the one who would not budge

"You can't stop here," they said, when they found me planted cross-legged on the road. I looked up.

"Why not? There's plenty of room to pass around me."

"It's a No Standing Zone."

"I'm not standing. I'm sitting."

The officers shifted uncomfortably, glanced at one another. "Listen," said the first, whose name badge read APATHY, "We know you've been here a while already. It's time to move on."

"Well, I can't. I've tried."

The other, whose badge read SYMPATHY, knelt down. "Do you want us to call someone for you?"

"Like who?"

"Like a friend."

I brought my knees up to my chest and wrapped the flannel I was wearing tight around me. I pulled the sleeves down over my hands, disappearing as much of myself as I could in the brown and green plaid. It was an invisibility cloak that hid exactly nothing from no one. 

"Everyone knows everything already," I said softly. 

"Look here," started Apathy, "you can't just---" But his partner held up a hand and shook his head, and they left.

The next night they returned to find me in the exact same spot. "We brought you something." Sympathy held a weathered envelope with an AirMail stamp. He buzzed with excitement as he handed to me.

"What's this?" I asked, accepting it with little interest.

Apathy glared. "Just open it."

Inside the envelope was a four hundred and forty-eight word apology, from someone six thousand miles away, whom I hadn't thought about once in two years.

I read it, then read it again. "What am I supposed to do with this?"

"We thought you'd be pleased." Sympathy was disappointed. 

I handed the letter back. "Would you please go? I'd like to be alone."

"This is unhealthy," declared Apathy. "Pathetic, really."

"I am aware," I replied.

"What are you going to do, just stay here forever?" 

I took a deep breath and looked from Sympathy to Apathy and back again. "Have you never read any of the Romantics?" 

"You mean like the stuff with Fabio on the cover?"

I blinked. "No. No I do not mean like the stuff with Fabio on the cover." I took another deep breath. "Gentlemen, I appreciate your concern. I do. But right now I am like a character in a Bronte novel. Unrequited, long-suffering, noble if unrewarded devotion - all that. I see no reason to move on from where I am until I'm ready, and frankly, I think there's worse, less beautiful stances I could take up in this life.

Sympathy's face softened. Apathy's brow furrowed.

With my thumb I traced circles around the button at the bottom of my shirt. "I'm choosing this," I said, as if to the button. "I might stop choosing it tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next. But right now, here, exactly where I am is exactly the only place I can be."

I pulled a matchbox from my pocket, struck a light on the nearest memory that sparked. "Now if you don't mind, I have a candle to burn."

As they walked away, conferring in low tones about the one who would not budge, the setting sun blurred them into silhouettes. I couldn't tell without squinting who was who, because the road I wasn't ready to move down very quickly disappeared into a future I wasn't ready to see.