Flash Fiction Challenge: The Present Tense

Yet another challenge from Chuck Wendig.

Present Tense

Are you surprised to see that I’ve moved on?

Oh, darling.

Do you understand yet what a mistake you made?

I pull the curtain back so I can see you from the window, but you don’t know I’m looking.  You’ve slimmed down.  Your hair has grown out.  And your sleeves are pulled up so I can see that horrible tattoo that you only got out of rebellion because I always told you it was a stupid idea.

I wonder if you look at that tattoo and see me.

Don’t get me wrong though.  I don’t want you to see me when you look at your forearm.  I don’t want you to think of me when you look in the mirror and see that loop in your nose, like the one I used to wear.  I don’t want you to think of me when you’re talking to other women.  I don’t want you to lay awake at night and mull over all of the ways you could have saved us, all of the things you should have done.

But I know you do.  I know it hurts.  I know.

I know this because I know now what a completely unique, beautiful, one of a kind person I am.  I know now that any man would be lucky to have my love.  I know now that I have worth.  I know now that my smile is pretty, my hair catches the sunlight, my eyes are deep, and my skin is soft.  With you, I was ugly.  You made me ugly.  Without you, I am free to be beautiful.

Seeing you makes my physically ill.

My last memory of you was how you looked sitting in that green jump suit, cuffed at the ankles and wrists.  Your hair was fuzzy, beard unshaven, eyes downcast.  I remember how it felt to sit there, looking at the face of a man I used to love and knowing that everything inside has changed.  The boy I fell in love with, the fat kid with the acne and the red mowhawk and the busted down Converse, that boy would have never raised a fist toward me in anger.  I also remember running my fingers over the bruises under my hair line from the knuckles of the man that sat in that court room, the man who now buckles our son into his car seat.

But you know what?  I let that curtain drop, and I smile.

I have moved on.  I stumbled a lot after we split, sure.  But now, I’ve made my mistakes and I’m moving on with my life.  Finding my happy center.

I say I need a cigarette.

He says, “Is that a hint?”

I say yes, and then we are in his car lighting our cigarettes.

The way he smiles, the way he laughs, I can’t help but smile and laugh along with him.  He’s goofy, too.  A little unsure of himself.  He fumbles over his words sometimes, and when I say what he’s struggling to allude to, he’s prone to blush.  Being with him makes me feel like the best version of myself.

I could go on, I could fill pages.

But what I want to tell you, what I want you to understand, is that you are an afterthought.

Does it hurt to know that you don’t even compare?

What I want you to take away from this, what I need you to always remember, is that a woman will only take so much.  She will only love you to a certain extent, she will only go to a certain length, she will eventually give up because you will drain her.  The loveblood that flows through your heart is dark, poisoned.  You are toxic, and it’s because you can’t let go of the past and let yourself be happy.

Every drink has to be medication for some past hurt.  Every smile has to be squeezed from the melancholy of a bad memory.  Every laugh has to be in defiance of your damage.

Oh, darling.

Let go.

You will never know your father.

Certain wrongs cannot be undone.

You are not condemned to the harbor the hatred you nurtured from such a young age.

Your past, the things that have happened to you before, those memories are immaterial, gone like yesterday‘s snowmelt.

The future is yours to build.  Sure, you may have to detoxify your soul, but nobody will ever be able to love you if you continue to embrace your toxicity.

Your future starts right now, darling.

And mine, mine starts right now as well.

Present tense.

My soul is white and inviting, my eyes are wide open.  I am intoxicating, I am intoxicated.

I am happy.

Are you?

— No, don’t answer that.

I nearly forgot, I don’t care anymore.

800 words


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