As Jennifer browsed at some of the locally-owned shops, she was soon interrupted by the persistent vibration of her phone in her back pocket. She had some work projects she was juggling, so she found a bench along the tree-lined street and began checking her emails and texts. After she was done tackling those, she briefly moved on to social media. There was very little of interest to her, but just as she was about to exit out, a message notification caught her eye. To her surprise, it was from someone she hadn’t thought about or seen in several years–a classmate named Matt Conroy. Why would he be contacting me after all these years? she wondered. Almost instantly, however, her heart began to stir and as she paused to study his face, a slight smile slowly crept over her own. Those who knew Jennifer well would have also detected a softening of her gaze. She recalled that he was sweet and smart, with a good sense of humor, and she always found him extremely handsome with a nice build, dark brown hair, chocolate brown eyes, and dark features. Yet she didn’t believe he had ever had a steady girlfriend in high school and even seemed a little shy around girls. She couldn’t help but admire him in high school–he was just so good looking, not to mention captain of the cross country team–but more important than that, he had always been very respectful and kind to her. He was universally well liked and she had always regarded him as being way out of her league, though she recalled that after high school he had confided in her that he had always noticed her, but she had somehow remained oblivious. She was too insecure for such egotism and remained safely in her shell in high school. Yet she always presented an outward confidence and, while generally reserved in group settings, when one-on-one with the right person, she could be very talkative. Very few people knew her well, but the right person could trigger her loquaciousness. However, Matt Conroy was not that person, and so, she remained reserved in his presence. Even when he would try to engage her in conversation, she would rarely bite. However, when they became better acquainted after high school through her then boyfriend Jake, she realized that he was very genuine and endearing and they had even become friends during their college years.
But it had been twenty years since they had seen each other and she couldn’t imagine why he would be contacting her now, after so many years. As she opened the message, she realized that it had been sent two weeks earlier but had somehow escaped her notice. The message read:
Hi Jennifer- Hope you’re doing well. I happened to see your picture pop up and thought I’d reach out. It’s been a while since we spoke–about twenty years–but I just wanted to say hello and also just apologize to you for what transpired between us (now so many years ago). I take full responsibility for what happened and I’m sorry. If you’d like to talk, I would love to hear from you. I’m still living in Shelby Falls and work as a graphic designer (finally started my own firm). Anyway, if you’d rather not communicate, I understand. I hope all is well with you. Best, Matt
She reread the message several times but honestly didn’t know what he could be apologizing for. She couldn’t recall anything that had ever happened between them that would warrant an apology, and especially not twenty years later. Could he be confusing me with someone else? she wondered. The whole thing was rather strange and she began to think he wasn’t all there and that she should be careful about how and whether to respond. Yet, as she continued to rack her brain about what he might be referring to, a strange nervousness came over her and she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was some truth to his words. Her heart inexplicably began to race at the thought of communicating with him and by the time she arrived back home to her parents’ house that day, she decided that she would respond. After all, she reasoned, it would be impolite not to respond. And so, she opened the door.
Hi Matt! Wow, it’s been a while! So sorry for the delay, I didn’t see your message until today. How are you? There’s no need to apologize for anything, really. I’m not even sure what you’re referring to 🙂 Anyway, thanks for reaching out and hope all is well with you. ~Jennifer
And his response? So happy to hear from her and asking if she had time to speak with him. This is probably just an old friend having a momentary spell of remorse for past perceived wrongs, she thought; nothing to be alarmed about. Yet the other part of her was saying emphatically, No, you need to shut this down. And yet, she was so curious as to what he could possibly want to apologize for after all these years. So she gave him her number and he phoned shortly thereafter.
The instant the phone rang, she felt a surge of excitement–a happiness even–though she didn’t understand why. All she knew was that she hadn’t felt like this in a very long time.
“Hello,” she answered, her heart now craving to hear his voice.
“Hi,” he said cheerfully. “Wow, it’s great to hear your voice.”
“Yours too,” she responded, now remembering how much she had always liked his voice. “It’s been a long time. How are you?”
“Good, very good actually. You?” A nervous energy began to engulf him. He couldn’t believe he was actually speaking to her.
“I’m doing well,” she said, feeling her own nervousness starting to get the better of her and bracing herself to hear what he had to say.
After moving past pleasantries, Matt turned to the reason for his call. He referenced a weekend about twenty years earlier when he had visited Jennifer and her then boyfriend Jake in Boston. But while Jennifer did vaguely remember him visiting, it soon became apparent to them both that she had very little recollection of the visit and Matt was a little stunned. He didn’t know if he should say anything further, but something was compelling him to explain. He needed her to know the truth.
And with that, he proceeded to share an emotionally-charged story about the two of them and all the while it felt to Jennifer as if it had happened to someone else–yet she was beginning to realize that it had happened–and to her. How could I have blocked all of this out? she wondered in disbelief. But as we all know, the mind works in mysterious ways and it seemed that Jennifer’s mind had played tricks on her–for over twenty years.