The Red Umbrella

It arrived in an unmarked package with no return label. The stamp on the front declared it was from a country not that far away, but one that isn’t on my list to visit anytime soon. If not for the reason that it seems terribly romantic, but because it’s where the man I was once in love with, currently lives.

I knew it was a gift from him— some token from his travels, some keepsake that would hold a double-edged sword full of meaning for me. A symbolic gesture to signify a special joke between us, a once sweet nickname that now is tawdry and pestering to forget. As I stood at my mailbox at work, feeling how light, and yet so very heavy, this package was, I considered two decisions: throw away this gift from Mr. Possibility or feed my intrigue and open this cryptic message that is as confusing as the intentions of the man who sent it.

As always, curiosity gets the best of this Tigar.

I took it to my desk and while my editor went to lunch, I tore open the envelope, preparing myself for tears and hoping an intern didn’t come upstairs with a burning question. I was careful not to rip anything because something in my gut felt it was delicate and precious. That is how Mr. P always described me — powerful and vivacious with an unquenchable spirit, but at my core, sweet and sensitive. Impressionable.

Inside the package, I pulled out a red folder with his school’s emblem on the front. The same school that I had edited his entrance essays while lying in just his t-shirt on his bed with the expensive down comforter that usually gave me more peace than his touch ever did. Fixing his comma use and vocabulary, we talked about me joining him on this overseas excursion, freelancing and exploring the world together. I could write this blog and pitch to magazines, while putting my dreams at bay so he could chase the elusive future that I doubt he has yet to figure out. That shiny folder, ripped at the crease and tattered at the ends, felt like what was left of our love, broken and shattered, but for whatever reason, hanging together by the single romantic thread of hope.

I ran my fingers across the page until I felt paper. There is was, the note. It would say something and nothing all at the same time, leaving me lingering on what he really meant to say. What he really wished he could feel.

Hey pretty Tigar. I saw this while in Prague and it reminded me so much of you. I hope you know I’m always thinking of you and missing our talks very much. I hope you’re doing well… you’re with me everywhere. Love, Mr. P.

I waited for my heart to speed up, for my throat to tighten and for that need to run as far away from the folder as possible. Usually, when faced with something emotional, I want to release myself from the pressure quickly. That way I don’t have time to think or to process, to obsess or figure things out. If I can get away from the problem, the problem ceases to exist. But this time, it was different.

His words felt emptier than they ever did, his feelings for me disappearing, just as his hold on me was weakening. I opened up the folder, turned over a black matted frame and found a hand-painted portrait of a couple standing near a bridge in Prague, kissing. You can’t see their embrace because of the red umbrella covering them from the gentle stroke of rain cascading down the paper.

It’s like the red umbrella that sits at the top of this blog.

And it’s similar to the red umbrella portrait that hangs in my room, shielding a couple caught in a kiss, standing next to a taxi cab. It’s a second-hand store beauty my mom found and had framed for me last Christmas. Mr. Possibility never saw it – he hasn’t been in my room in some time – but the two portraits matched each other, just in different locations.

Just in the two places where my heart lives – with a man who will never be what I want and in the city that makes me hope that one day, some man will be.

I received that gift from Mr. Possibility nearly eight months ago. For a while, I stashed it in the drawer next to my desk, forgetting about it until I went searching for a long-lost fork at lunchtime. When I needed to spring clean in March, I pulled it out and brought it home, careful not to look at it, and purposefully stuffed it in between big books to protect it. Every once in a while, I’d see the red corners of the folder sticking out and move my attention to something else. But I always knew it was there, haunting me, reminding me of this final gift that while it didn’t upset me wildly, affected me in a way that I didn’t like to admit.

But then over take-out and red wine with my friend J on a rainy Thursday night after work, I made a decision to come out from the umbrella. Knowing she’d protect me – along with my other supportive, honest best friends – from any storm that could come, I gave her that Prague portrait. I realized I didn’t need a romantic reminder of Mr. Possibility and I didn’t want one either. If I wanted to think of happier times, I could – those memories don’t disappear, no matter how much you try. I don’t want him back and I don’t need his dollar-short and months (and months)-too late expression of love to cloud my judgment.

So for now, until (or if) I decide to frame a reminder of my first New York love on my wall – that particular red umbrella will remain in the hands of a friend. Because really, the more I find myself standing underneath umbrellas, wondering when the rain will stop and the sun will come out, the more I find myself wanting to play in the downpour. The more I find the past trying to creep back into my life, the more excited I get for the future.

The more I’m reminded of the love I had, the more convinced I am that a better one is surely on it’s way.

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6 thoughts on “The Red Umbrella

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