'i'm home. i'd really like to buy you a drink.'
waiting. seemed like forever. really, it was only a few minutes.
'i'd like that.'
excitedly, i packed a few items into my bag. just in case.
i drove into the city that wasn't really a city.
parked, walked too quickly. nerves getting the best of me.
i don't remember the first part of the conversation. there was a big hug when we were standing together again.
there was a corner booth in a bar that wasn't well lit. there was a flickering candle on the table, a tealight that only caught his eye every so often.
i made a shitty joke about his girlfriend being mad about me taking him out for a drink. it posed as a joke, but really i just wanted to know if he had a girlfriend. as if that was some kind of a gauge on how i could or would or should act towards him.
there was a delayed response on his behalf. i think i genuinely surprised him, because he looked so confused when he said that he had no girlfriend.
for a split second i thought to myself...oh, my god. does he have a boyfriend? is that what this was always about? but i talked myself out of that.
after small talk, i took a deep breath that i disguised in a laugh at something he said that wasn't nearly as funny as it seemed by my reaction.
the smile on my lips tightened into a straight line.
'you know? i just wanted to talk to you. it's such a funny thing to say, because by saying it, i am talking to you. but there are just too many things in my life that feel unsettled. and i wanted to try to settle a few of them.'
his eyes widened a little, and i tried to put him at ease explaining what i'd been going through since i last saw him.
'when i saw you, you would never have known what i'd been doing the three days before that. i had been essentially getting my parents' blessing on ending my marriage.'
his mouth dropped open. he didn't even try to hide it.
'i know. and you kept mentioning it to me. and i just wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. no! it's actually almost over. please stop talking about it. it was the biggest mistake of my life. and i'm trying to undo it. but it's going to take some time.'
he just stared at me. the words flowed like a warm rush of vomit. out of my control entirely.
'and then i came home for a couple days to tell them that it was over.'
'and now i'm here. trying to just get away from it and everything that it is doing to me and to my life. and i'm starting over in a way. but i'm also coming back to everything that i always knew. so in a way i'm not starting over at all.'
he shook his head in disbelief. it felt like he was still processing the first couple sentences. i had flooded him.
if i thought he cared enough about me, i would have thought that there were the tiniest hints of tears in his eyes. but there weren't. it was just an illusion.
'you know what else?'
he said 'no' aloud, but in a way that was barely audible.
'i just can't help wanting to go back to the time in my life when you were my friend. and when you used to curl up with me and listen to sad music with me and stare at the stars with me. life was so fucking simple then. and i don't know how my life got so carried away that it was so far from reach. i just wish i could go back. and appreciate it. and have more of it.'
i stopped for a minute to drink. quickly.
'those years were just the best. i know it was college. i know that i had a lot of really great friends. i know that i was learning and living life without really worrying about my future and about adult responsibilities. but those were the best days of my life. and it makes me sad sometimes to think that the best days of my life are behind me.'
he nodded. i didn't know if he was relating or if he was agreeing.
'i just knew that if i was really happy in my life, the life i had chosen for myself, that i wouldn't feel that way. and when i was out of it, i immediately felt relieved and happier and better.'
i drank more. i kept waiting for him to interject. or to say something. anything. but he just sat there, listening. letting me talk it all out.
'getting older doesn't have to mean getting old. or giving things up. at the root of it all, i'm the same person. wanting the same things, with the same interests. the same passions. i'm just in an older body, doing other things with my time during the work week. but i still feel the same way about writing, about music. i still watch the same movies when i'm sad. i still listen to the same songs when i'm sad.'
'i didn't bring you out for a drink to talk your ear off. i want to know about your life. i want to know what you have been doing. i guess i enjoyed the sliver of time i had with you this winter, and thought it would be nice to have some more of that.'
he started talking slowly. he commented on some things that i had said. how he related them to his life. how he could say the same things about some things in his life.
he told me how time had changed him, slightly.
and he talked for a while. and paused, like he was passing the ball to me.
and i just came right out with it. i'd had enough to drink to not worry about it anymore.
'why didn't you ever kiss me?'
and his immediate response was, 'i don't know.' which i was not going to settle for.
he did pause to think about it for a minute. i just sipped. not a word.
'i was just scared, i think.'
'what were you afraid of?'
'well, i was afraid of you. i didn't want to hurt you. i knew that if i kissed you, that it wouldn't be what you wanted it to be. your eyes were too full of love. and i just couldn't. but believe me... i wanted to.'
'is that why you didn't ever try to take me out? why didn't you ever come to see me? i only ever came to see you.'
'i don't know. i think i just thought that if i did any of those things that you would fall. and i was afraid that it just wouldn't end well.'
i shook my head with tears in my eyes.
it was true. my suspicions. my fears. i had scared him off before i ever even had a chance to.
he was right. in every possible way, he was right.
'well, thank you for telling me that. it bothered me that i never asked you. i was always too afraid to ask you. i was afraid that you would think it was silly that i even wanted to know.'
'no. i think about it, too. i mean, when i saw you, it was all i could think about. i couldn't remember why i never was with you, as something other than your friend.'
'yeah. i knew at that point that life as i knew it was over. and i had so much fun that night. and so much fun with you that night. it made me wonder why i didn't try harder with you. and it just proved to me that i was the same happy person i always was. and that i just needed a fresh start.'
'you wanna take walk?'
'sure.' i needed a cigarette anyway. he had quit.
he linked arms with me. it felt familiar. he had that same excited bounce in his step.
we walked around a lake, staring at boats shaped like swans and a little fountain that sat lifeless in the middle of the lake.
'so what are you doing now? what is your life like? and when are you leaving?'
i talked with such ease that i don't remember what i was saying. until i said that i was leaving in a week.
'well, what are you doing tonight?'
and it stopped me dead in my tracks.
'this is what i'm doing tonight. i just came here. i didn't think beyond that.'
'well, would you like to come over? watch a movie or something?'
a smile crept across my face.
'i would love that.'