A SIMPLER SADNESS, short story, 2012
He held her letter in his hand, a letter he had not read since he was fifteen years old.
Reading it now reminded him of the days of drinking on fields and street corners: the days when nothing mattered except for schoolwork, parties, and the burn of young love. He wondered if things had really been better then. Truthfully, it had not been a happy time, but at least it was a simpler sort of sadness than that which attached itself to adulthood and responsibilities. Then, it had been acceptable for him to spend his every moment thinking of one thing only. Then, that thought had been her.
He cast his mind back to a day when he had met her on their meadow. He had prepared a simple picnic, made up of microwaved noodles and a cheap bottle of wine. She had always said it was her favourite brand, but he suspected now that it was just because it was all they were ever able to afford. Removing the makeshift newspaper cork, he had poured the wine into two plastic cups. They had drunk and they had eaten and they had laughed.
"I have a surprise for you," she had said, "so close your eyes."
He had closed them, and had felt her lips press against his. There had been three slow, careful kisses. She had always kissed in threes. Afterwards, they had laid on the grass for hours, telling each other about everything in the world that had mattered to them.
His thoughts turned to how she had later left him. He thought of the pain he had felt when he had first discovered that their love couldn’t last forever. How his world had ended, if only briefly. How much it had hurt then, and how silly it seemed now.
He did not think of these things often, but finding her letter afforded him a rare moment of nostalgia. He realized how fond he was now of that boy of fifteen, and of the girl that boy had loved. He was taken aback by the thought of how wonderful it was to have had his heart broken by her, and how beautiful it was to have had a heart prepared to be broken.
He was grateful to her now for the joy, for the pain, and for the still lingering memories of it all. He was grateful to have felt a simpler sadness.