Unintentionally

In Susan’s mind’s eye– in her fantasy for reconciliation– she would send an e-apology to Jet Li for her office prank involving an invitation to his make-believe VIP party. An invitation which was extended to all the real estate agents in the office who never RSVP to anything. A small but genuine apology would be sent to his inbox. Susan would sign it, “Sincerely.”

In her fantasy of forgiveness, he would respond back with another email saying, “Can we go for a walk?” And Susan couldn’t be sure if this was an extension of forgiveness or of reprimand but her desire for reconciliation would be so strong, she would type back, “Yes.” They would determine a meeting place, a neutral place that neither of them owned or felt at home in so they were on a level playing field and both had a fair advantage. Later that evening, in the muggy heat of a summer night in Toronto, Susan would meet him there.

Susan, who is normally a very late person, would show up early as an indication of her eagerness to make things right. Jet Li would show up a little out of breath and mention something about how parking took him awhile. Susan would nod. She would ask him how his day was and vice versa. Both of them knew that words needed to be said but they would jump around it for awhile. Each uttered word would twist around in circles, like Tetris on rewind, landing nervously anywhere but where they are supposed to.

Susan would touch Jet’s shoulder and he would stop mid-thought. He wouldn’t be angry for the interruption and there would be a small breath of relief that would exhale from his lips. Percussively speaking, when the last words fell from his mouth and his exhale was extended, Susan would pick up the end of his sentence before his breath ever hit the ground.

“I’m sorry,” she would say.

“I know,” he would say.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you. It was all fun and games.”

They would walk for a moment in silence. Perhaps Susan would try to lighten the mood by telling him the story of when she got trouble at Camp Kenosee, a Catholic camp for girls. She and her sister got in trouble for laughing during one of the priests sermons. When they asked why they were laughing, Susan’s sister, Elizabeth, would say, “I don’t know. I was laughing because she was laughing.”

Susan would say, “I was laughing because he called Jesus a girl!” and she would burst out laughing again. It was just a slip of the tongue (or maybe he had a lisp) but his pronouns for Jesus kept coming out like, “She” rather than “He.” All the counsellors would try not to laugh, too, and their faces would be puzzled. How do you discipline a child who was listening too hard?

Maybe Jet Li would laugh at that or maybe he would give her a pity chuckle because the story wasn’t that funny but he appreciated the gesture. Maybe the conversation would flow. It would zip and zag between laughter and tears, mostly on Susan’s part.

As they walked down a residential street in Leslieville, they would pass a homeless man. After they passed him, he would watch, with eyes incredulous, as a leaf defied gravity and floated back up to the branch from thence it fell. He would tell one of his friends at the park, “Today I saw a leaf climb back up to it’s tree.”

“Oh?” the other homeless guy would say.

“Yeah,” the first guy would say, “It was amazing.”

Jet and Su would walk around for hours at a time and they would talk about things that they hadn’t had the chance to before because work got in the way. They would debate a little but not a lot and he might get a little frustrated with Susan and she with him. Eventually, they’d find themselves outside the door of her apartment. A ratty, old squirrel would stare at them before spitting out the peanut he had in his mouth and skitter away.

Then he’d say, “That thing you wrote on your blog. In that post you took down. You said that I said something about poor people being needy. Or how wealth is the way to your “true self.” You twisted my words. I didn’t say that.”

“You denied it then,” Susan would say, “And you’re denying it now, but I’m positive that’s what you said.”

“I didn’t!” he would say, “I never said that. You’re putting words in my mouth.”

“Okay,” Susan would say. She didn’t feel like fighting anymore.

Maybe he would disapprove of his nickname, “Jet Li.”

“I’m Vietnamese,” he would say, “Jet Li is Chinese.”

“You’re right,” Susan would say, “I was insensitive to this.”

Or maybe he’d give her a high five and say, “Thanks for referring to me as a celebrity.”

Then, perhaps, around here he’d say something authentic. Something heartfelt and kind. Maybe he’d confess something vulnerable on his own. Or maybe he’d hold onto his words so tight that it kept him speechless. Regardless of what he blurted or kept inside, Susan would give him a hug goodnight and release him warmly but deliberately.

 

They would say goodnight and Susan would kiss his cheek. His face would grow solemn and the two of them would part ways. Susan would go inside alone and Jet would walk away. The moment before Susan closed the door entirely, she’d catch a glimpse of a bird that just launched into flight. Much to her delight and complete surprise, she’d watch as this little winged beauty would rewind and land back in her nest. Her posture would remain the same but the direction would reverse as an old VHS going back to the beginning.  She’d be back in her nest, cozy, warm and completely content. She was pleased to be where she landed, unintentionally.