I stroll slowly through the aisles at the book store, immediately dropping my eyes to the bottom shelf and examining the titles. I do this because I know for a fact that ordinary everyday people who go to bookstores fix their eyes on the top three shelves and almost always neglect the bottom two. I think this is horrifically unfair to those authors who, for reasons completely out of their control, have names like Zimmerman or Zoric and thus end up having their precious work – work that they probably slaved over for months, years even – stuffed away down on the bottom shelf in a corner. It’s just not right.
I, on the other hand (not an ordinary everyday person), understand such woes. Because one day, if I ever have the unfeasible luck of getting published, my name, Samantha Stevens, will be plunked right down in the middle of Steuben and Stidolph on the very bottom shelf. It’s true. I’ve looked.
However, I try not to let this fact get me down because I’m convinced that there are others out there; others like me who take pity on the neglected bottom shelfers. They take pity and then they buy my book. This is how it works. Or at least, how I wished it worked.
I give a little sigh and continue to stroll down the aisle, engrossed in the atmosphere of the dim lighting and chocolate wood of the shelves, searching for some inspiration. Something catches my eye so I crouch down and pull it out from the shelf to get a better look. Hmm, not so interesting after all. I slide it back on the shelf, stand up and keep walking. A glimpse at my watch tells me that if I don’t leave in approximately two point five seconds, I’m going to get stuck in traffic, big time, and will never make it to the airport on time. Inspiration will have to wait, as usual.
A mere forty minutes later I’m standing at arrivals in Toronto Pearson International airport. I peer at the arrivals screen and am relieved to see that all flights are on time. Making my way through the crowd of travelers, I watch and wait to see him come down over the escalator; to finally have him here with me, in the same province…hell, in the same country. Minutes pass as the exiting passengers dwindle until, finally, with a confused expression on my face, I notice that there are no more.
Maybe I got the flight number wrong, I think to myself. Or the time. I scavenge through my bag and whip out the little slip of paper with the flight information scrawled across it. Everything seems fine; right day, right time, right flight. Yet, no boyfriend. I take out my cell phone and just as I begin to dial, it begins ringing in my hand. I glance at the display; it’s him. Good timing.
“Where are you?”
“Where am I? I’m at the airport but I think I should be asking you where the hell you are.”
“What’s going on?” I start to get worried from the sound of his voice.
He pauses for a long time. I stay silent too. “I’m at home.”
“Home? ‘Home’ as in Boston? As in, the United States?” I can’t believe what I’m hearing. “What happened? Did you miss the flight? Because I’m sure you can switch it for another one.”
“I’m sorry, babe.”
“It’s alright, I’m sure you can be here within the next day or two.”
“No, I mean, I’m sorry, I can’t.” He sounds meek and far away.
“Can’t what?” I decide to play stupid and hope to god that this isn’t happening.
“I can’t move to Toronto with you. I thought I could but I can’t.”
I just stand there with the phone to my ear, my mouth hanging open in disbelief. “I can’t believe you’re saying this. What about everything? Everything we talked about?”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m sorry.” He just keeps saying sorry, sorry.
“But we were going to be together, finally.” I’m in a daze and can barely put sentences together.
“Samantha, I’m going to go now.”
What? Does he think this is over? Does he actually think that? “Wait! What happens now? Are we just going to keep doing long distance indefinitely?”
“Sam, I can’t do long distance anymore. It’s too hard and painful.”
I can feel my heart racing now in my chest and I begin to take big gulps of air, searching for words. “But…what…what about the last two years? We’re just going to throw that all away? This is how you’re ending it?” I’m slightly disgusted at the unfairness of it all; at how easy this seems to be for him.
But worst of all is what he says next. “Yes.” Simply ‘yes’. Just like that. “Goodbye, Samantha.” And he’s gone. I stand in the middle of the airport, people milling around me, and try desperately to understand what just happened.
I begin to wander a little helplessly around the airport. I don’t want to leave yet. As long as I stay here, there’s still a chance. It won’t really be over. I find myself in the baggage claim and spot an empty chair. I make my way over and slump down into it. I sulk for another hour maybe, watching the newly arrived passengers greet their families and friends and go on their way. Finally, I decide it’s time to go. I don’t want to be here anymore.
Suddenly, I have the sudden urge to just get out of there. I jump up and manoeuvre my way around people and baggage. Before I’m home free, however, I get knocked in the knee with something big and really hard, almost doubling me over from the force and pain.
“Ow! Christ! Watch it, will you?” I snap at the offender. I look up to see a rather shocked looking guy. Young, probably about the same age as me, short brown hair, big innocent brown eyes and a button down shirt.
“Oh god, I’m so sorry.” He releases the handle of the suitcase and steps closer to see if I’m alright.
I hold up my hand in agitation. “I’m fine. Why don’t you just watch where you’re going.” I straighten myself up and continue on my path out of the airport, leaving the young guy looking quite forlorn.