I can’t stop myself. I can’t just sit here. I reach forward.

‘No!’ A harsh voice from somewhere behind me.

‘She needs to hear from you, she’s waiting!’ A second, more rational voice. Turning around, the illusion is gone, merely a whisper from inside my mind. I’d tried to stop myself, but there she was, sitting on the desk in front of me. Of course, it wasn’t actually her, but it felt better to think that way. The phone virtually inserts itself into my hand, letting temptation overcome resistance. Inside, there she’s perched. Long dark hair waving in the wind, eyes blue, looking up into the abyss. Mary-Anne. Impossibly beautiful, her many photos glide seamlessly past waiting fingers. She’s all mine.

‘Is that a phone I see?’ queries a voice from behind, this time much more real. My body squirms in its seat.

‘I’m sorry, Sir’.

‘Get back to work.’ rumbles the stern voice.

‘Bollocks’, whispering under my breath. Crumpling back into the decrepit desk, another yellow paper document folder opens hastily in withered hands. Tension rises, the plastic ballpoint now cocked upwards. The photograph on the desk beside me, frame cracked from years of monotonous abuse. My late wife, Elizabeth, so alone now. Should I still be mourning, be feeling something inside? Grieve when there are no feelings of sorrow? My family resents it. ‘You’re emotionless’, they’d say. ‘No wonder she died on you, you’re so dull.’ But they’re right, I didn’t deserve her. Now she’s gone. Feelings of woe hindered by the hope of something new, something more, Mary-Anne. But is it too soon? The weeks since, feel like years, but still I’m eaten away inside. Is it wrong to seek someone new? Is it wrong to desire something more, someone, to fill that gap inside? It just shows, really, that our time together was coming to a close. Even if Elizabeth was still here, how long would we have lasted, could my faith have held itself together? Hearing a smash, I look to find the old photo frame on the floor, fallen for its last time. Shards of glass pierce through leathery feet, as I try to make my way past the sprawled mess. I wave over the cleaner.

‘It fell, clean it up’, I spit. ‘Thanks’ my mouth mutters, not wanting to seem too needy. Packing up the aged briefcase, black leather boots guide me towards the exit. I wouldn’t have dared pick up the photo of Elizabeth from beneath the wreck. She had made her decision to fall from that desk and I’m not going to bring her back to life just to see her there, smashed, again tomorrow. I shouldn’t be angry, but the broken photo frame triggered some kind of nerve inside me, one that had never existed before.

‘It’s just a photo’, trying to reassure myself. ‘It doesn’t mean anything’. My hand forcefully attempts to push open the door which most obviously reads ‘Pull’ atop the handle. Elizabeth made a choice. She left me in this world and now I’m leaving her.

I’m back at home now, officially ‘sick’. Tight jean pockets swallow a tense hand, attempting to slide out my phone. ‘Hey, how’s your day going?’ reads my text. Your standard conversation starter, nothing substantial. Exactly thirty-nine seconds pass between the time the phone is back in pocket and when the subtle vibration from it’s haptic motor shocks me through. I’m counting, you see. The sooner her reply, the greater her attraction, or so they say. Thirty-nine seconds is impressive, though. Just 4 hours less than a typical Elizabeth. Even then all I’d receive was an ‘ok’. Although not a techie like myself, she rarely carried her phone.

A hazy screen flickers to life, Mary-Anne’s message sprouting to life in front of desperate eyes.

‘I’m great, had an awesome day.’ She replies. Simple words, yet elegant and contrived. Eyes closing, the image of her thin red lips forming the words fills my view. So perfect, so fitting, as if made just for me. It’s been so long, soon we must meet, see each other, really, for the first time. A single index finger slides itself down the smooth aluminium bezel of the side of my new phone. Dashing about the glass screen, the finger somehow assembles a message: ‘It’s time, I want to meet you’. Send. Wait. Count. But something’s wrong. 5 minutes pass and the counting fades to inexistence. Shouldn’t a reply have come through by now? A carefully planned text or anticipation to disappoint? A rush of delight flushes through me as that iconic vibration makes itself known once more. Eyes dart to the screen, reading her message.

‘I…’, it reads. ‘I’m sorry.’ comes through a few seconds later. Before what was said could be fathomed, my face is met with a screen of sheer repulsion. She had blocked me.

Phone slipping out from under my grip; the reality of what has just happened now truly sets in. She had led me through her maze just to tear me from it. Was she even real? Head spinning, the warm embrace of the lounger engulfs me from below. What went so wrong? Along the stale black cushion, bumps and ridges feel somehow much more prominent. It was me who had capitulated. Letting her suck me in and tail me away from it all, from reality. The cushion shrivels in my grasp. If Elizabeth saw me now, how she would be ashamed. My congestion of emotion, neglected in replacement for this delusion that I somehow believed was real. Grievances left unfinished, I’d moved on too soon. Simply a distraction, masking layers of unaccepted grief. Of course I was wrong to seek someone new. This hole inside, dug by her death, can only be repaired over time. Who was I to think Mary-Anne could fill it? For only once that gap has been fully mended, no matter how long that may take, could I truly move on.

 

Author’s Purpose:

 

I created this piece to portray how people are affected by grief in different ways, and how they choose to deal with grief. In this story, the man chooses to deal with his grief by searching for someone else, which is often not the best way to deal with grief. When the man in this story loses his wife, he feels as though he needs someone else to fill the gap that was left by her death, and then when he realizes he was catfished, and she was not even real, his true feelings of grief finally surface and he becomes aware of how he has wronged. In life, often it is much better to actually deal with grief, rather than find something else to distract you from it, to smother it. Because eventually, you will have to deal with that grief, and delaying the inevitable can have adverse effects.

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