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Crash Test Dummy

I took your picture when your guard was down. And then another immediately after. I kept them long after I should have. The two: one beautiful, at your unguarded best; the other awkward, embarrassed by the lens. I suspect you knew I was stealing something, that I should have asked permission. Theft in the guise of flattery. It was only today that I tore them up.
You told me about a town on the other side of the world. You were so far from home. You were suddenly, unexpectedly on your own. Everywhere was closed, you had no cash, with nowhere to stay and it was dark. You were astonished that you had allowed yourself to sleepwalk into this situation. You knocked on the door of a house in which you had earlier seen a woman. You told her your predicament. You surrendered yourself entirely to her and I could picture it so clearly. How you would have looked on that doorstep. Your eyes so honest, a blue encircled by white so bright, so clean. She took you in for the night, and I understood for the first time how that thread between women was woven. And I understood why you need us. And that's why I'm sorry I disappointed you. I failed you.
What was the name of that film we agreed to see? I mistranslated the French and you corrected me. You didn't make a song and dance about it but it stung. We never got to see the film. I'd still like to see it. I Imagine how we would have watched it together. How we would have sat together. What we would have learned about each other in the space between the silence of the auditorium and the world on the screen. Would I steal glances at you while you were absorbed in that world? Would you know? Where would we go when it had finished? Into those streets and bars and infinite possible futures. What excited words would we exchange?
I sat on the bench in the small park. You knew a nice place around here. You were late. I waited. The heat ran to cold in my heart as the hour passed. The morning sun had turned; the afternoon long, a listless descent. You didn't call. You said it was a shame we'd lost touch.
That time we talked about art and books and films and music. You dazzled me without trying. We should see that French film. "It's a date," you smiled. I couldn't tell if you meant it. Your friend looked uncomfortable. I drank too much that night and tried too hard.
I still beat myself up about it all, occasionally. But I've learned to forgive myself. That's something I didn't see coming. I didn't know I was allowed to forgive myself. I can't keep punishing myself for those missteps. We grow at our own pace, our emotions and our minds and our bodies at different speeds. That's how we're built. Flawed. But ready to learn. I accept that now. I wish things could have been different, but I can send a message back in time that it's ok. And I accept the apology returned. I forgive you.
You said I wasn't human enough. Well how much more human did you want? I'm not perfect but I'm not faulty. But you traded me in. And now it's time for the wipe. Goodbye. I hope you find what you want.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, September 24th, 2020
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