I could feel my heart pound, penetrating the cavity of my chest, as I arrived at the little white house overlooking the lake. I parked my car across the street and sat there for a moment with my lights turned off, considering why I had come; wondering if I had the courage to knock on her door. Five years had passed and the very house I used to call “home” was now merely a distilled memory, soon to be forgotten. I slowly turned the key towards me, turning off the engine and paced myself for what was coming. Taking a deep breath, I exited the vehicle and began to walk across the gravel road.
With each step, the rocks crunched beneath my foot and I worried that my presence would be known. I had not been invited to visit and I anticipated a surprised face; whether good or bad, I did not know. Although I had driven for nearly seven hours to my destination, I still couldn’t find words that seemed appropriate. I only knew that my presence was needed, even if only to say goodbye. With each step, my heart pounded harder and my fingers began to tremble. With each step, a vision of her face appeared; her laughter, her smile. With each step, I felt a distant tear on my finger and remembered how they burned into my stained flesh on that day in May; the day I left.
With uncertainty, I approached the home and made my way up the crooked steps. I peered in the windowed door and the dark hallway; she was either sleeping or the home was vacant. I brought my clenched fist to the wooden door and paused, anxious and scared of what would come next. As my fist hit the door, I felt my spirit crumble and the flame inside of me distinguish. I had never been so honest, as I was about to be.
Each moment that passed seemed to be eternal. I stood waiting, slowly regaining strength as I realized she would not be coming to the door. I walked over the freshly cut grass and laid on the white bench under the tree. As my eyes shut, I began to fade into the memories we had created together in this very spot. The scent of pine needles flooded my senses and I could remember the texture of the bark on my hands; the same hands that touched her. I fell into the memory, as if a hole in the ground; a safe, warm flesh surrounding me. As I lived out the fantasy of my past, I fell asleep in the cool breeze of the night, waiting for her arrival.
When dawn broke the next morning, I found a letter that had been sliced between my legs, pressed together as I slept. I looked up to the porch; the door was still shut, but I soon noticed a car parked in the driveway. I gripped the letter between my fingers and thumb, opening it slightly as I felt it’s damp exterior. The morning mist had left the ink-written words a bit blurred, though I didn’t mind. The worn paper felt more authentic this way, I thought, as I ran my fingers across her words. Her elegant script depicted the emotive reflection she experienced when she had arrived home the evening before, realizing I was asleep in her yard. Her words sunk into me, and dampened my heart the way mine had once affected hers. Drenched in my own sorrow, I pulled out a pen and scribbled a few words lightly, then left it on the porch for her to find. I knocked once, and ran across the street to my car. As the door opened, she picked up the letter, staring in my direction. I opened my car door, thrusted the key back into the ignition and drove away as I clutched the photograph of our son in my left hand, whispering “I’m sorry”.