Part 1: Pause
The winds howl outside, and the rain smacks the ground with a heavenly force. Although it is nighttime, the lightning strikes illuminate the sky—the clapping sound of thunder echoes outside. The weather creates an unstable atmosphere inside Riverbend–a suburb of Silicon Valley. It does not often rain here, and rarely does it pour like this. The Riverbend drivers are not accustomed to such “extreme weather.” Cars pile up on the highway. Grocery store goers cover their hair in paper bags as they sprint from the store to their cars. The whole city behaves like they are hydro-phobic. As if a droplet of water touched their skin, they would turn into the wicked witch of the west and melt on the spot. On this particularly dreary Tuesday night, the winds pound especially hard on a luxury Riverbend apartment complex. Inside, a couple argues. Here, the lightning strikes, pounding rain, and howling winds are no match to the storm happening inside this room.
“I do not want to pack up and move to Chicago. My life is here, and I don’t just want to drop everything. Why can’t we just love each other from a distance for a little while,” Jasmine said as she put her hand on top of Tyler’s.
” You’re so fucking selfish,” Tyler scolds as he pushes Jasmine’s hand away. ” You’re making me choose between my mom and you. But I should not have to because this is supposed to be the one time that you chose me. But you’re still deciding between me and your job. You can code from anywhere. You can find a job anywhere.”
Jasmine pauses and recollects her thoughts. She is angry, but she does not want to hurt him. She places her hand on Tyler’s shoulder.
“Now you’re asking me to choose between you and my life. Somehow I am still the selfish one?”
Tyler pushes Jasmine’s hand off.
“I know, but are you okay if I’m not in your life anymore? Is that worth it for you?”
“We can stay in each other’s lives. We can love from a distance.” Tyler takes two steps back towards the kitchen. He buries his head in his hands and takes two breaths. As his face resurfaces, tears mark his face.
“My mom does not have much longer. They say that in a year or two the Alzheimer’s will take all her memories. At that point, it’ll already be over. She needs me now. I need you now.”
“We’ll talk every night, every morning, every afternoon. When you need me I will be there for you like I always have been.” Tyler takes another two steps back, and is almost at the front kitchen door.
“Why are you so cold towards the people that love you? It’s like you do not understand family. Maybe it is because you did not grow up with one.”
“So now you are bringing up my broken childhood. That’s it. This conversation is over. You want to leave. Leave. There are so many you’s out there, and I will find another one. He’ll be even better. He’ll never say things like that to me.”
“You never loved me. You just wanted to be loved, and I was just there. Because I loved you, I see it now. You never had any intention of loving me back.” Tyler opens the door, slams it, and runs out. The rain is still pouring. The wind is still howling. The lightning still illuminates the sky. As Tyler runs to his car, he uses the rim of his hoodie to shield his eyes from the rain. Jasmine, still inside, wonders, ” Is that my soulmate I just let walk away?”
Part 2: Break
Chicago is known for frigid winters. The people are used to it. They enjoy bundling up and wearing snowshoes everywhere. The cold has become part of the Chicago culture. What Chicagoans are not used to is 75 degree weather in the middle of February, which is supposed to be Chicago’s coldest month. Even stranger, the warm weather has lasted over a week and a half. Each day it seems to get warmer. Park-goers lay down on picnic blankets and sunbathe all around Millennium Park. The college kids won’t quit throwing their stupid frisbees around and bumping into finance workers fast walking, so they don’t miss their 9 am business meeting. The businessmen wear heavy winter coats gladiator-style around their waist. They haven’t gotten the memo yet that it’s warm outside and has been for over a week. Flowers are blooming. Trees that lost their leaves are starting to turn green again. Some of the bees are coming back, and with them returns the damn wasps. A few squirrels decided it was time to break their hibernation early. It’s Sunday. It’s sunny. Jasmine and Tyler could not have chosen a more beautiful day to get brunch. Five years have passed since they last spoke and broke each other’s hearts. They arrive around the same time and sit at a two-person table near the front window. They both order a cup of coffee even though they both kicked their caffeine addiction three years ago. Crazy how old habits return so easily.
“Why did you lose the fro?” Jasmine asks as she adds a second packet of sugar to her coffee. She didn’t remember coffee being this bitter.
“When mom kept thinking I looked like her dead husband. God, I hate Alzheimer’s. She’s gone now, though. Maybe I will grow it out again. What, you miss it?” Tyler says playfully.
“I don’t miss the fro. I miss you.”
“I know it’s been a long time. We should do this more. Let me know when you’re back up here for your next business trip.”
“I don’t want to get on the plane tomorrow.”
“Would your boss allow that?”
They pause for a second and an extensive silence fills the air.
“I’m still not over you,” Jasmine says, looking Tyler dead straight in the eyes.
“I’m engaged to Valerie.”
“I never stopped loving you.”
“Neither have I, but you’re a little too late. I have a family now.”
Tyler changes the subject to his three-year-old daughter Kayla. He shows Jasmine pictures of Kayla in a lab coat playing doctor with stuffed animals. Tyler can’t shut up about how he thinks Kayla is going to be a doctor and the new face of medicine or something. Jasmine can’t stop thinking about how there is no fixing this relationship. Somehow their conversation circles back to the weather because they ran out of topics. They leave the coffee shop. Jasmine gets on her flight the next morning. The next day it snowed six inches.
Carolyn Thomas ’23 is a staff writer