My husband and I are doing a fiction exercise. We've both crafted a short relationship story to go with this picture. My story is below. I'll post his tomorrow.
The Florida sun beat down on Brent's head, pounding pressure into his skull. He felt sweat trickle down his temple as he practiced the lines in his head. It's not you; it's me. It's not you; it's me.
Valerie walked out of the souvenir shop with a smile on her face and a plastic bag in her hand. She skipped toward him and delightedly grabbed his arm. "Wait until you see what I got us!" She kissed him on the cheek and reached into her bag.
It's not you. It's me. Brent recited to himself.
Valerie pulled a wad of colorful material out of the bag and held a shirt to her chest. Her bracelets clinked with the motion, bringing Brent out of his reverie. "I got one for each of us," she squealed. "Do you love it?"
Valerie bounced in place as Brent took in the airbrushed palm trees, a sunset fading into the water beside them. With growing horror, he read the words painted in fanciful script: Key West Is For Lovers and inside a heart over his grilfriend's breast: Valerie & Brent
She giggled with pleasure as his eyes locked on the bright pink heart that bore his name. It seemed to pulsate and grow the longer he stared. It wasn't until he felt the brush of soft cotton against his arm that he realized Valerie was holding a blue t-shirt against his chest, too. "Here's yours. Put it on!"
Brent moved his hand toward the shirt that Valerie was pressing against him, but his sweaty hands did not fold around the fabric securely and the shirt dropped to the sidewalk. He watched the exasperation and dismay cross Valerie's face and knew what was coming: another pouting lecture in which she accused him of not loving her. They went through this every day, and he prepared himself for the reassurance that he'd have to dole out for the next few hours, when suddenly he noticed the street sign above him. END. It was an omen; a prophetic, if tangible sign. It's not you; it's me ran through his mind.
He picked the shirt up from the ground and held it out to Valerie, whose bright beachy smile was already turning sour.
"Listen, Val. There's something I need to tell you. I should have said something before."
Valerie placed her hands on her hips. The wadded-up sunset turned upside down in her hand resembled a frying egg now. Brent fixated on it as he delivered his prepared statement.
"It's not me. It's you."
He held his breath as he realized his mistake. Valerie's eyebrows shot up above her designer shades as her mouth formed an 'O' of surprise and then quickly gave way to the straight line of a set jaw. "What did you just say?"
Brent stared at the END sign above him. He hadn't noticed the skull and crossbones beneath it, but studied them now. He focused on the red stop light behind it, then watched it turn green. He took a deep breath and held the blue shirt toward the girl before him. The same annoying, whining, shallow girl whose calls he avoided and who was familiarly furious with him again. Traffic started moving and Brent raised his voice to be heard.
"I said, it's not me. It's you." Then he pushed the shirt into her hands and walked away.