Valentine's Day

The voice on the other end had that buzz recorded messages invariably acquired, even with smartphones and iPhones and 4G networks humming mankind's words along like the messengers of the gods.

"John, it's Sarah." Pause. "How are you? I hope well. I was reading the funniest thing the other day and I thought of you! It's been what, since last summer? No, it was your graduation! Time really flies. Hard to believe I'm getting married in 30 days!" The way she said it he could see the number - three-oh, not thirty. "It's fun...and a little overwhelming. But mostly fun. Just wanted to drop a line."

The message ended there. No goodbye, no coda, no thanks, but no thanks; she was just "dropping a line". John’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. "What the hell does that mean?" he thought. "Who even says that anymore?"

He couldn't imagine getting a call from anyone less expected than Sarah. Things hadn't ended on bad terms; they hadn't ended at all, not technically. Theirs was a long decline that built up momentum - or was it inertia? He could never remember the difference - and pretty soon it was table for one, movie for one, bed for one.

Their common friends were divided up in the silent way. He had tried not to keep count, but he knew she was ahead. "What happened?" they asked. He would shrug his shoulders. "Call her," they told him. He would shake his head. Funny how nameless things were also the most obstinate. He didn't know why that was.

What he did know was that he never got an invitation, or even one of those cutesy save the date cards that people sent out shaped like owls or hot air balloons or some shit like that. Why not one shaped like a noose? It could say, "We're tying the knot!" and the wedding colors could be black and blue.

John sighed and shoved the phone deeper in his pocket. Did she have to call today? He remembered enough about the shape of her thoughts, or at least how they used to be shaped, to know it wasn't her attempt at being petty. She probably thought it was cute or funny or ironic, or maybe all of them at once.

Sarah Parker, purveyor of good cheer and jokes no one understood. Not for much longer, though.

On second thought, he pulled the phone back out of his pocket. He scrolled through the contacts until he found her number. Before he could stop himself, he deleted her from the memory; the list now went from Sanjay to Tucker with no intervening bad memories. 

John was surprised that his hands were shaking. He walked inside and opened the fridge, pulling out a beer. He popped the cap with a practiced motion of the churchkey and took a deep pull from it. 

"Happy Valentine's Day, Sarah Lastname," he said to the empty air, the sound seeming to echo in the hollow space of his chest.