Damon decided to make more of an effort to get out of the house. People in the city were forgetting about him, and that was the last thing he wanted. As an artist part of what kept his business afloat was the buzz he created around his projects. With no buzz, he didn’t sell much of anything. He couldn’t afford to live the life of a hermit any longer. He needed to get out and be seen.
Damon spent the whole day out, meeting with buyers and gallery owners. Though he wasn’t ready to move on, he knew he had to. A life stuck in the muck of depression was not a life that he wanted to live. He had to pull himself out of this funk and move on. Instead of going home after his busy day, Damon ate dinner in a restaurant where he happened to spot some old friends.
“Damon,” Colin said, standing up from his seat when he saw Damon following the hostess to a table. “Come eat with us.”
The invitation happened so quickly that he hardly had time to think. Colin was an old buddy from high school that he hadn’t seen in years. Damon didn’t particularly like eating in restaurants alone, so he accepted the invitation.
“This is my wife, Chloe.” Colin motioned to the mousy woman sitting across from him. She bowed her head slightly before lifting her gaze to Damon’s.
“Nice to meet you.” Damon pulled out the extra chair at their table and took a seat. “When did you get married?”
“It’s been a few months.” Colin took a sip of his drink. “It was fast, but when you know, you just know.”
“I was shocked when he popped the question. We’d only been dating for three weeks.” Her eyes brown eyes sparkled when she spoke.
“Everybody thought we were crazy.”
“They still do,” Colin said. They looked at each other for a moment, and Damon felt like he was witnessing something he shouldn’t. Colin turned his attention back to Damon. “I knew as soon as I met her that we’d get married. I figured why waste time pretending that wasn’t true. It was hard enough for me to wait three weeks. I could’ve asked her on our first date.”
She giggled. “I would’ve said no.”
“That’s why I didn’t.” He looked at her again and smiled softly. “I had to do something though.”
“He wasn’t messing around. You started texting me right away, not like other guys who let you wait and wonder.”
“I couldn’t risk it. I didn’t want to screw it up before it even started.”
The way they bantered back and forth about their relationship uncovered the melancholy in Damon that he’d spent the day trying to bury. He listened attentively and tried his best to show them how happy he was for them. He was, but he also felt the claws of jealousy taking hold. He didn’t tell them about his recent romantic problems. He didn’t want to burden them with his woes. Instead, they talked about old times and work. Colin enthused about the joys of married life. “When you find the right one don’t hesitate,” Colin said. “It will be the best decision you ever make.”
“But what if she had rejected you? What if she didn’t love you like you loved her or she wasn’t ready yet?” Damon asked, thinking about Lisa.
“I would’ve been devastated, but that’s a chance I was willing to take.”
“You don’t know if you don’t try,” Chloe said. “Look at us now. I’m glad he asked, and I’m glad I said yes despite what my family and friends thought. Life has been amazing since, but everyone keeps telling me that’s because we’re still in the honeymoon stage.”
“Our whole marriage will be the honeymoon stage,” Colin said.
Both Chloe and Colin worked as high school teachers. He taught English, and she taught algebra. That’s where they met. The three of them talked about education and art and the state of the world today. Dinner flew by and Damon was glad he’d bumped into them. Once his jealousy subsided, Chloe and Colin’s relationship gave him hope. He took a chance with Lisa. It didn’t work out the way he wanted, but that didn’t mean that it never would.
They stood outside of the restaurant. Tiny lights sparkled in the trees in the park across the street. “We’re going to a poetry reading at the Starlight Cafe. Do you want to come with us?” Chloe said. “It’s an open mic night, but some of the poets are really good.”
Colin laughed. “Others need a lot of work.” He shook his head. “That’s probably the English teacher in me, but I can’t believe some of the stuff people will get up and read.”
“I like it there. It’s a good atmosphere, and we always meet interesting people,” Chloe said.
Damon had been out all day and was running out of steam. He pulled his phone from his pocket and checked the time.
“Come on,” Colin said. “She takes it too seriously. I need someone else there with a sense of humor.” He nudged Chloe.
She smacked his arm. “You’re too mean. I think most of the people who read there are good.”
“The only good one is the owner,” Colin said.
“Speaking of which, we should get going. It’s already starting, and she always reads first.” Chloe started walking up the sidewalk.
“You coming?” Colin asked.
Damon didn’t feel much like painting tonight. If he went home, he’d end up wasting time watching internet videos. There was nothing for him to get home to. “Sure.” He followed after them.
He hadn’t been to the Starlight Cafe in ages, not since he saw Lisa there when she was on vacation. The place reminded him too much of her. He thought about bailing out on the reading altogether at the last minute, but instead took a deep breath and went inside. The coffee shop was bursting at the seams with people. Every table was taken, and people leaned against the walls at the back of the shop.
“We’re too late to get a seat,” Colin whispered to Chloe who immediately shushed him and pointed to the stage.
A voice rose into the air. “Welcome out.”
Damon knew it before he looked up. As he looked over the sea of heads he couldn’t believe what he saw, Lisa standing at the front of the room with a microphone. Her hair was short now; the curls cropped closely to her head in a fade. She wore her standard all black, and her face seemed to glow. “We’re a little late getting started, so I’ll skip the announcements and get right into things. If you want to read the sign-up sheet is at the back of the room.”
“Is that the owner?” he whispered to Colin who nodded to respond.
It didn’t seem possible. How long had Lisa owned the Starlight Cafe? Had she and Richard decided to move back to St. Pete or had they broken up? He was so full of questions and feelings that he wanted to rush up to the stage and demand answers.
“I usually start us out with something I’ve been working on. Today I have a poem that I wrote late last night, so it’s still rough. It’s about regret. We all have it, but sometimes it can start to take over your life. I have a ton of regrets, and there is one that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I wonder how my life would be different now if I’d made another choice. I’m sure some of you know what I mean.” She looked down at the piece of paper in her hand. “I should stop explaining and just read, right?”
A smattering of applause rippled through the audience. She was actually reading her work aloud before a group, something he’d encouraged her to do from the start. He knew she could command an audience.
“I haven’t named this one yet. I’m willing to take suggestions if any of you can come up with a title.”
When I left you
You could not see my eyes
Rimmed in red
Distance can hide anguish
Voices can bury hurt in words left unsaid
I thought I knew the truth then
A truth too difficult for you to see
For your visions blinded you
Wrapping you in a fog of dreams
I am no visionary
Small and simple
Vast and magical
We did not fit
So I let you go
Filling my pain with mistakes from my past
Thinking it was for the best
I was wrong
My bruised heart longs to undo my mistakes
My sleep dampened by tears of regret
Hoping for you
But you are sharing your visions with another
And I am here
My world a little bigger
Reaching for visions of my own
Wishing I could share them with you
Damon’s heart thumped with joy at the realization that she was thinking about him too. All this time she looked to their relationship as something good that she wanted to go back to. She wanted him now as much as he wanted her.
When she turned the microphone over to the next poet, she sat in an empty chair near the front. Damon stood against the back wall watching her as the other people read. He didn’t know if any of the other poets were good. Their words floated over him like a fog. He was enveloped in the wonder that Lisa had become. She always said that he painted her better than she really was. That was because he saw the woman she could be in her eyes. The business owner who writes poetry that makes people feel. The confident woman who can stand in front of a crowd and bare her heart.
He didn’t know if she noticed him in the back of the room as she read her poem. If she had, she didn’t let on. When the reading was over, he squeezed through the crowd to see her, anticipating what she might say when she discovered that he was there, that he missed her too, that he thought they deserved another chance. She was at the front of the room surrounded by admirers, but she noticed him before he reached her. She politely excused herself from her conversation and started walking toward him. A smile played across her face. It was like they’d never been apart. It was like it was always supposed to be.