Outside a coffee shop, in a back alley, Sean Taylor—a skinny, young man who always wore black sunglasses—found a dark-haired, bearded man slumped against a green dumpster his hands wrapped around a heart-shaped piece of wood. A wooden heart. Sean hurried over to the bearded man, grabbed his arm and slung it around his neck, and pulled him up to a standing position. He felt like he knew the bearded man from somewhere, but couldn’t quite remember his face. Perhaps, the man was well-renown or well-liked. What he did know was that the bearded man, would not let go of the wooden heart. Even, when he went back into the shop and brought out a glass of water, the man kept his eyes closed and could not seem to take his unwrap his hand around the wooden heart. Sean carefully shook the bearded man’s shoulder to wake him up from his deep stupor. But the man would not open his eyes. He even began to snore a little. Sean looked on in curiosity at the bearded man as he turned over to his side and said the words, “Abigail where are you love?”
“Who’s Abigail?” Sean asked.
When the bearded man did not reply, Sean raised the glass of water and almost tipped it over on the man’s head to revive him. A drop of water slid down Sean’s bare wrist and he sighed, feeling frustrated and a bit sad, as he drank from the glass. The water cooled his throat, wetted the dryness. Sean leaned closer and tried to get a glimpse of the writing etched in the wooden heart. He saw the names Bryan and Abigail, and slowly things began to make sense to him, or at least seemed to become connected. Bending forward, Sean grazed his fingers against the wooden heart and felt his hand becoming warmer from the slight touch. He gasped. The bearded man suddenly stirred awake and opened his eyes, flailing his arms and hitting Sean’s elbow. Sean falling backwards, had his glass knocked out of his hand. The glass smacked the pavement and shards spread over the alleyway, water streaming across the ground. Sean groaned as he got up to his feet, only to face the bearded man clutching onto the wooden heart.
“Where is she?” the bearded man asked, seizing Sean by his shirt collar.
“Abigail?” Sean asked, his feet barely touching the ground. He felt his head growing dizzy as he shook his head, once, then twice. He regretted trying to help the man recover to a healthy mental state and now all he wanted was to leave and go home to nap away the craziness of his current reality.
The bearded man frowned at him, let go of his shirt collar, and nodded. He grabbed Sean’s hand and yanked him up before he hit the pavement. He looked him right in the eyes and spoke softly, saying, “You do know Abigail, you do, don’t you?”
But Sean didn’t know Abigail, had never even heard the name until the bearded man had said her name while in his deep slumber. He brushed the debris from his shirt and straightened his posture as he pointed to wooden heart cradled in the man’s arm. “Sir, I don’t know who Abigail is. But I do know her name is on that wooden heart. Are you Bryan?”
The bearded man sighed and nodded. “Yes, that’s me. I’m so sorry that I put my hands on you. I’m just looking for my girlfriend Abigail. We used to go to this coffee shop. Our first date was here. August 19th, 2012. She was so beautiful that day and every other day since.”
“I’m Sean by the way. And Bryan if I can ask, what happened to her?” Sean said, trying not to stare too hard at the wooden heart. He could feel a connection to Abigail, a thin one, but still a connection nonetheless.
“Sean, it’s a really long story and I don’t want to take anymore of your time. I wouldn’t want to bore you,” Bryan said, forcing a smile and looking behind him as the alleyway filled with bright light from the morning sun.
Sean sat on a old, busted crate and put his hands in his lap. He offered Bryan a seat on the crate beside him. He said in a gentle and warm voice, “You’re not boring me.”
As a smile formed along his tired face, Bryan sat on the crate next to Sean and removed the wooden heart on his pants leg, cleared his throat and said, “I met Abigail during the winter. It was the day after my brother committed suicide. He had jumped into the Metro tracks and his body got crushed immediately. I thought I was going to lose it, thought life was ending in all of its beauty and awesomeness. Abigail was at the funeral. She was my brother’s mistress and wasn’t ashamed of it either…”
Andy Tran is a young professional working and living in the Washington DC metro area. His work has been featured in The Virginia. Normal, Defenestration Magazine, and Calliope, and currently at Queens Mob Teahouse. He's a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, and he has a degree in English.