Write On!

Thanks for Nothing

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2011 at 5:28 pm

by Tara Wiley

Location: Susanna and Phil’s home office

Soundtrack: Phil’s Motivate Mix: “I’m Gonna Be” The Proclaimers

“I’m gonna be the man who wakes up next to you…” Phil sang along as he emptied the middle “stash and trash” drawer of the office file cabinet. This was where Susanna tossed anything she didn’t know what to do with (and, he was rue to confess, a few of his papers landed here too). He’d threatened for months to clean it out, and with Suz away for a girls’ weekend, he tackled the task. When he got to the stack of partially addressed envelopes, he couldn’t help but chuckle. Susanna’s to-be-sent thank you notes.

Some of the notes had postage attached (most of the stamps were no longer the right amount) but no address; others, addresses without zip codes, or just names. Suz was a prolific author who never seemed to get the smallest notes out of her own hands for one reason or another. Maybe he should see how many he could get to their owners; then she could stop bemoaning her fault every time she opened this drawer.

He began at the top, a note to an assistant editor, thanking her for her advice on a column. I would only be half the writer I am without you. Oh, Suz, that was taking it a bit too far. He couldn’t send that one.

The next one: to a dentist. I’ve never felt such pain! You are my personal saint for making me better, even if it did mean drilling halfway to China while I drooled. Seriously? Who writes a thank you note to a dentist for a root canal? In Phil’s opinion, the $1000 check he sent was thanks enough. That one goes to the circular file.

3 beers and 30 notes later, he  found it. The envelope was wrinkled, worn, and stained. On the front, one name: Johnnie. It was going to take a few more beers to finish reading it.

Location: Cornerstone Coffee Shoppe

Soundtrack: “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Lovin’ You)” John Mayer

Drinks: Caramel Macchiato for Lisa, Rooibos Tea for Susanna

A long drink of spicy red tea, and Susanna sank into the worn velvet cushion close beside her pal Lisa.

“Oh, I needed this!” Suz waved her arm across the expanse of the small shop. Nestled among other storefronts in the small mountain town, she felt a million miles away from deadlines and regrets.

“Me too,” gushed Lisa. “Now, girl talk. Tell me about Phil’s proposal. How long has it been?”

“Oh! Married three years next spring. His proposal, huh? Well, that’s an ironic story.” Susanna thought back to the cold Thanksgiving evening. The first snowflakes of the winter had begun to fall, thick and soft outside the window of her condo. They formed a lacy curtain through which she and Phil watched The Plaza fill up with shivering spectators. The Italian lights outlining the Spanish architecture were about to transform the shopping district: Kansas City’s official welcome to the holidays. Always magical. Even better seen from the comfort of her condo off Ward Parkway. After a lovely dinner, they shared a bottle of champagne – “Well, I had one glass. Phill drank the rest. I’ve always wondered if the alcohol was what compelled him that night; he didn’t even have a ring yet. You know how alcohol makes him impulsive…” The idyllic scene outside of her window so captured her attention, she was shocked to turn and see Phil kneeling before her.

“To be honest, Lisa, I don’t remember what he said. I was just trying to think of what to say – of how to say no without saying no.”

Location: Susanna and Phil’s Bedroom

Soundtrack: Phil’s Motivate Mix: “Shout” Tears for Fears

If I could change your mind, I’d really love to break your heart… He turned up the iPod docking station volume, trying to drown out the pounding of his own pulse. That letter. When had she written it? Last month? Last year? Did it matter when? There was only one explanation for the words written on that page.

Our worlds collided somewhere between lust and love, and since then, I have never been the same… I should apologize for my tears, but joy unleashed like that can find only one expression from my heart. What can I say? I am a sentimental soul.

He remembered falling in love with her tears. Now the tears were filling his eyes, hot and angry. She broke his trust that night he asked her for forever. His love made him give her another chance. Another chance to hurt him.

In a season marked by insecurity, you touched me with such solid truth, such strong tenderness. I will never forget the way you brought out of me what I didn’t even know I possessed. I suppose I will always long for our deep connection to have become something more lasting, something more than that one amazing night.

The words from the page seemed seared on his conscience. Not even the downed six-pack could push them away. The walls were closing in on him. He had to get out of here. Out.

He left the letter, along with some hastily scrawled words of his own, on the kitchen table to greet her when she got home from…. well, who knows? Maybe all these girls’ weekends were really a cover for her rendezvous with – he spat; even the thought of the word made him ill – Johnnie.

Location: in a rental car, on the way to the airport

Soundtrack: “Shape of My Heart” Sting

“Okay, we got going on MY story back at the coffeehouse, and I never got to hear the end of yours. What convinced you to say yes to Phil?” Lisa pressed. Their mountain reprieve was almost over. Lisa knew Susanna well enough to anticipate her shifting gears during the flight home. Her shoulders would tighten, she would start flipping through her planner and typing notes on her laptop. Easy conversation would disappear. Susanna the girlfriend would become Suz the coworker, and any insight into the complexity of her soul would be lost. Lisa leaned towards her friend, focusing on her even as Susanna focused on the highway.

A sly smile played across Susanna’s face. Her eyes softened as she slowly answered, “It was Johnnie who changed my mind.” A week of near-sleepless nights had finally driven a weary Susanna to a 24 hour diner on the edge of the city. Over stale coffee and cold apple pie, a stranger somehow unlocked her fears and showed her answers. They talked all night, drove together for a while, watched a sunrise from the Liberty Memorial parking lot.

“I was so afraid of making a mistake I couldn’t change, but the mistake had been made already,” Susanna admitted. “When I asked Phil for time, he worried my affection did not equal his. I lost a level of his trust that night, and though I’ve tried so hard, in so many ways, to regain it – ”

“I’ve never seen someone lavish love on another person the way you do, Susanna,” Lisa  commiserated.

” – oh, thanks. Well, I don’t know if it will ever be enough. But I will die trying. Johnnie helped me see what a treasure I had. She knew just what to ask, just what to remind me of to help me see that my fears were misplaced and had nothing to do with my relationship with Phil. At the time, I wondered if she were an angel. I had never divulged that much of myself to a stranger. And to ask her into my car, to drive around the city in the middle of the night? Preposterous! But she made me feel safe, somehow. She left without giving me any way of reaching her. I think we would have been forever friends.

“I wrote her a thank you note, kept in my purse for years. Every once in a while when I was out that way, I’d stop by the diner, hoping somehow she would be there so I could tell her how things turned out. I’ve never seen her again.” Susanna laughed. “I think I still have the letter in the stash and trash drawer in our office. Does that make me crazy?”

Lisa placed a hand over her friend’s. “Oh, no, Suz. That makes you YOU.”

A few hours later, they pulled into Susanna’s carport. Lisa offered to help her carry up her bags.

“Strange,” commented Susanna, noticing the absence of Phil’s car. “He said he’d be home this afternoon.”

“Well, if he’s not here, maybe we should continue the story. I want to see that thank you note.”


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