Four weeks. Three weeks.
Cams couldn’t help it. Her internal calendar started the moment her feet led her in that small side street, a street she had only started passing through again recently in her jogging route. She knew she shouldn’t keep track of things anymore, but it was an automatic instinct. She had a particularly sharp long-term memory which was useful for so many things including her work, but it was also a curse especially in times like this.
She shook her head slightly to clear her head from the thoughts that tried to crowd in, and instead tried to concentrate on her breathing to keep her steady jogging pace. This wasn’t the first time she passed by here. She had passed by here the other day, and one time last week, and nothing strange happened to her — never mind that she picked up her pace and practically sprinted when she got approached the park, the one place that she hasn’t been in in the past six months.
Six months. One year.
There was a stray piece of gravel on the sidewalk, probably from the nearby parking lot, picked up by a car or another jogger who kicked it out of the lot it belonged. Cams didn’t see it until she felt it, right smack in the middle of her right foot. It felt like a sharp piece of rock, so much that thought her running shoes were ripped by this little thing. When she examined it later on, it looked like every other piece of rock on the ground but right then, all she could think of was the pain on her foot, and how she has to sit down to make sure she wasn’t injured.
She hobbled to the nearest empty bench, sat down and pulled her right foot up. She pulled her shoe off gingerly, expecting to see torn rubber and fabric and blood seeping through her sock — because it really hurt — but there was none. She pulled her sock off and inspected her foot for broken skin under the dim park lights, but her foot looked normal, except maybe for a reddish spot but she wasn’t sure if it was really there because it was too dark. Otherwise, her foot was fine. It looked fine, but she decided to stretch it out and rest still, nonetheless.
Cams had just finished tying her shoe when she realized where she was sitting, and took in a sharp breath. She looked around, at the park, on the bench, at the nearby restaurants and took another deep breath to still her heart, which had started pounding not because of exercise.
Four weeks. Three weeks. Six months. One year.
She could plot her entire year here, right in that park. Different benches, different times, different weathers, but so many days. If she thought of it hard enough, she can come up with the number of times she had sat at each particular bench, and how the employees in the nearby coffee shop already knew her name because of how often she hung out there. Or how they also knew the name of the person she was always with in the past year. She wondered if they still knew her, even after six months of not visiting. She wondered if they remembered the couple that sat by the corner by the window last year, talking in hushed, private tones like there was no one else in the shop, eyes sparkling at the beginning of something new.
Or perhaps they remembered something more recent: same table, same people, different time and entirely different mood. Sometimes she thought it was raining that night, but then her sharp long term memory would remind her that it was a cool and dry night, because she spent the next hour walking around, trying to process everything that went down.
That was six months ago. Four weeks ago, she saw the reason of that conversation. Three weeks ago, she saw the person she was with on that night.
One year. Six months. Four weeks. Three weeks.
“I hate my memory.” Cams muttered. Not sad, or angry — more in jest to herself. She expected to feel a wave of grief or anger, but she didn’t feel any. She felt normal. A little apprehensive, maybe, but not as much as she used to.
Cams glanced around, and saw several people sitting by the benches, some couples except for that group of friends laughing so loud that she could hear bits of what they were talking about. There were people cutting through the park from one street to another, maybe to get back to work or head home. Some in groups, some alone. There were other joggers, too, who ignored everyone else, lost in their world as they ran.
The world kept on turning, even as Cams remembered the dates in her mind. Life went on.
Suddenly, she felt thirsty. Cams would normally get a drink in one of the convenience stores she passed by when she felt that, or just head home if the thirst wasn’t so bad yet. She stood up and looked at the coffee shop, hesitated for a bit before finally striding to the door, and pushing it open for the first time in six months.
“Good evening, ma’am!” The regular cheerful greeting of the employees reached her ears as she headed for the counter. Cams recognized the girl behind the cashier, and smiled, wondering if she was recognized, too.
“Hi. Um, is it okay if I ask for water?” Cams asked politely, hoping that they haven’t changed their policy about giving water to joggers who happen to pass by.
The girl behind the counter smiled. “Oh sure thing. The water is over there, at the straw area.” She motioned to the other side of the store.
“Thank you,” Cams said, grateful. She started to walk away, when the girl spoke again.
“I haven’t seen you for a long time here, ma’am.”
Cams met her eyes, and smiled, in spite of herself. “Yeah. It’s been a while.” A year. Or six months. Depends on what you remember.
The girl smiled back, and wished her a good evening, before attending to the customers that came in after Cams. That was a relief — for a moment there, Cams thought the girl would ask something else, like the last time she was there or who she was with. She watched the girl take the next orders before walking away.
After she had her drink, Cams headed for the door and stopped when she saw a guy and a girl sitting at the corner table by the window, deep in a conversation. The guy was speaking, and the girl’s back was to her. It seemed like a serious conversation based on how the guy looked, and how everything seemed hush. Cams wished she could see the expression on the girl’s face, to know what kind of conversation they were having, just because.
She stood there for a while, looking at them, until the tinkling sound of the chimes over the door rang as another customer entered the shop. Cams stepped aside to give way, and started walking out, giving one last glance to the boy and girl who sat at the corner by the window. She wished with her whole heart that the conversation they were having was the same as the one she had there a year ago, and not the one six months after that. She wished and hoped and prayed it was the start of something and not the last something — because as far as Cams was concerned, that corner table by the window does not need another memory of a heartbreak.