A Pillow to Rest My Head
The steam from my coffee drink partially fogged out the window as it sat at the edge of the table I have chosen. Rain hadn’t quite showed its full presence since mid-October and December only dealt its card on the dramatic drop in temperature. Other than layering up, every day seemed to be worth the stroll at the park. I took in as much heat from the sun as I can while I sat there inside the cozy atmosphere of Starbucks. Two magazines laid in front of me unopened just to keep me company when needed. I noticed one barista putting back a halfway read newspaper on the shelf left by a customer. As a consumer, I admired the ingenuity of Chapters of offering the best of both worlds.
I left that thought to look outside and watch the busy movement of the parking lot. Every constant change of vehicle kept my anticipation at a good rate since the purpose of me being there was to meet with someone. I was nervous in a different way. My priorities had changed since last week although my heart held its constant reminder of Ric. I no longer was confused but was just simply lost. The urge of getting through this was important so to find out where my mental state rested.
Finally, the right car had entered and found the open spot I was just looking at. The driver stepped out in such a swift impressive manner. I smiled at the sight of him and he did so as well but with a much brighter enthusiasm. He looked just as fetching since the last I saw him. On his walk towards the bookstore entrance, I admired his entire outfit. The military jacket, the olive shawl-collar sweater and faded jeans worked for his athletic stature. The army boots and his choice of wearing glasses on a fine day gave it the extra detail.
I have known Liam since I moved to Canada from Italy. My family met his almost immediately through friends in a worldwide religious community our parents are involved in. We practically grew up in the same neighbourhood which was considered the projects to some standards; north of tourist-filled Steveston. We ended up going to the same schools so we both knew each other’s adolescent life. He was two years older and it was beneficial to have him always look out for me. When we hit our later stages in high school, the seniors knew I was off limit even though I wanted to date one or two of them. At the end, I didn’t mind. Maybe I avoided a few heartbreaks or harmful relationships. We’d see each other on special occasions and go out with a few of our friends but that was it. The boy I knew who would get into fights to defend me was now a man walking with open arms ready to hug me.
Liam wrapped his left arm around me and I slightly lifted off the ground in ease. He kissed me on the cheek, “Sorry I’m late.”
“Oh, no worries. I just got here around five minutes ago. See, coffee is still hot.” I looked over to gesture to the untouched table scene.
“OK. I’m going to order.” He gently placed my feet on the ground while smiling at the barista, “Grande Americano with two extra shots, please.”
I paused on the way to my seat as I overheard the order. It must be something about men and Americano with those extra shots of espresso. But I felt more intrigued at the fact that it was the same order from my first date with Ric. I turned around to remind myself I was there with a friend. I was there with Liam.
He noticed my change in direction and asked, “Did you want anything?”
“No, I thought I did but never mind.” I only hoped my lie was convincing.
I sat down while he waited for his dose of caffeine. I missed Ric for a brief moment due to the memory glimpse of weeks’ past provided the place and order. I finally turned the first page of the magazine.
“What are you reading?” He took his seat quietly enough that I was able to finish an article.
“I don’t know.” I forgot what I had unconsciously picked out from the rack. I turned some pages to see the cover, “Glamour.”
“Anything about a broken-hearted girl?” He initiated the conversation that I had been dying to talk to someone about.
I closed the magazine and shrugged my shoulder, “None in there.”
“I figured.” Liam straightened his back to show me he’s ready to listen, “Want to talk about it?”
“How do you know?”
“I don’t.” He smiled before explaining, “Every time you always have that same look when you have relationship problems.”
I bit my lower lip while shaking my head. I guess it was too obvious and he’d given me this opportunity to talk, “This guy pretty much left me in the dark.”
“What does that even mean?” He chuckled but was serious about his question.
“I mean he left me with nothing to work with. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what to do. I just don’t know where to begin or how to end it.” I exhaled in frustration, “I don’t know where I went wrong.”
His smile went away, “What was the last thing he said to you?”
“We were fine up to the moment where I’d asked him if we would meet at a usual spot.” I paused for a second and felt I was too open and vulnerable. I couldn’t help but continue on, “He messaged, ‘No.’.”
“He also said he wanted to talk to me but not at that moment. It’s been a week since that conversation. I’m not the kind to force myself into someone’s life if they don’t want me to be in it. But I am having a hard time to leave it alone.”
“You’re not supposed to leave it alone. You can’t do this by yourself.” He looked out the window.
I wondered if he’s overwhelmed by my sudden outburst, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” He faced me instantly, “I think you should let him speak when he has the chance. This guy didn’t leave you in the dark because he asked to see you at another time to talk to each other. If it wasn’t the right time then it just wasn’t. I don’t know what happened between you two and I’m not going to ask you to divulge. Was there any foul play?”
“No, there isn’t any foul play.” I frowned at his proven point, “But I am giving him a chance to speak. I’ve been waiting for a week!”
“He needs time for that chance to speak.”
Liam had all the right evidence for the case. He made sense and put me in a better mind set. I agreed with his opinion and believed him to be unbiased. We walked off the seriousness from our first topic and jumped right into catching up. I lead most of the way around the aisles as I lavishly told him what he’s been missing in my life. He would nod his head from absorbing more information and smiled at the good parts. Most of the time, I walked backwards while I tell him stories. He casually had his hands in his pocket and look at me from time to time when he wasn’t reading the titles of some books. We went through every section and hit every category, even the children’s books.
“Thank you.” I looked up to face him and tugged on his jacket.
“No problem.” He finally took his hands out of his pocket and wrapped his arms around my head to squeeze in exchange for a hug.
I buried my face in his chest with appreciation for listening to my nonsense. He had always been there to treat me like his third sister. I could always feel his care for me was much more and I depended on that as far as I could remember.
We departed from each other’s company in hopes of doing it again at a future date. I promised him of less ranting from me and more stories about him. He kindly took the offer.
“Lunch.” Liam mentioned it while holding the door for me, “We’ll have lunch next time.”
“OK.” I started the engine and gave him a squint instead of a smile due to the direct sunlight.
He closed my door and soon I was driving out the parking lot. I looked at the rear-view mirror and noticed Liam stood where I left him and watch me drive off.
I reached my house only to find Ric’s car parked at the curve of the cul-de-sac. I placed my car on the driveway in a careful maneuver while I searched for him. He stood by the front door and looked like he’d been waiting patiently for a while. I approached him in such a clueless attempt.
“I’m sorry.” He began to speak.
“For what?” I needed to know if he knew what he was apologizing for.
“For acting too irresponsibly. For complicating a simple solution. And for prolonging the time to actually talk to you when you deserve to know everything.”
“Can we go for a walk?”
Daylight was still present and elementary students covered the sidewalks as they dispersed to each of their homes. Ric and I walked towards the school playground a block away from my house. Although we both wore gloves, our hands kept bumping against each other and it was a constant battle for me to refrain from holding him. I’ve missed him so much but I needed answers.
We sat on a park bench overlooking a soccer game that was about to begin. A good amount of kids decided to take advantage of the dry weather to enjoy a ball game. We kept quiet and actually watched the first few minutes of it.
Ric finally had a chance to speak, “I told you from the beginning that this was never a plan. It was supposed to be my responsibility to not pursue a relationship with you. As a teacher, there should never have been a doubt to terminate an inclining romance with a student in our workspace, let alone in the institution we work in. I’ve complicated things for you and myself. To make matters worse, I’ve hurt a person I truly care about.”
In my self-preservation, I uttered a snarky remark, “You mean Jamie?”
He quickly looked over his shoulder to study my face then returned to stare at the game, “You don’t seem to understand.”
“I think I do. You played us both. Made us feel so foolish. And you’re right; to make matters worse you had to pursue two relationships.” I leaned closer to him to pry the message.
“As far as I’m concern, I only had one relationship.”
I snapped “Oh Fuck! You expect me to believe that? How do I know that you didn’t say the same thing to her?!”
A few of the kids may have heard the profanity but ignored the adult conversation that could possibly ruin their beautiful afternoon.
Ric leaned forward in disgust, “If I knew you were going to be hostile then we should’ve talked in a more private manner.”
“Yeah, like at the library stacks.” Sarcasm wasn’t necessary at that point.
He gave out a long sigh then put me in my place, “I don’t know who’s been informing you about my meet with Jamie but that person definitely had it all wrong. Jamie wanted the same things from the beginning. She wanted what you eventually had. Before we even ran into each other at the station, she had you beat. My initial reaction to her was the reaction of a recent widower who battled depression and whatever angst grew inside of him so that he could continue life the way he knew it. Jamie knew more about me than I was able to tell you. Yes, she did her homework. She knew about us.”
I sat down on the bench speechless.
Ric continued, “I just wanted to feel normal again. That was my priority. That’s the reason why I proved to the board that I was capable of teaching again after being away for two years of unsettling personal business. That’s why you even met me in the first place.”
I started to cry as soon as he stood up.
His eyes watered as he looked back at me, “Jamie threatened to report me because I couldn’t give her what I was freely giving you; the chance to make ‘us’ happen.
“Falling in love with you was never a plan.”
Words seemed to have fallen off my tongue. I couldn’t express my resentment.
“I resigned as of last week. That’s why class was cancelled. I knew that if I stayed as your professor then one of us was bound to get ultimately hurt. I chose to be with you. I guess that’s a decision I’ve mistakenly committed to.”
He kissed me on the forehead before walking away.