“I’m not going to that party,” was the nasty text I received from Seth Grady, to a provocative invite I’d sent him to my best friend’s toga birthday party. I was expecting that. Deserving that, in fact, since just last month I had sent him a fairly formal, “I’m-sick-of-your-shit” text message. I’d meant it too, but he’d taken it way too well. Now I’d relapsed and invited him to this party. The opportunity to allude to being tangled up in bedsheets was too sexy and clever to pass up. The whole thing quickly blew up in my face.

“I figured,” I texted back cooly. I wanted to show him that the bridge wasn’t fully burnt. “Maybe next time.”

“No,” a flame flickered. “Not ever.”

Panic started to set in. He didn’t usually talk to me this way. We were on and off friends, but we never burned bridges. Maybe my terminal text had really pissed him off. I hadn’t meant it, not really. I worried, “is everything okay?”

“Well, no, not exactly,” Seth informed me haughtily. I held my breath as I watched him continue typing. I was starting to sweat, my cheeks were burning up. “Lorena found out I cheated on her with you three summers ago.”

Oh fuck. Lorena?! Last I heard, Seth and Lorena were broken up. In fact, most times Seth spoke of Lorena, they were apparently broken up. I replied, “how did that happen?”

“Well, obviously you told someone because I never did.”

The flames engulfed me now. I swallowed hard. I had told someone. I had. But that had been in confidence, sealed to secrecy by the playground moonlight. My confidant had promised me the words spoken that night would not be repeated. I should have known better than to play with fire.

I texted as fast as my fingers could type. “Listen. I think there’s been a bit of a misunderstanding. I didn’t mean to get you in trouble. Let me call you and explain what happened.”

“No, that’s okay.”

My head was ablaze with fury. No. No. No. What to do. What to do. I tried again, “let me explain. I don’t want you to hate me.”

“I don’t hate you because you didn’t lie. It did actually happen,” he replied, soothing me ever so slightly. But then came the smouldering, “but I can never trust you again.”

Those words burned through me. The embers of my body blew lifelessly around the room. It was like I was not whole anymore. All that was left was a vague residue of what I once was. My substance was gone. Taken from me. This thing with Seth Grady was really over this time. Our years of co-dependence were finally burning out. It was finally going out. Because I’d fucked it up. Well, me and Drew Nodar, who couldn’t keep a secret to save his life. Or mine.

“I fucking hate you,” I fired angrily at Drew in a text. Within minutes my phone was ringing. I wouldn’t pick up. I couldn’t. All that was left of me was ash.

“What’s wrong?” Asked Drew through text.

“You told Lorena about me and Seth.” It had been my most private story. I’d only confided in him because I was in a bad place. I needed a friend. And he’d used it against me. It hurt like hell.

I let Drew explain his side of the story to me, passively reading his long string of texts. Drew and Lorena had attended a house party together about a month back. Around the same time I’d told Seth Grady to hit the road, he began pursuing Lorena again. My heart seared at the timeline. I should have never have sent him that text in the first place. Well, Seth asked Lorena to get back together. Lorena went to Drew for advice. Drew told Lorena about Seth and I, fully setting aflame my already singed friendship with Seth once and for all.

Drew concluded with, “I couldn’t have let Lorena get back together with Seth without telling her he cheated on her. I owed it to her as a friend.”

“I guess you didn’t owe it to me as a friend to not tell my secrets.” My anger flared. Smoke escaped my ears. I took a deep breath before asking the one thing I didn’t want to know. “Are they back together?”

“I don’t know.”

Suddenly it felt like someone was now trampling on the cinders of my former self. It was over. All over. Seth and Lorena were back together, and Seth would never ever trust me again. The closure I had been so actively seeking had finally arrived. And I had no idea how badly I didn’t want it.

The rest of that day was a blur of scorching hot emotion. Amy and Chloe materialized for my rescue, as any best friends would. They took me shopping. I didn’t want to buy anything. They took me to the food court. I couldn’t eat. They took me to the liquor store. I caused a scene when they refused to sell to us because Chloe had forgotten her ID.

Finally, we settled for sitting in their living room watching 13 Going on 30 with a tub of ice cream and a bottle of rose.

“But I don’t get it,” Chloe mused when we were elbow deep into the Rocky Road. “Why is Grady so mad at you?”

“I broke his trust.”

“But didn’t he break yours first?” Amy asked while licking her spoon. “Wasn’t he the one that lied to you about being broken up with his girlfriend? Isn’t that the only reason you helped him cheat on her in the first place?”

Chloe piped in, “didn’t you find out that they were still together through Facebook?”

I’d told them all that?! Damn. I really did have a big mouth. If Seth had heard all that they knew, he would have lost it. They were absolutely right though. And when I had told them, I had been hurting, just like I was now. I needed to tell someone. I needed to talk. Damnit, I’m a storyteller! And it was a damn good story.

Slowly, the remnants of who I am started to take shape again. Finally, long after Chloe and Amy had gone to bed, I sent Seth Grady the final bit of correspondence that has occurred between us to this very day.

I told him, “you know what, Seth? You’re actually the worst. I’m sorry you got caught cheating on your girlfriend because of me, but you absolutely deserved it. She deserved to know what happened, as much as I deserved to. Where’s my apology in all this? It’s weird how you value trust so much, when you broke mine first.”

Or at least, that’s what a pointed well thought out letter from me would have read, had I waited for the morning and sobriety before sending it. Instead, it was sent as a mass garble of words, the meaning shining beyond the typos, expletives and exclamation points. It felt good to finally address this.

I was rising from the rubble feeling stronger than ever before. More empowered. Just a few more texts to extinguish this 10 year saga. I was taking control of my closure in a blaze of glory that could only be acquired through a wildfire of scorned texts. “So, yeah, I did tell people what happened between us. I told people because I was hurting and I needed support. Sure, maybe it’s a private story about your shitty relationship, but it happened to me. It’s a story about my life, and it’s my story to tell.”

He never replied. Maybe he blocked my number to stop the incessant messages before they were sent. Maybe he deleted them all without reading them. Maybe he read them all and did feel a great repentance for how he treated me. Regardless, it was the last time I ever messaged Seth Grady. The end had been a long time coming.

Now all I have left of him are my stories to tell.



9 thoughts on “The Phoenix

  1. Great story telling! I have to admit it makes me feel better about being 67 with a somewhat staid life than back in college days! It was so complicated back then!! 🙂


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