I came home from school yesterday afternoon feeling sad and sorry for
myself. My boyfriend of nearly two
years had dumped me for an airheaded cheerleader. That wasn't supposed to
happen. Our senior year is
supposed to be special. Actually, he didn't have the guts. Three of his
jockey friends were more than
happy to relate the news to me. I hate all of them.
My heart was broken to say the least. There was nothing I hated more than
being lonely. I walked home
slowly from school on an old dirt road that paralleled a shallow canal. It
reaked of dying fish and dried up
algae. The sun had been unrelenting for weeks. I stopped in front of the
doorstep of my family's house,
wiping my feet carefully on the welcome mat and brushing the dust off of my
"Why are you home from school so late young lady?" came the first thing out
of my father's mouth when I
opened the door. It wasn't a question. It was more like an accusation.
I walked by him without saying a word. I wasn't ready to deal with this
"Don't you walk away from me! You are nothing but trouble, you know that?
Go to your room right now."
I gave him a 'wish you were dead' look and stampeded straight to my room.
Good, that's where I wanted
to be anyway. My father had been so mean and discriminating for many months
now. I really couldn't
stand the sight of him anymore. I hated him at that moment too. I hated all
My bedroom door slammed shut and was locked right away. No way I was
letting anyone in. I turned my
computer on and took off my shoes as it connected to the internet. I needed
to talk to someone, anyone
who would listen.
Making myself comfortable in a small swivel chair, I searched for a chat
room for people locally. I found
one easily and clicked on the romance section. I needed to feel loved at
that moment, even if it was all
phony. When asked to enter a log-on name I typed in Lonely_Heart, for
that's what I was. There's no way
I would ever give out my real name on the internet. Too many crazy people
"Hello Lonely, what brings you here this afternoon?" came a message on my
I looked closer for the name of this guy. Loneliness. "Well I see we have
something in common. I just came
to find someone to talk to," I typed back in my slow hunt-and-peck method.
"Same here," came his quick reply. "What do you want to talk about?"
Then on the spur of the moment I just told him everything bad about my day
and my life. The words came
out freely and I really didn't expect him to understand my feelings. Men
"Just a minute," he answered. "I need to do something really quick but I'll
be right back." He wasn't coming
back. I didn't blame him. Should have known better than to think a man
would listen to me.
There was a pounding on my bedroom door at that moment. I jumped up in my
"Tatiana?" came my father's all too well known accusing voice. "There's
leftovers in the refrigerator for
supper when you get hungry. I'll be in my study room if you need me." And
then he was gone. Good
"I know how you feel," magically appeared on my screen a few seconds later.
I couldn't believe it. He
really did come back. "I feel much the same way as you do. My family hates
me. I have no friends. They
will never understand how much I really love them," he typed quickly.
"Why don't you just tell them?" I asked.
I decided not to push him any further about it. We made small talk about
our feelings and what we wanted
from life. This man did understand me. This conversation was a blessing to
"Lonely, I'm dying."
I didn't quite understand. "What do you mean?" I asked eagerly.
"What I said. I'm dying and I'm scared." There were no words exchanged for
a minute or two. I knew
what he was saying. I just didn't want to believe it.
"How so?" I responded after an eternity.
"I went to doctor a few months ago. I have cancer. He said I might live for
thirty days or thirty years.
There's just no way to tell."
My heart suddenly dropped. Somehow I felt a special bond with this man. He
was like an old friend. He
couldn't be dying. It just wasn't fair.
"I don't know what to say," I answered back honestly.
"Don't say anything. I haven't told anyone yet. I am so scared and worried
of what will become of my
family. I love them so much." Another silence. "And they don't even know
There was an intolerable silence now. I glanced quickly at my watch.
Somehow time had slipped by for
morning had already arrived. Suddenly I knew what I needed to do. I needed
to meet this man in person to
let him know that someone does care. His family was selfish to leave him
feeling such despair.
"Loneliness?" I typed.
"I have enjoyed this so much but I have to leave soon. I feel silly for
asking this. Is there any way we can
meet in person later today or this week?"
There was no hesitation this time. "I would like that very much. You do
live in Sanderson right? Maybe we
can meet at the coffee shop downtown?" he asked.
"Sure. Four o'clock this afternoon if you can make it." I looked at my
watch again. Nearly eight in the
"Okay, it's a date then," came the seemingly cheerful reply.
"I can't wait!" I typed in and said out loud at the same time. "Gotta run
now though. Meet me at the little
table by the front window. See ya then!" and I shut the computer down
I stood up from the swivel chair and stretched for the first time in over
twelve hours. I hadn't gotten up for
anything all night. By then I was starving so I unlocked the bedroom door
and headed for the kitchen in a
daze. My little brother was there eating some kind of bran cereal. I just
grabbed a couple of bananas from
the marble counter top and headed back to my room to get ready for the day.
I passed by Dad's study room and saw the light creeping from under his
door. I don't think he ever went
to sleep last night. Several times I could have sworn I heard him laughing
and mumbling to himself
throughout the night. I doubt it though. I just wanted to get out of the
house before he started yelling and
The day at school today seemed to go by pretty fast. I saw Jonathan, my
ex-boyfriend, in the halls between
some of my classes. He seemed happier than usual but he didn't have the
nerve to look at me. I didn't see
his new girlfriend with him either. That didn't matter to me though.
I was going to meet the nicest, kindest man I had ever known in just a few
hours. I wrote him a letter
during my study break. It was basically just to let him know that someone
did care and that he was loved.
Even if it was only by me, a complete stranger.
The final bell at school finally rang. I saw Jonathan race down the halls
like he was in a hurry to get
somewhere. It was three forty-five now. I had fifteen minutes to walk to
the coffee shop downtown. It was
less than a mile away. I was so scared all of the sudden. What if this man
didn't like me? What if he was
just some sick person who wanted to hurt me? What if he was twelve years
old or eighty years old? It
didn't really matter I supposed. We were meeting in a public place and I
said I'd be there. Besides, I just
knew deep down inside he was telling the truth. He was dying. He needed me.
I walked slowly down the gravel sidewalk to the coffee shop with my heart
pounding furiously every step
of the way. It was a mile long but it seemed much shorter now. I was
getting there too fast. I pulled my arm
close to my face and looked at my watch. Three fifty-five.
The coffee shop was almost empty when I finally stepped inside its swinging
doors. No one was in the seat
by the front window. I told the man behind the counter that I was just
waiting for a friend. He smiled and
I slid into one of the seats by the front window with my back to the door.
Two minutes after four. My new
friend wasn't coming. I was disappointed but a little relieved too.
Then I heard the little bell above the front door ring wildly. Someone had
stepped in. I didn't dare turn
around to see who it was. Maybe this was the moment of truth.
There was a strong hand on my shoulder then. It was him. I couldn't
breathe. He spoke the name he knew
me by softly, almost like he was crying. "Lonely_Heart."
I finally had the courage to look up at him directly in the eyes. He was
crying. His right hand was covering
his forehead like he was lost from the world.
Then I cried with him. We hugged and sat there for hours just enjoying each
other's company. There
wasn't a single moment when tears weren't shed. This man was perfect. This
man was my father.