Tristan passed the park on his way to meet Kadwalloper at Tony’s Deli, a secret sandwich shop down the street from Quinn’s bookstore with the most delicious philly sandwich in town. He looked across the playground but saw no familiar faces from the other day. He checked his watch to see if he would have enough time to introduce this new group of kids to his story. Time wouldn’t allow it. At his current pace, he’d barely make it to the deli five minutes early, and Tristan always made it a point to be five minutes early to appointments. Besides, these kids seemed to be too young. He didn’t have much experience gauging the age of young children, but he knew well enough when he saw pacifiers in their mouths. So, he continued walking, wandering down the same path where he ran into Emily and Brock, that horrid encounter causing him to meet with Kadwalloper now.
Tristan attempted to block the fresh memory from entering his mind. He was only partially successful because Emily was always on his mind. Emily, at this point, was only an idea, a phantom. He didn’t know the actual person anymore. On a biological level, Tristan had read that the human body replaced all its cells in 5-7 years. So quite literally, Emily was not the girl he had first met anymore. Now, she was already just a shade of the girl who left him. Tristan thought about this emotional connection he once shared with Emily like it was something they could pick up right where they left off. Except, he didn’t feel connected with another human anymore. He didn’t even miss her anymore, just the memory of her, the her who loved him back. Even if he could get the real Emily back, would it be the same? Could I really get her back?
But, she couldn’t have changed that much since they separated. She still loved his writing. Didn’t she? He let a different memory, a happy memory, of Emily seep into his mind. She had just finished reading the short story that would eventually become his book.
“This was so good honey.” Emily smiled, setting the laptop down to face Tristan. They sat up in bed together. Tristan watched Emily’s eyes move across the screen, absorbing his words, playing the scene out in that beautiful, smart head of hers, a head covered in bouncy red curls smelling of freshly-cut spring flowers with a hint of melon.
Tristan refocused his attention. “You think so? What about the part with Evie? Did that work?” Tristan asked, looking for further critique.
“Aww, that part’s so sad.” Emily responded with a pouty lip. “You really need to write this. Like flesh it out.” Emily’s eyes grew. Tristan could tell she had formed a winning idea. “This should be your story. You know, you said you wanted to write something longer. This is it!”
Tristan took Emily’s face in his hands, pulled it towards her, and kissed her lips with a smack. Pop! He pulled her face away from his again and spoke, “I love you…but, really, when do you think I can find the time to do that? Between work and spending time with you, I was staying up until two in the morning just to get this done. Let alone a whole book.”
With another flash of brilliance, Emily quickly replied, “Well hey, while I watch my show, you can write. You don’t have to watch it with me anymore. That can be your writing time.”
Tristan shrugged back holding the stance as his eyes drifted up and his mind thought about the possibilities.
“Only one thing.” Emily added, “You have to dedicate it to me, of course.”
“I’ll do it.” Tristan said looking back at Emily. “I’ll do it for you. I’ll do it for Hauro.” He paused to let the idea form into words he could utter in confidence, “I’m going to write a flippin’ book!”
Tristan leaped off the bed and started dancing and repeating in sing-song, “I’m gonna do it” repeatedly. Emily laughed and pretended to cover her eyes at the half-naked body writhing around in front of her.
Then the memory became blurry and stopped like a projector running out of film. Tristan observed his surroundings again. He was still walking in the park. Walking to the café. Walking to Kadwalloper. Walking to do whatever it takes.
That’s what kept him going when it got hard. He wanted to craft the best story he could for her. That why Tristan saw the arguments and the fights and the eating alone and the late nights of writing as necessary evils. Whatever it takes, he would think when Emily got so frustrated at his incessant need to write. He knew she would forgive him in the end. Once she saw what he had crafted.
Then she left him. She was gone. And for a while, he didn’t know why he was writing it anymore. Without her encouragement and the certainty that he would be able to share this story with her, Tristan almost gave up. He was ready to. It would have been easy. But Quinn would not let him.
“You can’t just quit. You cannot throw away months and months of progress. This is good stuff Tristan.” Quinn protested as she and Tristan sat on his bed, the same bed Tristan leapt from to do his happy-dance at the conception of his project, now, his place of refuge from the harsh realities of the recent events.
“Don’t let the witch take this away from you too,” Quinn continued.
Tristan winced at witch but showed no signs of response. He mustered up enough energy to call Quinn over and tell her what happened just a couple hours ago. Quinn stopped talking. She held him the rest of the night as they fell asleep in silence.
After a week of minimal verbal exchange and a plethora of non-verbal understanding, Quinn came to Tristan with a new approach of convincing him to continue the book.
“Hey you. Listen up. You want to know why you should finish your book?” Quinn proposed by grabbing Tristan’s hands and looking into his eyes. “Because then, you will have a book. Duh right? But hear me out. You will have your very own published book. A published book that will be in at least one bookstore.” She paused to give him a dramatic wink. “And one day, witch” Quinn had resigned to calling Emily nothing but witch that entire week. Tristan heard her, but made no acknowledgement either way. “One day, she’ll be passing a bookstore and see your book! She’d have to stop whatever errand she was doing and go in the store. Picking up the book in her hands and feeling the smooth book-jacket with the bumpy, beveled lettering of your name between her fingers, she won’t believe it until she turns the book over. On the back side of the jacket, she’ll see it, your picture in black and white. She’d sit on her couch and slowly open the front cover of the book for the first time. A tear would form when she read that he had dedicated the book to: EM- I Love You. She would read the book cover to cover that night and fall asleep knowing that she lost you and the book forever. Bam! What do you think?”
Tristan chuckled and said something in agreement, but his mind floated off and thought about his own scenario. After finishing the book, Emily would simply call Tristan, explain her admiration for the story, express her deep regret, and rekindle their relationship. Everything would go back to normal. That’s what he knew. That’s what kept him going. Until yesterday in the park. Until his idea of Emily was shattered by the cruel hand of reality.
The reality was that no matter what Tristan did, Emily was different. She and this Brock guy were engaged. They were connected now. He knew how deep those ties run. He was in the deep once. He saw what can run the ship aground. How could he do the same to Emily and Brock? How could he lead her, this new her, back to old Tristan?
He hadn’t changed at all, had he? He watched Emily change. Her love and shared passion in his writing grew into resentment and a need to leave and seek something satisfying to fill the hole Tristan bore. Now she was happy with the Brock guy.
Even Quinn changed. He watched Quinn return from a life-altering altercation and raise up something new and meaningful for herself with the bookstore. But Tristan’s writing was a period for what type of growth? Getting the story out was important. He knew he wanted to share his story with the world. Ha. The world? Tristan didn’t even have two friends. Tristan didn’t have anyone now. Except Kadwalloper.
Kadwalloper said things could be fixed, when Tristan was at his lowest point, he would turn to anything to make it right. That’s why Tristan called him. That’s way he made this lunch appointment. Tristan was at his lowest, loneliest point when he reached Tony’s Deli and saw Kadwalloper walking from the other direction. I’m ready, Tristan thought, whatever it takes.