Thaddeus sat silent and still, watching the gnarled oaks drape their rusty-gold canopy over the cool earth. Thaddeus hadn’t spoken for a nice long while. If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed he’d dozed off. But I did know better. If you spend time with Thaddeus, you grow accustomed to awkward silences stretching so long you sometimes forget what exactly you were talking about before the quiet, back in all the noise when everything was so damn urgent. More than once I’ve forgotten a question – or had an entirely different question take shape – while sitting with Thaddeus doing nothing but wasting time.
The leaves waved slightly, and the crisp breeze refreshed me. Thaddeus sat next to me, watching and resting. Every so often, he would sigh contentedly, like he had just enjoyed the final note of a piece of fine music or finished the last word of a conversation with an old friend.
Eventually, he spoke. “Why are you running?”
“Running?” I answered, incredulous. “I’m not running. She left me. I’m still there, in the empty house. You can blame me for a lot of things, but not for running. I was too stupid to run.”
Quiet, again. Thaddeus watched a brown squirrel stuff an acorn into his swelling cheeks and scamper away. Then he looked straight at me. “Pax,” he said, “you know as well as I do there are a thousand ways to run – and you’ve tried most. Ailla only left last week, but you left a long, long time ago.”
The words sliced. I hated them. I feared them. They angered me. “So, what am I supposed to do?”
“I don’t know, Pax, ” Thaddeus said as he stood and stretched. “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m grabbing my pipe and taking a walk.”
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