Ode to Annabelle

A poetic essay about lost love, breaking up, and learning to leave the past behind.

The Ex-Executive Assistant, a story published on Tuesdays and Thursdays in a limited number of installments
"The Ex-Executive Assistant" is a comedic story about a young man who loses both his job and his girlfriend on the same day.

Recap: Shep and Lyle were on their way to a nightclub when Lyle unexpectedly took a detour to the Silver Tavern, the bar he and his ex-girlfriend broke up in. Shep didn’t want to go, because he was afraid the bar would dredge up bad memories for Lyle. Turned out he was right. Being in his old hangout made Lyle reminisce about his past life and all the hopes and dreams he’s lost. After one scotch too many, he ended up throwing up in the gutter outside. 

From the scattered recollections of Lyle Colane:

I’m wondering where you are tonight.

I’ll tell you where I am. I’m in a smelly cab on South Virginia Street, surrounded by a city that’s blinding me with neon and swallowing me whole. I’m leaning against the blotchy, fog-coated window, which feels like a sheet of ice against my flushed face and fevered cheeks. The passing storefronts blur in a swirl of color, with bright-lit logos blaring their brands and straining to claim a piece of the late-night desert skyline.

It’s as if everyone’s reaching for a bittersweet slice of American pie — that delectable dessert all encrusted with cash and oozing with gold. Some of us feast on on the favorable filling, while others of us loathsomely gnaw on the crumbs.

Are you out there, I wonder … ensconced in your apartment with the shades drawn and TV glowing … sipping a drink to close out the week, and to shut yourself off from the world?

Or are you somewhere else out there, not alone, but in the city … sharing drinks with a stranger at the far end of a bar, smiling at his lines and shivering — quivering — as he traces his finger along your arm? Are you moving on with your life — diving in, plunging forward — putting the past behind you and filing away the snapshots of our time together … those everyday moments that flicker away into obscurity, leaving only wisps of memory to cling to and cherish — moments stained in sepia from the constant slippage of time?

Wherever you are, I hope you’re happy. I hope you’re vibrant and lively, savoring the moment and finding something sacred to dedicate yourself to in this chaotic maelstrom of wistful existence. You always used to want something more — something deeper and more meaningful; something to lend credibility to the idea that there’s a purpose for us — a purpose for all of us — a purpose beyond the confining, mundane realm of reality and the banal, everyday struggle to survive.

I once felt a magic with you, but the enchantment is gone. You made me feel dazzled and dizzy … awestruck and giddy … but the sparkle fizzled out, and the glow faded away. When you left, all your warmth went with you, drifting away like a pleasurable scent … tapering to nothing like a dying candle’s flame.

What did it all mean, our being together? What was the takeaway? What did it boil down to? Are we only snapshots in each other’s existence — mere stepping stones to better paths and possibilities? There has to be a meaning behind it all: some nugget of knowledge we can savor and embrace.

Or was our relationship more like a beautiful poem — wandering and lyrical and dripping with imagery, but in the end merely an artistic diversion from the tedium of reality and the meaningless of existence?

I’d like to think it all meant something more. Love’s not just a sideshow to the main attraction, or a way for us to piddle away the time. Love in itself is a reason for living— a state of being to aspire to. It creates a rushing, lilting harmony against the sterile, static silence — silence that permeates the hollow, gray, eggshell-like foundation upon which this punishing, sinister world resides.

I know I have to put you behind me, but there’s a part of me that can’t let go. Shep’s right when he says I’m stuck in the past. And he’s right that I’m too afraid to move on.

I’m afraid if I let you go, your memory will fade from my mind, like a flickering imprint of a bright light when you close your eyes … or the lingering warmth of a stranger’s touch when they brush their fingers across your back.

You were always my center — the force that kept me grounded. And you were always my compass — the pointer that gave me poise. I can’t just relegate you to my mind’s deep recesses to rot away and wither. If I do, my memories will mist over with haze, and the light of your love will grow dim. That vibrant, loving, whimsical person I used to hold and cherish will wane into a caricature of who she used to be — a fragment of her former self … and all she meant to me.

I can’t just file you away like a forgotten photo. Your image is too lifelike, too real. A photo can preserve a memory, and a memory can preserve a moment, but some moments demand more than lifeless, static preservation. Some moments need to be relived, and re-experienced — especially in our darkest, dreariest hours — because they not only enriched our lives, but because they gave our lives meaning, and depth.

But then again, maybe it was all just a fling. Then again, maybe we weren’t meant to be. Maybe you’re out there, right now, skipping through the present and filling your heart with someone new.

Did any of it mean to you what it all meant to me? Or did I only glean more from the experience because I was so needy? Are you the strong one, putting it all behind you and closing the chapter on our love? Did I crumble more completely because my heart and resolve were so fragile?

I think it’s better to feel too much than too little. And I can’t just sweep it all away as if you were only a footnote to my existence. The emotions are still too real — too vivid and intense.

I see you in my subconscious, in my peripheral vision. I’ll spot you to my side, standing framed in an open doorway … but when I turn your image dissolves like a sunbeam smothered in shadow … and once again I’ll be all alone, ensnared in a dark apartment, plagued by a haunted heart and a troubled head that’s rattling with ghosts.

In those still, pre-dawn hours, when the world’s a pale glow and the deep-sleep dreams are dwindling, I’ll feel the warmth of your palm pressing into my chest, and I’ll stir and reach out for you … but there’s nothing there but bunched-up sheets, and a gaping space where you used to be.

I’ll lie there, then, wide awake with receding dreams, reality pouring in like molten steel to remind me that you’re gone.

Back in the cab, the night feels raw and throbbing, like an open wound that just won’t heal. I’m trapped in here behind a steel cage, barreling down a Reno street on a ride I can’t control.

If I press my hand against the glass, I almost can feel your breathing, your heartbeat. Or maybe that’s the city’s pulse — its erratic, harried thumping … alive and real and palpable, with neon searing into my senses to offer simulated life.

Are you out there, I wonder? And if you are, are you thinking of me? We once forged a foundation of tenderness and affection … but has that foundation succumbed to decay? Are we severed, separate, disparate, divergent … or are the lines of communication still sound?

Gazing at the city, my thoughts all drift to you. Can you hear the words I’m thinking? Can you feel the pain I bear? Can we correspond across this psychic thread … or are my pleas just tumbling into a void?

I opened up to you, and I told you where I am. I only wish you could have heard me, so you could tell me where you are.

Author: Allen

I’m a humorist and fiction writer, as well as the author of two books. One is a collection of humor, and one is a collection of short stories. Both books are available on Amazon. I always wanted to write a comic strip, but I can’t draw. Not even a stick-person. So that’s why “The Lawn-Cutting Crew” is a comic strip without drawings. I hope you enjoy!

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