i was just going for coffee, like i have every day for the four years i've worked in town. just like any other day. head down, deep in thought, looked up just in time to notice her walking across the street from me, no more than 10 feet away, recognized her instantly by the way she shifted her body, her long neck, wisps of blonde hair, the sad expression, lips curled downward...so rarely she ever gave away her smile... a face i'd not seen in almost a decade, the last time as i was driving away forever, cat in the car, everything i owned thrown in boxes, everything except the rent check and the handwritten letter i left for her on the table...driving away, her car passing by me, brake lights tapped on, the long wait as she got out of her car and walked slowly towards mine, leaning in the window, our faces inches away for the very last time, her last words to me, ever, pleading, angry, sad...don't ever write to me again don't ever write about me again i have to let you go completely so that i can find some way to keep on living.
i don't know if she saw me too, she looked up at the same instant as i did, tilted her head in my direction, sunglasses hiding the trajectory of her eyes, then looked down quickly...too quickly, did she recognize me too, older, grayer, different but the same, was my gait as familiar to her as hers was to me?
i could not breathe for those few seconds, time stopped, took me back, i felt a heartache that i'd forgotten but that was almost instantly familiar, like riding a bike, i could smell the salt in the air again, could see the willow tree, our willow tree, i could see her long arms spread wide on the deck as though she were hugging all the world, i could see her sweet, sad smile, the straw hat covering her eyes, i could remember the photograph i took on that day, capturing her on film, like a butterfly, for just one second, before she flew away into some other world i was not allowed in. ever.
and for just a moment, that moment when i could not breathe, i loved her again.
i've not written about you. i've kept silent. all these years. until today. just today. and then i will put you away again. i promise.
but right now i will sit here and i will remember and why am i surprised by the filling of my eyes, by the release of everything that we were and might still have been, rolling down my face, water and salt, this quiet and poignant and overwhelming moment of rushing memory, of aching. Of sadness. Of you.