Straightforward

(Forgive the formatting on this one. I should have done it all from Word, but I didn’t.)

By now, she thought he would have stopped talking to her. In truth, she wasn’t really sure if he was talking to her at all. He was writing sonnets for the newspaper, and she thought some of the details looked a little too familiar.  Christa had often written poems for the school newspaper, but, no matter who asked, she had never given insight to whom these poems were about. Some called her secretive, others creative for being so imaginative.

But now Frank was submitting poems to the paper, and they almost seemed to be in response to the original poems she had written. She tried to think it was coincidence, or maybe just as a device to propel his own writing, but some of his verses made her heart ache.

Christa re-read the last two lines of his latest poem, “Lady Misguided”, trying to keep herself from having an emotional reaction. The lump in her throat prompted her up to make another cup of tea.

Frank and Christa never dated, but sometimes she felt like they might as well have. They were partners in a creative writing workshop, and both had similar goals. They became fast friends, and she felt like she could trust him, easily. She was eager to show him what she had come up with, and he shared with her his ideas and encouraged her to continue writing.

“Don’t you think this is too explicit?” She asked one day.
“No. Risk is key to becoming a writer. You must expose everything.” Said Frank.
“I’m not so sure… this crowd is pretty conservative. It’s not like we’re writing for ourselves.”
“Writing should always be for yourself. Don’t shy away from shocking the audience. It will be good to shake things up. Forget pleasing them.”

She smiled, and shook her head, toying with her pen. She crossed out a few lines, and wrote a few more on her paper. He attended to his own writing, scribbling notes in the margins, and she watched him from the corner of her eye.
The class continued, and at the end, each student read what they had. Christa received great feedback for her poem, and she smiled at Frank who nodded and gave her a grin. When he read his out loud she felt as if she knew what he was trying to say, but no one else in the class seemed to.
“I don’t understand what this is about,” said the professor, simply. “There are so many abstract concepts, and I am only able to experience what the persona is conveying abstractly.”
“It’s still a work in progress. I wasn’t sure how to bring it out of abstractions.” Said Frank.
“Try to focus on the details, and bring us more into the experience,” the professor advised.

Frank gave a nod, and shrugged at Christa. She wasn’t sure what to say that hadn’t been already said, so she stayed quiet. After class was dismissed, he confronted her.
“Why didn’t you say anything about my poem?” He asked her.
Her eyes caught him, and she tried to hide any trace of guilt, but she couldn’t look away. “I just didn’t know what to say…” she confessed.
“Well, I suppose that’s that, then.” He said
“What’s what?”
“Nothing…” He said quickly, he jingled his car keys emphatically, “I have to go.”
She nodded, and watched as he walked to his car. Her own hands trembled. Was the poem about her? Why was he looking for response from her? Would he really be so bold as to admit his feelings for her in front of everybody?
The questions echoed in her head, intensifying the longer she thought about Frank and his poem. She walked out into the night air, her breath catching in her throat, making it almost impossible to swallow. Did she like Frank? The question seemed too daunting to think about.
Her indecision seemed to make the drive home turn into one of the longest ones she had ever taken. She hit every red light, and even stopped at a green light. When she stepped inside she was immediately greeted by her dog, a cold meal cooked by her fiancé, Mark who was nowhere to be seen, and the flickering of the television. She turned the TV off, and inspected the meal, which she picked at.
It wasn’t like she didn’t love Mark, but recently she had been feeling like they had been growing apart. Not to mention the frequency of random disappearances had left her feeling jilted.
She was thankful for the silence at this point. It allowed her to muse on the night and Frank’s poem. She decided at some point that she must be over thinking things, and it was obvious that the poem wasn’t about her. Besides, Frank was the kind of guy who hooked up with many different girls on campus, and getting strung out on this decision was ridiculous.
Still, as the weeks went on, and their relationship became more confusing, she questioned whether she had been right to wonder if the girl in his poem had been her. It didn’t help that her own feelings were becoming quite resolute in her own mind. She liked him, and had even admitted it when she thought he wasn’t listening. He was listening, but he hadn’t commented back.
Christa gave up on any notion that it might be more than just an inclination, and decided they were better being just friends. When the class ended, they promised to keep in touch, but he stopped texting after a few weeks. It was somewhat expected for her, so she decided to write about her feelings. Submitting the poems to the paper came later, after she had time to take out what she didn’t want read.
She gave six of her favorite poems which were received with enthusiasm. The newspaper published five of the poems she gave them, but the week she of her last submission there was a different poet featured, Frank.
Again the cyclic questions plagued her mind, and she read the poem several times, becoming no clearer in her mind. When the other poems were published, she tried not to believe that they were responses to her original entries.
She thought about texting him, but she decided that if he really had something to say he would say it. She didn’t tell her friends, save for Mark, who scoffed that she could ever be so conceited to think that any of his poems would be about her. Still, she wondered, and her curiosity eventually got the best of her.
Knowing he worked three miles from the University at the local library, she made a trip to see if she might gain clarity through observance. It was a long-shot, and she wasn’t sure if he was even working this day, but she headed to the library anyway.
It was quiet in the building, and she had to pocket her keys for fear that it might give her away. She wandered the bookshelves, giving each of the books a loving glance as she walked past. She turned the corner, and promptly turned back. He was organizing books in the children’s section, and she was lucky not to have been seen. Her heart hammered behind her ribs, and she felt the heat rising to her face.
She watched a few moments from between the shelves, pretending to be interested in the young adult genre. Grabbing a book at random, she pretended to leaf through the contents of this book until he moved towards the display of pop-up books and puzzles.
Perhaps she should just go, she didn’t really know what to say to him, and knew that simply observing him was not going to yield her any answers. Her legs tried to casually walk away, but seemed to stop short, and between her body and her mind she was torn with the idea of leaving.
Suddenly, there was a person clearing their throat, and she twisted around in panic. An elderly librarian excused herself, making her way past Christa towards Frank, who gave her the details on his progress with setting up the new displays.
She didn’t catch the first half of the conversation, but she caught enough to realize that he was explaining why he couldn’t stay past seven. He had a date to get to.
  Well that is that, then. Even if I wanted to confront him about his poems, he would still have that. She wondered if she might confront him anyway, but decided against it. Too much was at stake, and she had dated enough to know that she wasn’t about to jump without a branch to break her fall. With this in mind, she headed to the exit, when another librarian stopped her.

“Did you want to check that out?” She asked, indicating to the book in Christa’s arms. Christa nodded, glancing back to make sure that Frank still hadn’t seen her. She headed toward the desk after the librarian.
The librarian clicked the keys of her computer, glancing at the spine of the boom, and the checking the inside of the jacket. After a few minutes of typing, the librarian frowned.
“Give me just one moment.” She said, and excused herself, walking towards the back of the library. In the back Christa’s she thought about leaving without the book. Frank’s appearance made her sure she should have listened to her own intuition.
“Hey!” He said, smiling from ear to ear. “How have you been?”
“Oh. You know. It’s been pretty good, just busy.”
He nodded, still smiling, “Right, right. Yeah, same here.”
“Well, good.”
“So, are you still writing?” He tapped on the keyboard, checking the book as the previous librarian had. He seemed to be having more luck than she had.
“Oh yeah! I had a couple of poems published by the newspaper. You?”
He stared at her a moment, his own smile diminishing slightly, “Yeah! I saw those. Inspired me to put mine in too.”
“Yeah! I saw that you had one published last week.”
His smile appeared again, and her eyes met his for a long moment of silence.
“I did. Did you enjoy it?”
“Thoroughly.”
“Well, I am glad.”
There was nothing she felt she could say without asking him what she had long suspected. Part of her wanted to break the polite tension, and ask him,
but the other part seemed to kill every question on her tongue.
He finished checking her out, and wished her a good evening. Her hands trembled as she reached for the book.
“It was… it was really great seeing you, Frank.” She said.
“Yeah. We should meet for coffee or something sometime. We could discuss poetry, or just hang out.”
“That sounds great, Frank.” She said, tucking her book into her bag. “Just text me when, or whatever.”
He snickered and waved her on. “Will do, sweetie.” She paused, suddenly wondering if the term of affection was just part of how he spoke to women, or if he had intended to get her attention. He stayed behind the desk, watching her.
“Well, I gotta go. Lots of stuff to do.” She said. Her own mind screamed at the automated farewell, and she moved clumsily out of the doors, feeling stupid and much more confused than she ever had.

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