Noelle

I think it was three weeks after we met, that he proposed that we should move in together. It would save money so we could go away, we were spending every day together anyway, he didn’t have much stuff since he just came back from living in Central America, so if it didn’t work out, he could pack up and leave in a heartbeat. Naturally I agreed, we hopped on a plane and spent the next weeks walking on quiet beaches, eating the local cuisine, and watching the stars.

Back home, we reorganized the house a little. It was true, he didn’t have much, but he did have one box with things that were meaningful to him. He went through it; pictures, coins, tickets, notebooks, lots of drawings and a plastic folder, with a polaroid from a girl and a letter.

‘Who is that?’ I asked.
‘Noelle,’ he said.
‘Ex?’
‘Not really, it never happened between us,’ he said. ‘But I was in love with her. Immediately.’

I couldn’t help but scrutinize the polaroid. Noelle, en profil, seemingly unaware of the camera. Short hair. There was something intense about her. Beautiful, too.

‘She killed herself,’ he said. ‘A lot of issues, with her family.’
‘The letter is from her?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ he said and took the polaroid from me, looking at her.
‘Can I read it?’ I asked.
‘Sure,’ he said and walked away.

I read the letter, decyphering her erratic handwriting; it went from normal size to big round letters, followed by small print, changing to just a couple of words on a page. First she was angry with him, something at a party and what he did or didn’t do, then she apologized for being angry, and then, in small print, she said she was falling in love with him and didn’t know what to do with it. The words in the end were a sort of poem.

A couple of months later we were driving home, at night, a long way ahead.

‘Why did it never happen?’ I asked. ‘With Noelle?’
‘It just never did, ‘ he said.
‘But what happened, after she wrote that she was falling in love with you?’
‘She never did that. What do you mean?’
‘In the letter? She told you?’

It got grim. He didn’t speak to me. Silent, dark hours on the road. At home he went straight to the box and read. I went to bed. A bit later I heard the door slam.

When I woke up, he was there, still dressed, puffy eyes, sitting on the bed.
‘I never read it all.’

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