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The Tears of Cassiel Alvarado
I fell in love with her the first time our hands touched. We were in the elevator, and we had never said a word to each other, though I had watched her from the corner of my eye, unsure if she was true or not. When our hands brushed, I knew.
We started to talk, first in the nights, and then I became so obsessed that I knew we needed to spend every waking moment together. I started to talk to her during the day, always waiting for the time when we were close enough to be able to kiss.
The day came one night, as I lay in my bed thinking about her. We were holding hands, not a word leaving our lips, but our strong, beating hearts giving away our feelings. We leaned over at the same time, me to the right and her to the left, and our lips touched gently.
I didn’t have a job, so I was never able to please her with expensive gifts. She never seemed to mind, however. It was as if all she wanted was me, and that was enough.
I longed to get her a ring and ask for her hand, so I managed to get a job as a janitor at a nearby public elementary school. We would walk to work together, since she was a teacher there. I often waved to her when I saw her in school.
After several months, I had the money saved up, and I walked to the jewelry store right down the road from our apartment, doing it at a time of day I knew she wouldn’t walk by so that the surprise wouldn’t be ruined.
I bought a one-karat ring with the six hundred dollars I had saved up. By this time, I knew I was broke. But it was for her, for the woman I loved. She couldn’t say no.
There was a skip in my step as I walked back to the apartment building, and I noticed for the first time that all the windows were always shut, with the curtains drawn, bringing a sort of grey shade to the complex. It was always so empty, where I lived, and would be more so without her.
She lived in apartment 10C, the largest one in the entire building. Always, I had envied her for it, until I had met her. And she deserved it.
I rode the elevator up to the tenth floor. I had it all planned out. The ring was in my coat pocket and I would hand her my coat. Then, I would tell her she had left something of hers in my apartment the day before and it was in my coat pocket. She would open it. She would see the ring. I would go down on one knee and ask. She would say yes.
My hands were shaking when I knocked on her door and waited.
It was open a second later and an old couple greeted me. For a second, I thought these were her parents. “Hello,” I said. I wanted to greet them, but I realized I didn’t know her last name. “I’m looking for Cheryl.”
The old couple looked at each other and the man said, “I’m sorry, but you’ve come to the wrong apartment.”
“No,” I told them. Didn’t they understand? “This is 10C. Cheryl lives here.” They still had those blank looks on their faces. I could feel myself getting angry. “Why have you taken her house? Who are you?”
The man went on, “Yes, I think I do remember a Cheryl. But she doesn’t live here anymore. She passed away a year ago.”
I stared at the couple, shocked. My eyes watered, but no tears would fall. I wouldn’t believe it. This fantasy couldn’t just end. I still had to give her the ring. She still had to say yes.
I pushed past the couple and ran through the door to her bedroom. Then I knelt down and took out the ring, asking, again and again, “Marry me? Please, marry me? I love you so much. Please.” But I got no answer, because there was nobody there.
I dropped the ring onto the bed and ran back out. I needed to leave. This apartment brought too many memories. I could see her in every corner, but it was her face with blood gushing out her eyes and mouth. Her face stabbed or shot. Not angelic like I remembered it.
She couldn’t be dead. This woman whose earring had fallen, and I had stooped to pick up, placing it in her hand and making contact for the first time. This woman who I had dreamed about every night, our conversations something precious to me. This woman I had even begun to daydream about, what with the happiness she made me feel.
This woman I had kissed one night while I lay on my bed, eyes closed.
I had got that job at the school for her, and had walked there every morning, always seeing her shadow across the street. Whenever she had class, I would wait around for her so that we could have a cup of coffee at lunch.
The tears now ran freely down my face. A wasted year was all it was. Had it really been worth it, in the end? Where was she now? I would never see her beautiful smile and her sea blue eyes. Never again would I be able to stroke that smooth auburn hair.
I entered my apartment in a sort of daze and headed straight to the room I never entered. It was the office, and in it held things I had tried to forget, memories that burned too brightly now to ignore.
The newspaper was still there, as I had left it the year before. And there she was, her smiling face jolting my heart. We had never had a chance, when she’d died the day I found my love for her. She drove me mad.
October 10, 2010: the day of her death.
I would give anything to go back to that day, to tell myself to have the courage to take her out for a cup of coffee. I could have prevented her from crossing the street, because the coffee place didn’t require our crossing. But she had done just that. She had crossed to the other side, and never made it back.
I imagined our life together, and how happy we could have been. I pined over her still.
A teardrop fell on the newspaper, then another and another, raining on her face and the words of death.
I hadn’t cried in a year. I hadn’t thought I would ever have to. There was no more point in denial.
I could join her.
The thought made me stop crying. A local elementary school teacher crosses the road without care and gets hit by a car. Dies immediately. I could imagine what the news would say about me. A local elementary school janitor crosses the road without care and gets hit by a car. Dies immediately.
I would join her.
Before I knew it, I was out the door and out of the building. I put my hands in my pockets to keep out the chill. A newspaper stand showed the date: October 10, 2011. Exactly one year. It was our anniversary. We would see each other again.
I looked to my left, where a stream of cars waited for the light to turn green, as I waited for the light to turn green. When the cars took off, I would be in their midst, and the green and red combined would signal a death.
Final pedestrians crossed the street in a hurry and the traffic light turned green as the last touched the pavement on the other side of the road. Cars headed this way.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw auburn hair. I hesitated, but that wasn’t her. She was dead. Plenty of women had auburn hair.
I looked to my right, where the woman was, and I saw she meant to cross the street. Had she the same idea as me? Did she really want to die on this day? My eyes widened as she neared the middle of the street, unaware of the danger she was in.
I ran to her, grabbed her arm, and pulled her back just as a car whizzed past. She gasped, looking frightened as hell. She had a hand to her chest, and seemed about to faint.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She was panting, trying to regain her breath. We walked back to the pavement together. She said, “You saved me. I… I mean, I was so distracted. I didn’t even bother to look at the signs. But you saved me.” She looked up, like I was a guardian angel of something. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Cassiel.” It had been a long time since I’d said that. “And yours?”
The woman smiled. “I’m Hope.”
I shook the woman’s hand and told her I’d see her another day, when, perhaps, she needed saving again. She laughed and started walking backwards, looking at me, saying she might purposely put herself in danger just so I would show up.
I could have mentioned it, I thought, as I walked back to the apartment building. I could have said that I hadn’t saved Hope, not really, because, without her, I would have been dead.
Hope saved me.