"To you who dream of sweet, strong women I leave this story."
That was the first sentence of this strange letter, written, it seemed to Detective McClane of the Seattle PD, to nobody in particular. It wasn't addressed, it wasn't referring to any desired recipient, it wasn't signed, it was just there. As if the author had simply tried to get it off his chest, all that incoherent stuff which was obviously intended to represent some form of content.
It was his responsibility, however, to make sense of this letter, as it was the key to understanding what had transpired twenty-four hours before. Detective McClane knew he was going to have a hard time getting the images out of his mind. What had seemed like a car accident at first glance, horrific despite its physical banality, suddenly had to be regarded as something more intricate, mysterious.
For there was this piece, this letter, that McClane had just finished reading. He realised there was more to this story than met the eye. The letter had been pulled out of the glove compartment which for some unimaginable reason had survived the accident, if that indeed was what it appeared to be, relatively undamaged, which was saying something, regarding the fact that what had remained of the car itself wasn't much bigger than the glove compartment.
McClane put the sheets of paper down in front of him, leaning back in his chair. He took a deep breath. He was a rational man, very down to earth, happily married, two kids going to college now, rooted in reality, having an eye on his cholesterol, careful about drinking, proud to be a man of the law.
He was going to find out what this strange story was all about. For that, he knew, he would have to read the letter again. And again. And then again.
He leaned forward and went to work.
"To you who dream of sweet, strong women I leave this story. I must warn you, it is not going to be a nice story. To think that I once considered myself safe in the arms of love is nothing but a faint memory to me now. Life is indefinitely more complex than we dare to believe, yes, but sometimes life can also be nothing more then a simple cul-de-sac, and you only realise that when you hit your head on the end wall. The world, they say, is small, but it isn't. It's a monstrous, vast, unforgiving world, and when the only face looking upon which provides a quantum of solace is lost from sight, the world becomes a universe of misery.
You may wonder who I am, and why I'm talking to you. Well, my name was Tony Micelli, nice to meet you. This is my story.
I met Angela Bower when my life was at a crossroads. I didn't realise it at the time, standing in front of her door, there in Fairfield CT, what my daughter liked to call Siberia Wit' Elm Trees, about to apply for any ex pro player's dreamjob: housekeeper for some affluent uptown girl. I only knew I wanted a better life for my daughter.
That's what I got. And more. I went to college, graduated, became a teacher. What's better, I fell in love with my boss. What's best, she fell in love with me.
And what's worst, there are dreams come true.
I was blind with love, making a fool of myself after we had declared our love for each other. Ah, who am I kidding. I stank as her love interest. I acted too much like her first husband, and I didn't even see it. I wanted to be everything to her, and ended up with nothing, empty-handed. And it was all my fault.
But that's not what made me reach this decision which, if you are reading this, has already been turned into a reality. It's just that I invested so much in this relationship that the emotional exhaustion now that it's over is simply too much to handle for me. I may not be making a lot of sense to you, but see, what I felt for Angela - what I continue to feel for her - was more than love. It was more than life itself.
And even that wasn't the worst part of it. The worst part of it was that Angela was right in what she did. Course. She always was.
First, I was her housekeeper. We both had a little kid, so it was natural that we would get closer over time, taking on the responsibilities of the missing parent. Soon we were best friends, no matter how different we might have been, coming from different worlds, different universes. We very quickly found out that there was more between us than met the eye, a chemistry, ready to explode at any minute.
Eventually, when the kids had reached a certain age, when the two of us felt up to it, ready to close our eyes and jump, we did it. We tried.
And we made it.
The first time... well, I already told that story elsewhere, but what the heck. We parted ways. I was stuck in Iowa, building my career. She went home to New York to be CEO Angela Bower instead of Mrs Tony Micelli. Who could blame her ? I had asked her what options were left for us, if our careers offered us very little common ground for a relationship. By way of an answer she walked out on me.
I was hurt. At first I thought she was going to come back. A week passed, two weeks, four, eight. Then I folded. Angela had won.
I returned to Connecticut, showing up at her doorstep again, like I had done eight years previously. She looked exactly the same as she opened the door. I looked entirely different. In retrospect I'd say I was an entirely different person, had become an entirely different person. Most of all I had lost my fine nose for what's right and what's a terrible mistake.
Showing up at her doorstep, ready to fall to my knees if only I could be with her again, was the ultimate mistake. What was I thinking...
She told me. She had told me before, in Iowa. She told me that one day this decision, to return to her, would come back to bite me in the derri re.
I wouldn't listen. I wanted to drown in happiness; if I couldn't be with her I didn't want anything else.
She should have thrown me out, put me on the first flight back to Nowhere, Iowa. That may have saved me. She didn't. Again, who could blame her ? I'm a grown man, entitled to making my own decisions, and responsible for the consequences of my actions.
Why are women so cruel ? Why do they act against their better judgement ?
I'm a whimp, I know. That's what you are thinking, and rightly so, that's why you are reading this testimony.
What's worse, I'm a fool for love.
Our second chance. That's what we liked to call it. Everything went fine, went back to normal. I had been her housekeeper for a long time and I quickly got into the routine again. Well, routine. We only needed one bedroom, of course, but other than that things were pretty much the same as before.
Only they weren't. I was her lover and her housekeeper. She paid me and we shared a bed. It was ridiculous. I started to feel uncomfortable. It didn't take long, and I moved my stuff back into the spare bedroom. It was just horrible.
Then it happened. The catalyst which made strikingly apparent all the lies I was assiduously living by. I was offered another job. A brilliant job. And that just doesn't happen. You see, if you let a gig like the one I had in Iowa go down the drain, you just won't get another chance like it. There are too many qualified applicants, younger too, who don't have that stain on top of their r sum . But it happened. And it happened to me.
The catch: It was in Washington. And I mean Washington as in Space Needle, not as in Lincoln Memorial.
I couldn't take this job. I could have taken a job in Burkina Faso, for that matter, and it wouldn't have made that much of a difference. My life was with Angela, and everything that didn't go with it was out of the question. I threw the job offer in the wastebasket.
The next day Angela summoned me to her study. She was sitting at her desk, not looking at me. As I entered, she looked up. The expression on her face was dead serious. She held up some papers.
"Tony, what is this ?", she asked a question that she already knew the answer to. I didn't speak. I knew it was over. You may not believe this, and part of myself still has difficulties accepting it too, but it is the truth nonetheless: At that moment I knew it was going to be over in a matter of minutes.
"Tony", Angela said, "I pulled this out of the trashcan. Are you kidding me with this ?"
I continued my eloquent silence. Drowning in happiness, remember ! I could already feel it up to my neck.
Angela got up, not taking her glasses off. She was the most beautiful sight this old Italian's eyes had ever had the pleasure to enjoy.
"Why are you doing this to yourself, Tony ? Don't you see what's happening here ?"
I found the strength to speak. Mainly because I knew these were going to be the last words I'd be saying in my official capacity as the love relationship of CEO Angela Bower.
"Angela, I love you. Everything else is unimportant."
She was furious. She sat back down, took off her glasses, then slammed her fist down on the desk. She grabbed the job offer and threw it in my face.
"I'm sorry, Tony, I'd like to tell you off, and I mean tell you off good, but I'm lost for words. Who do you think you're kidding ? Hm ? Me ? Yourself ? Do you have any idea what you are willing to sacrifice by throwing this job away ?"
"I only know I'd lose you if I took it. I'm not willing to pay that price."
"Tony, why did you go to college ? Tell me again."
Again, my telling silence. Why does this woman always have to be right ? Why does she always hit the spot ?
"Angela, we worked so hard to finally get together. Let's not stop now."
She got up again, and came over to face me. It was time for the final pleadings.
"Tony, I'm tired. I can't go on like this. I simply can't." She sighed. I just stared. "It's time to make a decision. You can't be my housekeeper any longer. It's tearing us apart and you know it. This job offer is a sign. It's your chance to be somebody. It's what you've worked for all these years. Let's face it: I'm in your way, and if you stay, you'll blame me for it. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but someday you'll realise what you missed, and then you'll blame me for it, resenting me, ending not only our relationship but our friendship. That's a price I'm not willing to pay. I love you too much. I allowed this love a second chance, I'm not going to ruin it by giving it a third. For your own sake, Tony, come to your senses, and take this brilliant job."
She collected the papers from the floor and put them in my hand. They felt like acid.
Angela returned behind her desk. It was time for the verdict.
"Tony, the years with you were the best of my life. You are and always will be the most important man in my life. But for the sake of our friendship, I can no longer be with you."
She sighed again, looking down. As she faced me again, it was strange. It was...as if something about her had changed. As if she had, in a matter of seconds, travelled back in time. And indeed...
"Mr Micelli, on behalf of the Bower household I would like to extend to you my sincere gratitude for the excellent service you have provided us over the years."
She sat down, starting to make notes. I didn't exist anymore, not for her, not for myself. I knew that this was it, that I could consider myself dismissed. Resistance would have been futile.
"I love you, Angela", I said. She didn't react, at least not as far as I could see.
Then I left.
That happened one year ago.
I have thought a lot about it. I know now why she fired me, threw me out in the fashion of an HR manager. She wanted to protect our friendship, wanted to protect our love, therefore she ended our working relationship.
What more can I say ? I should feel happy, I got the job in Seattle, my career took off like a jetplane, I've made friends.
Just the other day I found a little scar on the side of my left hand, one I had forgotten about. I instantly remembered its origin; Angela may have a lot of talents, but handling a steak knife isn't one of them.
I looked at the scar for a long time. Angela, it said.
We stayed in touch. Just last week she gave me a call, we talked for an hour, as usual. I am a regular in her day planner. Not more, not less. We are still friends, I'd say even best friends. Again, I know I should feel happy about it. Most couples that break up are barely on speaking terms. But I haven't seen her since that day in her study. And that hurts. The pain does not dissipate, at least not quickly enough for me. I am having difficulties accepting that our lives are as fundamentally opposite as our respective geographic locations. She was right, but it hurts nonetheless. Nothing can possibly hurt more than an inconvenient truth. But what she told me in Iowa was exactly that: the truth. I'm doing what I was meant to do. So does she. I was meant to be a teacher and a baseball coach. She was meant to be a successful businesswoman.
Have I given up hope ? No, and I never will. Angela is and always will be the most important person in my life, even if we were living on different planets. The day I lose my hope will be the day that I perish. Not a single day goes by that I wouldn't think of her, and from what she keeps telling me I am certain the feeling is mutual.
Angela. When will I see you again ?"
The phone rang just the moment Detective McClane had finished reading the mysterious letter for the third time. He reached for the phone, still looking at the papers in front of him.
"McClane here. Yeah, Seargent, what is it ? Yes. And the ME is certain ? Uh-uh...okay...got ya. Thanks."
He knew now what he had to do to. He dialled a new number. As he waited for his call to be answered, he contemplated the content of the anonymous testimony in front of him again. It wasn't going to be easy. He hated what he needed to do now, but it was on his job description. So let's do it and get it over with.
"Yes, this is McClane down at Southwest. I need a number, please. Uh...the name's Angela Bower, that is Bravo-Oscar-Whiskey-Echo-Romeo, resident of Fairfield County, Connecticut. Yeah, I'll hold."
Twenty seconds later, Detective McClane had everything he needed. He took a deep breath and dialled the number. He was sort of hoping Ms Bower wasn't home, although even if that were to be the case it would only temporarily stall the inevitable.
The connection was established, and McClane knew at the other end of the continent a phone was ringing.
Outside, the hard world mourned on.