By: Antwan Crump
“You don’t have to do this,” he’d begged to her.
Connor had been searching for her going on five years. After a brutal break-up, he’d finally tracked her down via the celebratory posts on Facebook. He wanted to congratulate her–that’s what he told himself. Weeks of refreshing the page, and still, she hadn’t accepted his friend request. He had to settle for getting his updates through mutual friends–the three that they had left.
Then he saw it–“IT’S OFFICIAL GUYS! LITTLE SIS IS GETTING MARRIED 7/14/17! SO HAPPY! I’M SO PROUD OF YOU ASHLEY!”–and it broke him. He was known as peaceful–unimpressive– but a “decent, albeit it foolish” young man. He’d always wanted to be a writer. As of then, it hadn’t been working out so well. He sat on the bed–in his mother’s basement– unable to fathom what he’d done wrong. Whatever it was, he felt that he was being tortured for it. He clicked again,
When his screen froze, he lost it. Tossing the aged laptop into the water damaged, sheetrock walls, when it shattered, he thought of picking up the largest shard and ending his own life. His obsession, however, had other plans. He grabbed his phone and returned to the social media site to update his status–“WHY!?!”–to the chagrin of his ninety-eight friends; they’d grown tired of his random outbursts.
“Please don’t do this,” no one had even seen him sneak into the church.
By the day of the wedding, he’d prepared a plan. He borrowed an old and stained dress shirt from his father–who was quite fond of Ashley in the heyday of their relationship– and rented himself an ill-fitting suit; it was all that they had left–he settled for jeans.
He stalked the Facebook pages of friends and family nearby. It was a small town, everyone had known everyone else, and it seemed that all had been invited but Connor. As the day drew closer, he no longer had to dig for information, it was the talk of the town and no one could seem to keep word of the event off of their social media pages.
The constant updates had almost driven him crazy. They had a way of making him feel so close and concurrently even further away. He’d known one of the bridesmaids; she’d actually accepted his friend request. It took some fibbing to convince her that he was sane. To Connor, all was fair in love and war and– for him– this was both.
He’d spent the previous three days staring at pictures that Ashley was in. He was amazed by how mature she’d looked, how grown she’d presented herself, and the elegance that seemed to emanate off of her, “Jesus Christ, she’s perfect!” he’d say to amplify his own determination–pushing away the reality with every exuberantly dictated word– announced to no one but the insect ridden four walls that he refused to reclaim as his bedroom.
He glanced himself over a few times in the mirror before leaving. He thought that he’d looked rather dashing–save for his uncut hair, weathered jeans, and developing slouch. “It’ll be good! It’ll be great!” he’d read somewhere that positive self-affirmation was the key to success.
“Don’t you remember us?” he said. She looked back at him, and couldn’t conceal her longing for those “better days,” but to her, life was a chess board–not a gamble– and Connor was a walking casino.
“You shouldn’t be here,” she said, mystified by his presence and fearful of his intent. Looking at his puffy red face and matted hair, Ashley couldn’t help but pity the boy.
“Don’t you remember the good times?” Connor said, rebuffing her ‘flimsy’ assertion that he leave “Don’t you ever miss what we had?” Ashley remembered them all too vividly. The drugs, the fights, and the six-month prison sentence that began their downward spiral and led to the –once definitive– end of their relationship.
Ashley wiped a tear from her eye with the tip of her index finger–as not to ruin the makeup that she’d worked so tirelessly on–“I don’t want to talk about this Connor”– as the tears flowed from the curves of her cheek bones, and dripped onto her dress, she had to force herself to look away from him, “Please go.”
“I don’t think that’s what you really want,” Connor reached into his pants pocket and removed a small brown paper bag with a heart stenciled onto its’ face, “I don’t think that any of this is what you want,” he said calmly shaking his head and turning the bag upside down into his palm. “I know you, Ashley, ” Connor dropped to one knee and presented a ring to her with both hands wrapped around each side–there was no diamond, just gold initials that molded to read “A&C,” on the top.
Ashley covered her mouth with one hand–shocked; “You kept it!” she said, almost reaching out to grab it. She stopped herself mid-reach and pulled her arm back, barely noticing the droplets of mascara falling onto her white dress.
“Ashley,” he said, “I don’t know when you forgot how to fly, but I want to soar across the skies with you again. I promise that things will be different. Please just give us a chance.”
The church bells rang–to signal the beginning of the service. There were several knocks on the door of attendees, concerned that Ashley hadn’t come out of her room yet; she’d told them that she only needed a minute.
She helped him up from his knees. When he leaned in to kiss her, she placed her open palm over his face, and pushed him back “I didn’t forget how to fly, Connor. I just knew when it was time to land.” Connor’s mouth dropped open, his eyes widened, and then welled “You were perfect,” he said to himself as she picked up the bottom of her wedding gown–to allow for the quickest exit from the room, “I’m sorry, Connor.”
“You can run from me Ashley, but if you walk out of that door, there is no exit from what you’ve done. There is no more, high. All that will be left is what they’ve told you; what you think you have to do. You used to hate that.” Connor stared at the floor, with the ring dangling in his pendulum-like arm as it swung lightly back and forth.
Looking at Connor’s ripped dress shoes, pickling hands, and unwashed hair, Ashley opened the door–to the horror of the friends and family awaiting her outside, “We don’t do the same drugs anymore, Connor.”
She left the room as he stood motionless; anticipating the men that would be sent to remove him.