It was a warm summer day when his life turned upside down. He and some friends had been enjoying some delicious pizza you could only find at privately owned Italian restaurants. They took advantage of the luxurious warmth and sat on the front patio where they could watch people pass by on the busy Bloor Street.
But soon the sunshine was cast aside, and as with most hot humid days the bright blue sky was overtaken with black masses. They were just finishing the last slice when a crash from the sky seemed to let loose an ocean of water.
“You look like drowned rats!” exclaimed the owner with much amusement as they tore inside.
“That’s some fucked up weather,” laughed one friend while examining his now see-through shirt.
But he was no longer paying attention. His eyes had been diverted to a young woman who had just walked in. Her long brown hair, dripping wet and tousled, gave her a wild, untamed look. Her almond-shaped green eyes were captivating, and could lure anyone in who dared stare at them too long. Her heart shaped face didn’t have a single blemish. His heart fluttered at a rate that must be unhealthy, and his breath was taken away by the amazing creature that stood before him.
Yet at the same time his heart dropped and he felt sadness and regret wash over him as he realised the hushed words and party gossip had been true. Her eyes had lost their sharpness and were dull and blood-shot. Her hair had been slightly askew as she had ran in, a tell tale sign that her hair was not real. Her cheeks no longer had their adorable roundness and she looked as if she had lost at least 30 pounds. She walked with a slight limp.
He never knew someone could change so much in two years. He never knew that after not seeing someone for so long that feelings long buried and forgotten could come back to you with such an over-whelming force his knees felt weak.
She smiled a crisp smile of recognition, which revealed small creases in her young face. Creases that told the truth of a year of suffering, though the lips might tell other lies.
“Hey, how have you been?” he asked, praying she would tell the truth and not just answer with a simple “fine.”
“That’s really great to hear, what have you been up to?”
“A lot of stuff.” She averted his eyes when she talked to him, talking past him, as if the wall behind him was a more interesting conversationalist.
“Not really anything to tell you the truth. I’m still in school, still working at Ponderosa.”
She smiled at the wall. “That’s nice.”
He didn’t want to continue this agonizingly meaningless small talk. He wanted to hold her and tell her it would be all right, that she could beat this disease that had consumed her body until there was hardly anything left. He wanted to say call me when it hurts too much, call me when you feel like giving up, just call me and it will be all right. But that sort of talk wasn’t allowed during a chance-meeting encounter with an ex two years after you’d last spoken. All that was allowed was small talk. Horrible, un-fulfilling small talk.
“Are you okay Jetta?” he blurted out.
She giggled nervously. “Yeah, just a bit wet, why?”
“Some friends have been telling me that you haven’t been okay.”
“And what friends would this be?” her arms crossed her chest and she took a step back, but she allowed her gaze to meet his eyes. She saw the concern, the pity that she loathed. She was a walking contradiction, she cried at night because no one cared but she grew defensive when someone showed concern.
“Just some people, does it really matter?”
“No, I guess it doesn’t.” She tried to remember the bitter words he had hurled at her during their last meeting, tried to remember the pain he had caused her, yet she couldn’t repress the feeling that he was somehow right for her. Maybe it wasn’t too lateâ€¦
A throbbing in her skull brought her back to earth and she remembered how she had promised herself never to become involved with someone because she knew there was no possible future.
“I have cancer,” she blurted out, and returned her gaze to the wall.
“I know,” he said softly, placing an arm on her shoulder.
“And I’m going to die. I’m going to die soon,” her voice trembled with tears restricted to nights alone in her room.
“So I can’t get involved with anyone, can’t start any kind of relationship or try to fix any past mistakes. There’s no time.”
He thought his response out carefully before responding. “Are you alive now?”
“Yeah, obviously,” she laughed through the tears she had allowed to well up in her eyes.
“Then there’s still time, isn’t there?”
His friends observed in amazement as a guy they thought they knew was hugged and kissed by a frail-looking girl whom would spend the last of her days with him by her side.