I’ll be back, I promise—five words scribbled in black ink on a note. They were the first words I read that morning as I headed to pour myself a glass of milk. Stuck to the door of the fridge with a magnet, I thought nothing of it—he had left many notes as such. But that evening and the evenings after, I started to doubt he would ever keep his promise. Until one day, twenty years after he’d left, another note appeared.
Would you like to reconnect?—five words in a sans serif font blinked periodically on a card. They were the first words I read on a chilly December morning as I went to collect the mail. The card made no mention of whom it was from but I had an inkling. Still, I hesitated. My thumb hovered over the green ‘yes’ button on the device. Was this how I wanted to see him again? I decided to accept the request. And, there it was, the chronicles of his life.
I scrolled through the magazine of what he had been up to—the places he’d visited, the parties he’d attended, the food he’d loved, and the people he’d met and then left as digital memories. He was using a different name, or at least, not the name I used to call him. And, after I had flipped through the past ten years of his seemingly exciting and adventurous life, five more words called for action—would you like to chat? I clicked the green button once more.
“Hey Will, how’s it going?”
Will is typing a reply—the device read.
“Hey! Long time no see!”
Could I define this encounter as ‘seeing’?
“Long time indeed. What’s up?”
I wondered if I should bring up the promise he’d made twenty years ago. It didn’t really matter that he left—I moved on. I had my own collection of countries, events, food, and people, in my own magazine of life. But I wanted to know why he left, with no explanation, only to reconnect now.
“I thought about you recently.”
“That explains why you reconnected.”
“Haha! Still sarcastic I see.”
“Why all of a sudden?”
“I made a promise, remember?”
So he didn’t forget after all—those five words that left nothing but expectation. Five words that gave me no reason for his disappearance. Was he finally going to own up to his broken promise?
“Right. What’s up with that?”
“Well, I’m keeping my promise.”
“Are you serious right now?”
“I am back, aren’t I?”
Was he joking? Did he think this was acceptable—that a simple ‘hello, I’m back’ on a device was enough? Did he not think to be a little more courteous—to actually show up in person after all these years? Who gave him the right to hide behind a screen?
“It was nice ‘seeing’ you.”
I wanted to end the conversation there. And I could. All it took was a click of a red button and I would archive the entire exchange. I even had the option to ‘delete’. Then, I could toss the card out and carry on with my day.
“Wait, don’t go just yet!”
“What do you want, Will?”
“Look, I’m sorry all right.”
“Of course you are, Will.”
“Five words are too little.”
“You realised that only now?”
“I mean, on this chat.”
Five words was how the device worked. ‘Five Words’ was what it was called. It was ‘a small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’—their tagline on every highway billboard and at the top of every salesman’s pitch. It was designed to reconnect people in a disconnected world. And the rule was simple: only five words—no more, no less.
“I know that too, Will.”
“I have much to say.”
“Then say it in person.”
“I want to, trust me.”
“Right. I’m signing out now.”
“Wait wait wait wait wait.”
“Our friendship was long over.”
“Can you come to me?”
Was this another joke? Did he expect me to take the first step? I was not a pushover—I never was. If he wanted a convenient friendship, he came to the wrong person.
“No. You come to me.”
“I can’t. I’m… I’m sick.”
“Sick? What kind of sickness?”
“Life threatening, the doctors say.”
“Oh. Wow. I’m sorry, Will.”
“I’m not a good friend.”
“You left without an explanation.”
“Let me apologise to you.”
Perhaps I could make an exception this time. Perhaps, for a dying friend, I could put my pride aside. After all, he wanted to make things right… and in person.
“Where are you right now?”
“I left you a box.”
“You left me a box?”
“The Yung Brothers & Co.”
“Yung brothers? Who are they?”
“My lawyers. I’m really sorry.”
I was expecting the name of a hospital. I was actually willing to make the drive. Why did Will want me to meet with his lawyers instead?
“Your lawyers? Why your lawyers?”
“I can’t apologise in person.”
“What do you mean, Will?”
“I’m sorry. I should have…”
“You should have what, Will?”
“I should have said more.”
12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)