A chance encounter leads to a reckoning with the past in “No Seconds” by RW Anton. When someone from years ago happens upon the main character in a hotel lobby, our protagonist is presented with a choice to either allow or deny past pain to reenter their life. Through small details of a loaded conversation, the piece explores a rare second chance to utilize one’s own capacity for choice. By exploring second person narration, Anton offers this choice to the reader, too, and the power of this choice presents an opportunity to move beyond old hurt, to advocate for oneself and one’s ability to heal.
by RW Anton
You see him walking through the lobby of your hotel and wonder where he’s headed. You haven’t seen him in more than 15 years, and he looks exactly like you remember him – tall, athletic, caramel-dipped chocolate skin, dazzling toothy grin. He walks with such confidence and purpose.
You try to hold yourself back, but your feet are moving towards him before the alarms in your mind can catch up. He is right in front of you.
Hey, Don’t I know you? He says.
Well, I should hope so. It’s been a really long time, but I don’t think I’ve changed that much.
He crosses his arms in front of him and looks you up and down. No, you haven’t changed too much. I like the cornrows. They accentuate your features. You used to have very short hair.
Thank you. And you haven’t changed a bit from the last time I saw you, have you? What are you doing to keep so young looking, drinking the blood of young babies or something? You’re starting to remember why you haven’t seen one another, and the snark is quickly creeping into your words and demeanor. I don’t know whether to hug you or punch you.
He takes an ever-so-slight step back and throws his hands up in front of him like he is ready to box then flashes you a dazzling smile. Before you know it, he has slithered forward and enfolded you in a tender yet fierce embrace. You’re a bit embarrassed and can feel the flush coming to your cheeks and forehead. It is creeping up over your scalp and back down to the nape of your neck. You’re hoping that it covers your face so that no one can see your reaction or identify you if you lose control.
How is that? He whispers in your ear while still holding you in his embrace.
You want to pull away and wallop him a good one right across those high cheekbones, but your body is jello, and your mind is caught between a mix of emotion. You did, after all, always have a jones for the guy. You did approach him when you were only 14 years old and get him to take you home. You did make the first move. You really liked him, or you thought you did, and you still have a powerful attraction to his muscular physique and gentle confidence.
I know this is a little awkward, he whispers in your ear. I never got to say everything I wanted to tell you back then. I’m sorry. Are you staying here in the hotel? Maybe we can grab a drink at the bar later, or perhaps you’d like to meet in one of our rooms? He says as he steps back just enough to look you in the eye and continues to hold you by the shoulders.
What do you do? You want him so badly, and yet you don’t want to forgive him so easily. Your eyes are beginning to water in the face of his openly admitted apology. You are fighting to keep your composure in this very public space.
How long are you staying? You say, I’m here for a few more days.
I’m just here until tomorrow morning, so I’d really like to get together with you tonight if you don’t have any other plans. I’m flying to Toronto tomorrow for a conference and then to Venice for a fashion event.
You’ve always been such a busy guy. Is there no one to keep you here in Chicago anymore? You say as you mull it over and remember the pain you endured that night. You also can’t forget the hurt when he put you out of his home and made you take the bus. You would have done anything for him and endured anything other than being thrown away. He took your innocence savagely and didn’t even give you the chance to clean up before tossing you into the street.
I do appreciate the sentiment and the offer, but I will have to respectfully decline. You practically purr, knowing that it will do no good to try to hurt him the way he hurt you. It was so good seeing you, but I have a date for tonight. Safe travels, sir.
You say that last line loud enough for the entire lobby to hear as you turn to walk away without looking back. If you look back, you might just fall into his trap again. People like that don’t change; they only get better at their manipulations. You smile to yourself as you imagine him standing there with his mouth on the floor and his eyes full of remorse. It’s a good memory, and you’ll cherish it for the rest of your life.
RW Anton is a singer/songwriter working out of New York City. He studied vocal music at the Cleveland School of the Arts and Baldwin-Wallace college and created a youtube series that has garnered him over 5 million views on the platform. He is currently perfecting his writing craft and looking forward to telling stories, in fiction and non-fiction, that inspire readers to approach life with maximum passion.