Sybil and Clyde Part Two
Image: Swimming Pool by Night by Jean-Paul Gaillard via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jipol/) and used under a Creative Commons Liecense
After that first meeting, I waited every day to see Sybil again. The days seemed too long from my pedestal, watching summer and the joys that come with it pass slowly beneath me. I wanted to hold on to the feeling of carelessness and freedom that radiated from all around me, but the future threatened that joy more and more every day. You see, I was headed towards a hardworking life. Not just sitting around watching other people have fun, but a job that required real force and the type of labour I wasn’t ready for. I barely passed my classes and I was never the star athlete of our school’s rugby team, so my future was limited. I used to think this was a trait passed onto me from my father, almost as if it were a part of the Morris DNA, but as I grew up, I just accepted the fact that I would peak too soon. The past four years would be the highlight of my life, and if I could, I would have made them last forever.
It was almost the end of the summer. The summer after my senior year. I couldn’t help but think, that today at least, I was wasting what precious time I had left. No one had been to the pool for an hour now. It was a cooler day, which was unusual for the middle of August, but I decided to take it as a sign to lock up early. I grabbed my things once I’d cleaned the pool and was about to head out, when I noticed someone entering the gate on the far side. I knew who it was in an instant, her eyes catching the late afternoon light.
“Sybil?” I asked, as if I didn’t know it was her. She looked different somehow. But still herself, as if altered but not changed.
She walked over to me without saying a word until we were face to face. I could no longer breathe for fear of scaring her off.
“We should swim,” she said simply, which took me by surprise. I hadn’t actually swam all summer and the idea was intriguing.
“Okay” I replied.
I grabbed a bathing suit for her from the back room and we waded in slowly to the icy water. It took me longer to adjust to the cool sensation enveloping us, but Sybil seemed to delight in the feeling. She smiled a true smile and it gave me hope.
We hadn’t said very much to each other so I decided to break the silence after a few minutes.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked, genuinely interested in what went on in her head. The beauty of a mind is that no one has access to it.
“Well” she started. “I was just wondering what happens if a lifeguard were to drown? Who would save the one that’s meant to do the saving?”
She asked it so thoughtfully I thought it might have been a trick question. But it was too hopeful and I decided that she deserved an honest answer.
“No one.” I replied, and felt sad in saying it. I wished I could have given her another answer, but that is what I believed.
She nodded and swam around a little before getting out to dry off. I told her that I was going to stay in for a while as she made her way to the changing room.
I floated and contemplated her strange question that wasn’t so strange when you thought about it. I wondered why she would ask me such a thing? Did she really see me as being wise?
The sun started to set and I began to worry about where Sybil had gone. She was taking too long and this unsettled me, so I got out of the pool and knocked on the change room door. There was no answer so I knocked again and then entered slowly.
When I peered in I saw Sybil standing there, her back turned to me. She was winding a long piece of cloth around her chest. I knew what she was doing, but I didn’t understand why, so I decided to ask her. She jumped when I spoke and quickly hung her head.
“I’m not going to try and deny anything,” she said, because she was too smart to try and change my mind. “But haven’t you always wondered why I didn’t dress like other girls? Why I cut my hair so short? Why I have no friends?”
I couldn’t listen to this. I wouldn’t. She had made me happy and I was stupid enough to think that she actually liked me. She couldn’t just take that away.
“Can’t you see?” She asked desperately. “I never wanted to date you Clyde, I wanted to be you.”
And with that she was gone. She just ran out on me with tears in her eyes, and like a fool, I let her go.
When I think about it now, she never tried to hide anything from me. I had just been too blind to realize the truth. I let her down in a world that would always do the same. I was just like everyone else.
I did see Sybil again, a few years later. She went to a university out of town and I went to work for the local auto shop. It happened by accident. She must have been home for the summer break, and we met in the street, a few blocks away from my house.
Sybil was no longer the girl I had known, but a very confident looking man. I contemplated her as we grew closer and decided she looked happier that way.
“Hello” I said hesitantly. She hadn’t noticed me as we passed, but I had caught her attention.
“Hi” she replied, looking a little confused. “Have we met?”
This broke my heart into pieces. All I wanted was to make things up to her. I just wanted to right my wrong.
“No” I answered, not wanting to fight it. “I don’t think we have.”
She smiled and took my outstretched hand.
“Seth,” she replied. “Seth Clarke”
It then all made sense to me. Maybe we never did meet each other, not really. She was never Sybil and I never let her be anything else. Maybe this was our first meeting after all.
I smiled back at her and she began to walk away. But I hadn’t proved it to her yet. I still hadn’t made amends. So, remembering the first time we ever spoke I called after her.
“Seth Clarke! You could have at least said goodbye.”
“Goodbye Clyde” he yelled back over his shoulder, but this time it wasn’t for anyone else but me.