Olive Juice

By: TJ Klune

For those trying to find their way home.





Tread lightly, she is near

Under the snow.

Speak gently, she can hear.

The daisies grow.



Lily-like, white as snow

She hardly knew

She was a woman, so

Sweetly she grew.

“Requiescat” Oscar Wilde





Olive Juice





YOU BREATHE.

You ache.

You live.

You die inside, sometimes. These little deaths. It’s how you know you’re still living. That hurt, that damnable pain in your chest that never really goes away, is meant to burn to show you that you’re human. After all, you have these little deaths because you live. You ache, but you’re able to breathe. And if you can breathe, then you can take another step. You can push yourself up and you can take another step.

His psychiatrist had told him that during one of their sessions.

He’d laughed.

She hadn’t laughed with him. Instead, she’d asked him why he found that funny, her chrome Tiffany T-Clip ballpoint pen scratching along a yellow legal pad. He’d tried to see what she was writing about him, but she’d smiled and angled it away. He probably hadn’t wanted to know, anyway. It couldn’t have been anything good.

“Why was that funny, David?” she had asked again.

He’d shaken his head. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me.”

“I breathe because I have to. It’s an involuntary action. I ache because it’s all I have. I live because I don’t know how to do anything but. And the deaths aren’t little. They’re big. They’re bigger than you could ever know. I take steps because if I don’t, the bigger deaths will catch up to me, and I can’t have that.”

“Why is that?” she’d asked.

David had learned early on that therapy was like having a small child because it was always why, why, why.

He didn’t remember what he’d told her.

She’d nodded and then offered him a prescription for Zoloft.

He’d declined graciously.

That was… what. Two years ago now? Maybe even three. He’d gone back a few more times after that because it’d seemed like the right thing to do, but he wasn’t much for talking to people he didn’t know. Especially about himself. No, David hadn’t liked that at all. He’d thought he could push through it, but in the end, it was a waste of his time, especially when his attention was needed elsewhere. There were more important things that needed to be done.

So, no. He hadn’t gone back.

He regretted it sometimes. Especially now.

He stared through the rain at the windshield wipers moving back and forth. He was early, but then he didn’t have anywhere else to be.

He glanced down at his phone, telling himself not to look at it again, but he couldn’t help it. The screen was bright in the dark as he pulled up the message tree for the hundredth time in the last three days. The last text was from him and it said ok and the one before that was Would nine work? On Friday? The hotel? And the one before was him saying I’d like that in response to I want to see you. It had come out of nowhere, startling him when he’d received it, like I want to see you hadn’t been something he’d typed over and over again the past couple of years, deleting it before he could do something foolish like actually send it.

But that was Phillip for you. He always liked to do the unexpected. Like saying I want to see you.

Or I can’t do this anymore.

That one had hurt. Another big death on top of all the big deaths that had come before.

Maybe he should leave.

Just go home.

If he left now, he could make it home in time to be settled in his chair by the time the ten o’clock news came on.

Maybe they’d say something about her since the anniversary was coming up.

He didn’t hold out much hope.

He sighed.

Looked at his phone again.

I want to see you.

He was about to reach for the push-button start on the SUV. Instead, he opened the door into the rain.

It was cold. He could see his breath.

He took the umbrella and opened it through the partially ajar car door before he stepped out of the SUV. He felt some droplets on his ear and reached up to brush them away. He rolled his shoulders, trying to will away the stiffness. He tightened the scarf around his neck and closed the door behind him. The lights blinked as he pressed the button on the fob, and he turned back toward the hotel.

He stood there, just for a little while.

When was the last time he’d been here? It’d been… before. A weekend away. A staycation Phillip always called it, that funny little smile on his face. This is our staycation. Just a couple of days, you and me. Clothing optional. That sound okay?

And yeah, that’d been okay. That’d always been okay by David.