"Have you seen him?"
No answer. The attempt was purely experimental. There was no one there. She expected no reply. There was just the trees and an eerie sense of something she couldn't quite put into words.
It wasn't what she expected, but she really never expected anything at all. Here she was. Alone in the woods. The sun was shining the way it often did at the beginning of the best of days. It was like the kind of dawn one wakes up inexplicably early to witness, having no other reason for being up at such an hour. She remembered the early mornings of such days.
Maybe this was the way it was supposed to be. She would exist forever alone, remembering always the circumstances that brought her to this point. Alone was not what she anticipated, but then again she never really anticipated anything at all.
"He was right. Are you here?"
There was no answer. Not even something vaguely metaphoric like a breeze or movement in the trees. Everything stayed the same.
She kept walking, through the woods, past trees that despite being different all seemed very much the same. Maybe she was waiting for something, but she just didn't know. Maybe she could hope for something, but she'd never really hoped for anything before.
She smiled. Maybe this was how it was supposed to be.
Waiting. Passing by the same storefronts, she wondered to herself, how could something so simple have eluded her. How could she not have seen then what she saw now? That was simple as well. She had been blind to the obvious, with her insecurities under a microscope and her fears heightened by his promises. She had lost many things over the course of her life. Those things that meant the most hurt the most when they were gone. It was as it is and always is. Sometimes we run away from the things we truly want in life because we know already how much it would hurt if we lost them, and perhaps even more if they turned out not to be what we expected them to be.
No expectations. That was part of his promise. She didn't believe him. He walked through a room like he'd walked through it a million times, even if it was somewhere he'd never been before. He saw time and space from a different frame of reference. The world looked different to him. Often she wondered how it all looked to him, how she had looked to him, and if maybe everything he said was really true. It couldn't be. Nothing like that could exist in this place. Everything ended. Everything crashed and burned. As it was it would always be. World without end.
Another drink at the bar. These things always went too far. Always one more drink, always one more smile at that random stranger that wasn't anyone she wanted to know. There had always been only one random stranger she wanted to know, but that was too dangerous. It tested the limits. It was better as a dream than it ever could have been as reality. This much she was sure of. She just wished she didn't still dream that dream. It made it harder to accept the banal.
She was ready now, she told herself as she passed the neon lights of yesterday's news. Flickering blue lights of a limited imagination, someone else's limited imagination, and they reminded her that nothing was the way it used to be. There was an emptiness and she knew what she had done. She feared losing what she refused to accept and by not accepting it she lost it anyway. What was she now, a footnote in a book no one ever read?
"Have you seen him?"
The blue lights flickered and burned, but they did not answer her. She walked on, thinking out loud and not in the least bit concerned as to who might be listening.
"Hello? Are you out there somewhere? It's me..."
This was the realization. You can miss what you've never had if you can picture it in your mind, if you can feel it in your dreams, if you can taste it in the aftermath of a thunderstorm. There is no way to avoid the pain.
"He was right."
And then it all stopped.