrong, fake, self-delusions.
She wasn’t stupid. She didn’t have any hopes or desires about him. there had been no illusions between them about what they were. That wasn’t what she wanted. She didn’t know what she wanted or expected or hoped for or prayed against. She just knew he’d texted her.
She knew him. His hopes, his desires, his prayers. What he wanted for his life. What he wanted from her, what he’d gotten from her. How he spent his afternoons how he spent his mornings what he said to his mother, and what he wouldn’t say to his mother. What his best friend meant to him what his job didn’t mean to him how he felt about getting old what he said to girls to get them to smile how he took his coffee what his passions were what his insecurities were how his hair looked ungelled what his house looked like when he cleaned it what kind of dog he wanted how many times he’d been drunk where he saw himself in ten years who he saw himself with in ten years. It had been a long time, but she knew him.
Nothing had changed, not really. It was his game, his world, his rules.
But he had texted her, and the ball was in her court.