I walk briskly down the sidewalk, the cold wind shakes the branches violently overhead. I imagine one of the creaky careening boughs breaking, falling directly upon my head and collapsing my body onto the leaf strewn pavement. Then, as if watching myself from above, I look peacefully and quietly at my lifeless body, a pool of liquid crimson expanding around my head. And for that brief moment the ache in my heart (the one that I have known since before birth) subsides. I feel…free.

The phone rings. It is her. I stare at the phone numbly and wonder what I should do. What could I possibly share with her right now? My primordially broken heart is not the stuff of “check-ins” but it is the only thing that feels true. I let it go to voicemail.

“I must have just missed you. I’ll try you again after work at 7.”

I whisper to myself over the hum of the passing cars on the street, “There is nothing inside of me that I could possibly share with you. There is only the ache. The steady familiar ache that longs for quiet and solitude.”

I pull the second volume of the book from its slipcase. A heavy scent of piney pulp fills the air. I lift the colorful tome up to my nose, close my eyes and breath it in. For the second time today, I feel a reprieve from the ache. I clutch the book in my arms and embrace it before setting it gently upon the shelf.

If I were to answer the call at 7pm, could I tell her that I have been of heavy heart today? That a fantasy about my violent demise and an erotic olfactory experience with a new book provided me with a few seconds of peace? No. But I can say it here. Here in this quiet place. In this quiet achy place that is all my own.

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