He approaches me at a bus stop two days before Christmas and hands me a red envelope.
“Open it,” he says. I put the cigarette I’ve been smoking between my lips and open the card. It’s a Christmas card. It plays Jingle Bells. I remove the cigarette from my mouth and look up. “It was supposed to be for my buddy in prison, but I saw you looking sad, so now it’s for you. I’ll get him a different one at the kiosk. Where are you going tonight?” I tell him and gently place the folded card inside of my purse. “Ah, I know that area. Right on. Manny Ray lives around there. You know Manny Ray? The boxer? He’s my buddy, we used to box together. See my knuckles? Yea, I was pretty good, but never as good as Manny. He’s a good guy, takes care of his friends. We’ll go on the same bus. I gotta see my buddy before I go. You see, I’m going to kill myself tonight.” The bus comes and we get on in the front. “My mother’s in a coma, dying, and the love of my life is dead and I’m going to kill myself tonight. I’m gonna pay back my buddy and then I’m gonna do it. Don’t try to talk me out of it either, cause my mind’s made up.” He says this to me, but loud enough for the whole bus to hear.
“I won’t. I wouldn’t know what to say.”
“Good. I like you. But we won’t be friends. See that building? That new Opera building? I worked construction on that thing. It’s a beautiful building. Might be the one. But I’m not going to tell you. So you don’t try and stop me. I worked construction all summer, I know every new building in this city. Look for me in papers, but don’t think you can talk me out of it.”
“I already told you, I won’t.”
“Anyway, why are you so sad? Is it a ‘cause of a boy? Let me tell you something, boys are assholes. They don’t mean it, but they are. I was an asshole and now the woman that I love is dead. And I don’t wanna live without her, thinking about what an asshole I’ve been. Do you know how it feels to love someone so much that you’re willing to die?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Does he know what a lucky bastard he is to have you love him like that?”
“No, he probably doesn’t.”
“Well, he should. That kinda love is hard to come by. Hold on to it.”
He gets off at the next stop and I think about how selfish love is. And how I have just confessed mine to a bus full of people instead of you. Next day, I think about checking the papers, but I open a bottle of whisky and watch old boxing videos instead.
Ewa Blecharczyk is a Polish-born, California-raised writer and translator currently chasing dreams in Chicago. She has spent the last four years studying politics and considers not having become cynical in the process as her biggest success. You can find her on Facebook, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org