Texas girl in the middle of Kiwiana

Amy Boatman

I Saw You Today

A short story about a chance encounter that brings back painful memories.

I saw you today. You were in front of me in the check-out line. At first, I didn't even know you were there. I was too busy looking at the hangover remedies and stop smoking kits and low carb candy bars that they have displayed right by the cashier. Impulse items they're called. We humans are so predictable. We go into a store for three items and come out with ten. That's how they take our money, little by little so we don't notice.

Just like I didn't notice you standing in front of me at the checkout. How I could have missed your blonde hair and your long runner's legs, I'll never know. My nose was a little stopped up so that's why I didn't smell you right away. That wonderful unknown fragrance that has always meant you to me. They say smell is the strongest memory sense. I certainly can believe that. My grandmother used to use this foul concoction aptly named stinkbait when she went fishing. It smelled like a mixture of skunk, dead fish, and rotten eggs. To this day, when I smell anything even remotely like that I am 6 years old again, enduring things at my grandmother's hands that no six year old should ever have to endure.

But you know all about that. You know everything there is to know about me. You knew things about me before I had even figured them out. You walked with me down some really dark and scary alleys. You held my hand as I relived things I forgot had even happened thirty years ago. I had spent the last few decades taking as many drugs and drinking as much booze and screwing as many people as I could to blot out any of my past life. Whatever it took to forget, that's what I did. Once all the substances were cleared out of my system, my past hit me like a freight train. I thought it would kill me or that I would kill myself to make it stop but you were always there, always holding my hand, always telling me "this too shall pass". I really hated it when you said that. It drove me nuts because I felt like this would never pass! That I would hurt like this forever and what the hell was the point of giving up the drugs and the booze when reality sucked this bad! You were always patient, you were always kind, and you were always right. It did pass. The pain passed, the memories dimmed, my life started going forward. I saw the blue sky and the sun on the horizon for the first time since I was a little bitty girl.

And there you were, still with me, still holding my hand, still guiding me along. For the first time in my life, I trusted in someone totally. I put my heart, my soul, my life in your hands. I thought it was safe to finally let go and trust. And then you were gone. You put me out of your office, out of your life like I was yesterday's garbage. You turned your back to me and just like that, you were gone. And you took my heart and my soul with you. Not since I was a child had I felt so betrayed. But I picked myself up and brushed myself off and vowed that nothing was going to turn me back into the person that I had been. I had come so far, not even you would drive me back into that pit of drugs and cutting and self-degradation. Not even you.

You see, I had learned a lot about myself on our road together. I had learned that I could make it through the withdrawals, through the night sweats and the nightmares and the long nights where sleep eluded me. I had learned that I was not six years old anymore. Nobody could do anything to me that I did not allow. Never again would I be somebody else's victim.

I still ached for you. I still thought about you all the time. I still wrote you emails that I didn't send. I wondered if you ever thought of me. If you even cared about what happened to me after you left. I wondered about what had happened to you that would make you react so to me. What was it that drove you away? My whole life I had accepted blame for everybody else. It was my fault my father left us. It was my fault my mother's boyfriend raped me. It was my fault my grandmother treated me so badly. Everything was my fault. Well, not anymore. My father left because he was an immature alcoholic who couldn't deal with the imperfections of life. My mother's boyfriend raped me because he was a sick bastard who should have been put down as a child. My grandmother mistreated me because she was a miserable old woman who hated herself and took it out on me. None of that was my fault. I don't have that kind of power. You taught me that. And whatever happened to you, whatever reaction you had with me, wasn't my fault either. So, over the last few months I had been putting my life back together, getting stronger everyday. And then I saw you today. And damn if that didn't take all the wind out of my sails. I was too shocked to speak to you. What would I have even said? Too much to cram into a 10 second encounter. I will never allow anyone the kind of power over me I allowed you. It just hurt too much when you left. And, after all, everyone leaves eventually.