By David Karp
Her hand was sweaty as I held it tight with mine. I glanced with my peripheral at her, but she was staring straight, her brown hair whipping back gently as the automatic doors slid open.
My bike was leaning on the Rush Medical sign behind the bushes like I left it an hour ago, which I thought was a minor miracle.
The sun had started to come down, which I knew would make this place more eerie. The Medical District had a silence to it at night, like the calm before a storm. Most of the buildings looked the same, the roads were not too crowded, and, as I witnessed coming down Roosevelt, the Medical District was in the middle of nowhere. If you stood in a certain part of the district, or had access to any high rises and looked east, you could see downtown Chicago and think you were in a suburb. And there were empty lots after empty lots. Rush was bound to expand it’s already large hospital campus at some point. More buildings, maybe some places to eat. But, for now, it was just lots.
When I got the call and she gave me the address, it took me a good twenty minutes once I got there to find the actual building itself as I turned into the campus from Roosevelt.
It was a trek from Lincoln Park. But a necessary one, nonetheless.
We got to the edge of the road and we turned to each other.
The only thing that changed in those five months were her eyes. They were still beautiful; the brown was shining as bright as a stallion in the sunlight. But under her eyes, you could see the tiredness in the circles. She didn’t look sad, but worried. Who knows, that worry may have been building up for years, for all I knew. She was full of secrets.
The kiss on my lips took me by surprise, but I did not shutter.
“I can’t believe you came.”
I wonder if she saw it in my eyes, that I still loved her.
“How could I not?” I replied after a second or two.
She took my hand.
“I’m sure you have a lot of questions.”
A lot of questions was an understatement. I had a bible’s worth of questions. I wanted to scream and I wanted to cry. Pull my hair out and then hold her tight. I felt like an angel and a demon were fighting over my soul, and all that kept getting shaken out of me were more questions. Yes, my soul was being shaken and shaken and the only thing oozing out of it from time to time were more questions. Five months of radio silence from someone who said they loved you back would do that to you, surely she would understand my confusion. If I burst into flames and the trumpets of heaven sounded as loud as the ambulance I’m sure she arrived here in, surely she would understand.
But I needed to keep calm. If not for my sake, for hers.
“Yeah, I’ve got a few.” I replied, as cool as the autumn breeze.
“I’ll call you tomorrow, ok? I’ll tell you everything. I promise.”
I couldn’t help but squint a little in my doubt.
“Kay, the last time you told me that, you disappeared for five months.”
“I know, I know,” she replied, grabbing my other hand and holding tighter, “I want to explain myself as much as I can to you.”
She paused, looking out into the dying sunlight in the west coming from behind another building next to another empty lot.
“And for the record, I’m so sorry. You didn’t deserve that. You don’t deserve any of this.”
At that point, I didn’t know what I deserved. But I had been shaken so much, I felt like I deserved answers. I could feel the tipping point in me, leaking into my brain and giving me a headache and making my heart beat.
“Tomorrow? You promise?”
“And it can’t be now.”
“I don’t mean to sound like an asshole, but I mean, is this it? I get back on my bike and ride back north and you get into your sisters car and go south. We go our separate ways. Me with questions, and you with answers. Is that what’s gonna happen here?”
I retreated my hands.
“What am I supposed to do, Kay? How do you expect my curiosity to be silent? I can’t. I have too many questions.”
She put her head down in thought. I watched as her brown hair swayed with the wind of the coming night. The jeans jacket always kept her warm, even in the harshest falls. And I swear, all I wanted was answers. All I wanted is to see her smile again. But I had a feeling it would be awhile before we got back to the days of museum dates and late night drives on Lake Shore.
She slowly took her hands into mine again. I let her.
She looked back up at me with those brown eyes.
“Mark. I need you to trust me.”
“I know you want answers. I do. And you deserve them. And you WILL get them. I have a lot to tell you tomorrow.”
I just kept looking at her, taking in her words. I saw her eyes growing a little worried now.
“But, Mark. It’s a very complicated situation.”
“And I don’t want you anywhere near it.”
“Let’s talk tomorrow. I promise. And I won’t run out of your life again, I promise that too. I just need a little more time so I can get things back to normal in my life.”
I looked at her confused; confounded not at her, but this situation I knew nothing about.
Still, looking at her and my mind racing like stills in a movie, I couldn’t help feel anything but helpless.
“Things were getting so good…”
“I know.” she said, and held me close to her. She was still warm. She was always warm.
“And they will get better again…but what I need from you now is my trust. Is that ok?”
I looked at her, trying to hold back tears.
“I love you, Mark. Please trust me.”
I had no trust in my gut instincts when I was younger. I had no intuition of anything. My motives were emotional, not logic. But, as I get older, I realize that they are not very different. You realize they are married; in an abusive marriage that resides inside your head. Now I understand instincts and intuition. I have lived through both trials and tribulations in my life. I have the better of them. I can control them, and oftentimes I listen to them and they do not fail me.
But sometimes, even I falter.
Even I fail.
“Ok.” I said, with as much fake confidence as I could.
Another kiss. This one salty from a tear that escaped her and fell down to her lips.
“Ok. Until tomorrow then.”
We held each other for another minute, it seemed like.
Then, we let each other go, looked at each other for a few seconds, and then I was the first one to turn away, out of fear probably.
I heard her footsteps behind me as I reached my bike. As I turned my head around again to see her walking, she had already disappeared. Turned a corner or got into a car or evaporated into the night sky itself. Nothing would surprise me, at this point.
I picked up my bike, brought it to the road, and biked down that same lonely side street I came up on, only now it was more dark. More menacing.
I caught the green light and turned East onto Roosevelt, peddling slowly on my long journey home.
It only took about two blocks until I couldn’t hold it in anymore, and my thoughts and questions turned to tears. I could feel them blowing off my cheek in the wind.
The road was very empty.
Writing Exercise: “Two People Come Out Of A Building And Into A Story” by Alice Mattison