My phone chimes, first thing in the morning, with an incoming text message.
“Good morning. How was your night?”
Mid-day, another one that asks,
“How’s your work day going? I’m going to the gym.”
And then again, later in the evening,
“How was your day? I missed talking to you.”
I am ill-prepared and unaccustomed to sudden confessions of this magnitude. Having frozen deer-like in emotional headlights, I respond with succinct one to two word responses.
“fine” or “i’m tired”
No need to get descriptive, to make small talk about the weather (freezing cold) or what I ate for lunch (the same thing I eat every day). Each word is an encouragement and unfortunately there are no such thing as anti-words that would act as the opposite.
My heart grows slightly less hardened when he tells me about the mess that he is (his words), why he’s still living with his parents, trying to put himself back through school, and when he wonders out loud about why he’s alone and has been alone for the better part of a decade. After several hours of scrolling texts, I have no good answer but a lot of guesses, which I also keep to myself.
“I’d like to come out and see you.”
By the time the end of the weekend arrives, I’ve responded to less than a quarter of the messages I’ve received and astutely ignored the request for a selfie. Minutes later, I receive one, unprompted. Those eyes that bore into my core, literal turquoise pools of sadness. A drop leaks out of my screen and drops onto my keyboard. I perfunctorily grab a tissue and dab it up before it ruins the electronics. Quickly, before his face can burrow its way through the liquid crystal and read my reaction, I click the large red X and it’s gone. All of the past and our history is gone. I breathe a sigh of relief.
And so I click into the next message.