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Let it be me: A short story

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MELANIE WU | STAFF

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MARCH 25, 2023

want to do so many things.

In the time I have, it’s possible for me to accomplish around a hundred of them, but sadly, it’s more likely that I’ll see no more than half of them through. Life is terrible. 

Hello, my name is Cal.

I’m twenty-five years old, and I work at a convenience store. I live in a tiny apartment in Sacramento and attend community college. 

Today, I woke up at 4 a.m. and went on a run while listening to an audiobook about the importance of self-love. Then, I returned to my apartment to begin my daily meditation and repeated positive affirmations. 

I know my worth.

I will succeed.

I know my worth.

I will succeed.

I know my worth.

I will succeed.

It’s been a year since Mehrin broke up with me, and everything is starting to get better, I think.

I dated her for two years. During that time, I got so used to her presence, but now that she’s gone I feel — what do I feel? Confused? Lost? Sad? No, not sad. Lonely, maybe. Wistful? I don’t know, something that’s bothersome, I guess. 

You would think that after a whole year, I would have moved on. But I still remember everything we did together. I still feel everything we did together. 

When we broke up, my habitual existence was stripped away, and the little, everyday pleasures I used to get from daily phone calls or texts with Mehrin disappeared. The late-night calls turned to late-night thoughts of despair or self-pity; the small daily tasks like making my bed or fixing my car turned into minutes — sometimes hours — of blank thoughts that didn’t make sense.

I didn’t know what to do with myself then, and the little enjoyment I had came from spending hours and hours on the web reading random articles about fiction and poetry. My parents think it’s weird that I enjoy reading these things. They grew up in Florida and met working at Disney World. When they came to California, they wanted to find a place where most of their conservative values would be shared, so they picked a town called Colfax. That’s where I grew up. That’s where all my friends are from, and I’ll tell you one thing: None of them care for fiction or poetry. 

You would think that after a whole year, I would have moved on. But I still remember everything we did together. I still feel everything we did together. 

My buddies and I grew up on dirt bikes and football. Our favorite movies were Talladega Nights and Die Hard. Funnily enough, I remember we used to love shooting at squirrels and birds with our pellet guns when we were in elementary. 

Many things happened in Colfax. I lost my virginity in Colfax, in the used truck my parents had bought for me on my sixteenth birthday. Her name was Rachel, and I don’t think she particularly liked me. But I took my chance, and we had awkward sex where we avoided eye contact because we were both too nervous to look at each other. 

After getting my GED, I began working full-time. I lived with my parents for two years and, in that time, saved enough to rent my own place. When I got an apartment, I started to explore the dating scene. I got on dating apps and met multiple women who always seemed to me a bit odd. I’m guessing it’s because I’m not attractive. Still, after three years of awkward dates and fatuous hookups, I met Mehrin in a sex shop in Auburn, around fifteen minutes from Colfax. 

I was eating a granola bar inside my car on my lunch break when I saw the shop from my review mirror. I hadn’t noticed it before, but it was behind the convenience store I worked in. Going inside seemed more interesting than sitting alone in my car, so I checked it out. 

Boredom and curiosity drove me into that lively place. Walking down the narrow aisles, I looked at the hundreds of interesting objects they sold. Then, I remember hearing a soft voice as I touched and examined their products in amazement. 

“Hi,” it said, “can I help you find anything?”

I turned around and saw a girl. It was Mehrin. 

Wow.

After nervously browsing their products and minutes of aggravated thoughts, I found the courage to ask for her number. 

When I did, she smiled, nodded, and wrote it on a sticky note. 

That’s when our story began:

 

From the start, I was intoxicated. Intoxicated with her voice, her rosy cheeks, the clothes she wore, the chairs she sat on, the rooms she slept in, the mirrors that caught her reflection. Everything was changed by her presence, her touch — by her. 

Mehrin was into spiritual, new-age kind of stuff which always confused me. She had lots of sparkling rocks, and she liked to meditate and wear colorful jewelry. I didn’t think much about these things at the time, I didn’t know what it all meant, but now that she’s gone I think about them a lot. I can see them, and I miss it. 

I miss those things because she valued them.

From the start, I was intoxicated. Intoxicated with her voice, her rosy cheeks, the clothes she wore, the chairs she sat on, the rooms she slept in, the mirrors that caught her reflection.

She cared about the simple stuff. The elemental parts of life. Like insects, trees and plants, the color of my bed sheets, or the food we’d eat — everything I never thought about, she cared about. 

The colorful rocks that supposedly healed you. The necklaces and bracelets that were supposed to keep evil away. Her gentle soul would reproach me when I’d tried killing an insect. 

I’d laugh at her and tell her she was too sensitive, and she’d get mad at my ignorance. But she was never really angry, and I was never really mean. We’d just banter about random things.  

Mehrin uncovered my blindness and introduced me to a world of thoughtfulness and empathy. 

One day, however, it just wasn’t the same. I don’t know what happened. Something shifted between us, and she didn’t want me anymore. She became reserved, and her laugh disappeared. I tried asking, but she wouldn’t tell me anything useful. As time went on, I got annoyed with her silence and gave up. 

“Why this abrupt change?” I said. 

“Cal, I’m telling you: This isn’t working for me anymore.” She looked away. “I can’t see a future with you. We’re so different.” 

“Come on,” I begged, “most couples are different from each other.” 

“Jesus Christ, I know. You’ve said it a hundred times. I understand.” Mehrin looked back at me with glossy eyes. “But this isn’t the same. I just—” she looked down at her legs. “I just don’t want this. I can’t do it. I want other things.” 

“Like what? I can give them to you, I promise.” My voice was firm. My eyes stabbed her. My shoulders, back. I wasn’t going to show her I was sad. Girls don’t like that, right? They want confident men who don’t back down. 

“No. You can’t.” 

This is not how things are supposed to happen. Fuck. 

What’s happening? 

“Mehrin, please.” I leaned forward. “Just tell me, what changed? I don’t understand what I did.” 

Her eyes were greenish blue. Her caramel hair was flowing on her shoulders. Her nose was sharp, but her dimpled, puffy cheeks gave her a childish feature. She wore blue jeans with a blank white crop top and checkered Vans. She had her usual long feathery earrings, and colorful bracelets covered her wrists, with a Kokopelli necklace acting as the final decoration for the canvas of her body. 

That necklace. That little dancing man with the flute. I still don’t know what it meant, but to me, it was part of her. To me, it signified the joy I had when I was around her. I could dance like a lunatic with a flute. Jumping and smiling, playing a tune that reflected the gentleness of her every action. 

I recall wanting her so badly at that moment. I wanted to be that necklace lying around her tanned skinny neck. I wanted to touch her like I used to. Examining the tiny blonde hairs she had on her arms and chest. I wanted to see her mouth slightly open as my hands grazed her upper thighs, and capture her every twitch and moan with my eyes and ears. 

I recall wanting her so badly at that moment. I wanted to be that necklace lying around her tanned skinny neck.

“Just leave, Cal,” she said calmly. “Please, I just need space.” 

I sensed a little anger in me. Annoyance. I could’ve yelled at her. Told her I wasn’t going to leave until I received an answer. 

I didn’t understand anything — didn’t understand why, but something greater than anger told me to trust her.

I stayed tall. I stayed firm. I left and walked away, not shedding a single tear.

And just like that, it was over. 

Nevertheless, after six months of working and reading articles about fiction and poetry, I found meaning — or a distraction — in learning, so I started community college.

From reading those articles and attending school, I began to appreciate literature.

I discovered my favorite novel: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Heathcliff became my favorite literary character. His need for Catherine was beautifully crafted. Although he was portrayed as the villain because of his madness, I romanticized his character, thinking about myself as a type of Heathcliff. But then I’d remind myself that Catherine actually wanted Heathcliff. She loved him. 

I remember what it was like hugging Mehrin. It was so cold, but still, it was warm for us. As she lay on my arms, I knew men from her past had lied and hurt her. I knew I was the only one who had looked past her beauty and fleshly qualities; I saw something more, something that even she didn’t see. Maybe that’s what she saw of me that I didn’t see in myself. 

I’m breathing in dirty, contaminated air, but this obscene oxygen is keeping me alive, and through this life, I experience you. You’re the blood that runs in my soul and keeps my every sense excited to feel, see, touch, taste, smell — my God! You are God. 

This feeling will likely destroy me one day, but today, at this moment, it is what’s keeping me alive. 

Mehrin, please don’t leave me; I need you. 

But she did.

— 

Mehrin hadn’t crept into my head at any point throughout the day because I was busy. 

After completing my daily meditation, I went to class, took notes, watched review videos, worked for four hours at the convenience store, called my family, and ate a healthy lunch. I felt tired then, so I took a fifteen-minute nap while listening to calming classical music. 

I decided to go to a coffee shop to study. There, my eyes caught sight of a couple in the corner of the store. They looked happier than me, I’m better than them, I told myself, because I am more disciplined. But at that moment, as I sat in the small coffee shop, staring at this couple with their companionship and bliss, I just felt lonely.

They looked happier than me, I’m better than them, I told myself, because I am more disciplined. But at that moment, as I sat in the small coffee shop, staring at this couple with their companionship and bliss, I just felt lonely.

Their eyes didn’t part. They were sitting next to each other with her feet pointing towards him, and she was holding her knees, scrutinizing his face as her head lay on a wall. He was smiling, and he looked like he was making jokes, and she looked in love with him. Not with his face or body, but with the words coming out of his mouth, the way he spoke them. 

Watching this scene unfold, I put on my headphones and started to play our song. Maybe Mehrin didn’t consider it ours; maybe she was playing it for someone else. But I didn’t care. To me, it was ours. I had introduced it to her. 

Listening to our song, I closed my eyes and let myself be embraced by her memory. 

I felt my hands grabbing those old wiry headphones and telling her to listen, telling her to listen to the whole song. 

               “I bless the day I found you. 

               I want to stay around you. 

I could see her facial expressions change as the song progressed. 

               And so I beg you, 

               let it be me.

The slight squint of her left eye,

               Don’t take this heaven from one

               If you must cling to someone

               Now and forever, 

the nervous smile her lips drew, 

               Let it be me.

the way she held my face,

               Each time we meet, love

               I find complete love

               Without your sweet love, what would life be?   

and the soft kisses she gave me. 

               So never leave me lonely 

               Tell me you love me only 

Holding her small warm hands, 

               And that you’ll always let it be me. 

I leaned my head on her shoulder, feeling my ear get stung by the cold of her left earring.

               So never leave me lonely

               Tell me you love me only

The gentle touch of my fingers running through her hair.

               And that you’ll always let it be me.

And the loading of the pistol, and the shooting of the haunting words, I love you

               And that you’ll always let it be me.” 

Mehrin could’ve coincidentally walked into the coffee shop, and we could’ve reconnected, and everything would return to normal. Or I could’ve caught her with someone else, created a huge scene and made her feel guilty, like in the movies. 

Maybe I can call her and beg her to come back. 

But all I really have is this song — those memories and this song.  

These thoughts have haunted me all night. I keep thinking about the happy couple in the coffee shop, about Mehrin and her smell. Even her small hands and the divine light that glowed from her touch. 

The books, classes, affirmations, and exercises don’t seem to be helping anymore. At least, not tonight; tonight, I can’t sleep. Even if I could, I know all I’d dream of is her. I’ll hear her voice and touch her face, but then I’ll wake up, and none of it will be real.

Maybe it’s better that I stay awake. I would rather be tortured with my eyes open. I would rather feel Mehrin’s ghost roam around my room and hear her laughter and see her smile make her eyes wrinkle.

I’ve been mourning her loss from my life for so long. Why can’t I let go? Why can’t I be grateful for what I have? I mean, for God’s sake, I’ve smelled flowers in the spring, walked outside in the middle of the night while stars painted the sky; I have cried with joy, read a good book, eaten a perfect meal; I’ve listened to a violin flood my senses; I’ve gone skydiving, skiing, snorkeling, boating; I’ve been high, drunk, in love, in hate, in joy, in depression. I have made love. 

I’ve been mourning her loss from my life for so long. Why can’t I let go?

Still, I lay here in my bed, at 2 a.m., with my body sore and my eyes heavy, feeling lost in this burdensome world, trying to figure out what I can do to feel an ounce of connection with something or someone because what I’ve figured out from all those fleeting experiences is that satisfaction is only found in the absence of loneliness. 

In loneliness, you see a truth about yourself that makes you cringe; it makes you realize that you’re a twig under a work boot, or a snowman in the summer. 

All I can hope for is that I won’t always be lonely. That someone will one day see me and think the world of me — that they’ll value me. 

I don’t want to be alone when I realize that all my hard work was done for nothing.

Because one day, I will be nothing, and my memories will be forgotten in the chasm of space and time, and all I’ll have is the mere spark of the company I had while I was alive.

Contact Andrés Tomas Latorre at 

LAST UPDATED

MARCH 25, 2023