A Rental Car (Flash Fiction)

I saw you at the rental car desk, of all places. It was late on a Tuesday night, and you were leaving the airport as I was coming in. You looked tired, and I’m sure the bay area fog had something to do with it. You cut your hair and lost some weight. More than some, actually. To be completely honest, you looked great. Your makeup was clean, and the clothes you wore told me that you had a steady job. Maybe that’s why you were traveling. Maybe you were on your way to see somebody special as well. It could have been.

When I saw you, I have to admit, I hid. There was a small row of seats safely tucked away behind a pillar, and it was from there that I watched you. Your mannerisms were still the same, and they made me smile. The way you flicked your hair over your shoulder and impatiently looked side to side. Even your yawn, so wide and fierce, remained unchanged.

I watched, and I remembered. I was reminded of those black streaks of mascara that raged down your flush cheeks as I told you I no longer wanted you. Our final moment together was a tempest of emotion and confusion and hurt, where it was clearly decided that even friendship couldn’t be retained. I said I was being honest. You said I was being cruel. I remembered the sting in my heart as you begged to salvage something from our years of togetherness. I also remembered trying to not lose respect for you as you did it.

Forms slid across the desk and you signed them quickly. You rubbed at your eyes, now apparently corrected by contacts instead of those thick-framed lenses. The image of you taking those glasses off came to me then. When I asked you why you removed them, you screamed you didn’t want this to be how you last saw me. As the hours droned on and delicate patience faded into exhausted strain, you said that my true feelings began to emerge. You cried as you packed your things. You said the wasted years were my fault. You cursed me for stealing your innocence and youth and leaving you with nothing. You told me I was selfish. You promised I would never find happiness because I was the one who was broken.

But I did. And somehow, you did too.

You walked from that rental car desk with a strange confidence, something I never knew. I was happy to see that, and I wondered if it was my words that instilled it in you. As the years passed on, I hoped only the best for you. You were strong in your own way, when you wanted to be, and always such a thoughtful person. From where I sat, I could see the line of cars available and the one you selected. I watched you pass by a Lexus and BMW and get into a silver Ford. It was then that I noticed how modest you were in appearance. As you drove off into that late and foggy night, I felt the regret of not saying hello to you. Although, honestly, what could I possibly say?

I caught my flight and thought of our years together. The highs outnumbered the lows, and the smiles trumped our frowns. I felt a shame for not trying to maintain you as a friend, but it’s probably better this way. I also found myself wondering, who bought you that engagement ring?

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