“Damn, you’re still handsome,” I said, eight weeks after we broke up on email and had our first sit-down face to face.
My heart smiled at him and loud and I felt betrayed.
Hug? Shake? Kiss on the cheek? I didn’t know where to make my body go in proximity to his so I waved and sat down.
What’s the appropriate greeting for the one you talked about wedding invitations with but disagreed on what life served for a menu?
Will we be best friends, ex-lovers, the one you take to a wedding when you don’t have a real date? Will we be pen pals, acquaintances or morph into the memory of an almost-always-that-wasn’t?
Hell if I know.
I know I want him happy, blissed out and following his dreams.
I don’t want him sad, anxious or too busy for his own peace and solitude.
What does that make me to him and him to me? What do I need?
I feel loving but we aren’t lovers?
Does that make me human, mature or just stupid for staying in contact?
I’m not yet sure.
He can’t give me now what he couldn’t then. I’m not asking. He’s not making any promises and even that makes me admire him more.
He knows too.
I let all of my questions pile up on the plate beside my sweet potato fries. What use are answers now? I can’t find my syllables and am not sure I’d be able to digest them anyhow.
Even my food I wanted to share. I pushed my plate towards him as if to say, “Have some?” and then pulled it back.
I don’t know how to get un-intimate or be together but less close.
He talked about a private matter that pained him. That was rare. My hand reached out on instinct and that too felt strained, not the reaching out but the pulling back. My fingers don’t know the rules for now nor does my heart.
I don’t want him back. Not completely or entirely. And to say not at all would be a lie.
He is not saying he’s up for grabs and I am wearing the same foot that moved from gas to brake and it, like my heart, is still part of the same body.
Damn it. And yet…
One hour of sitting at the same table I missed him more than in our 8-week absence. It’s more than chemistry or longing. It’s that I can’t muster up my anger in his presence even though it feels like it might protect me more if I could.
One one-hour meeting and I want to call, text, write letters and buy him supplements. I wanted to send him articles, share books and rake the leaves he hates to bag.
How do you not give, get or leave mixed signals when mixed signals are falling off like dozens of beads off a necklace splattering shirt, counter and floor?
I don’t even recognize the mush that I am only with him. Tender and filled with warmth. Undefended and willing to fight off any bully who isn’t me that gets too rough with his heart.
He gives me amnesia. Did he drop something in my water?
Wasn’t it him who cut me out and shut me off and wouldn’t have a face-to-face when I needed one? Wasn’t it him who couldn’t provide closure or disclosure when both were merited?
Isn’t it seemingly entirely up to him if, when and how long we meet even though I did nothing but ask a direct question?
It was too easy to see him, too easy to forget and not nearly as awkward and painful as I would have liked.
It was like old times, but even better, like when we dated.
No needs. No expectations. The gravy of time not guaranteed and maybe never to be repeated.
I joked about a job I had, writing about cremation and urns and how that and my other subject (trauma) make me a laugh riot and a super-catch on the dating scene. Then we were silent and I fumbled over myself—will he think I’m trying to make him jealous? Am I? Are we pretending we’re able to be just friends, or can we be, and how and when will I know?
It felt good and right to be able to ask about his family, pets, siblings and dreams. I wouldn’t want to not know if he moved, got hurt or bought a sailboat.
What are we now in the break-up after moving on but not yet there?
Everything I treasured about him was still evident. Bright eyes. On time. Polite. Considerate. He paid without making it a big deal but also let me thank him. He told jokes, listened well and we bathed in the same laughter and neither one of us wanted to leave.
We hugged hard. I got in my car. I rode home feeling happy and at ease and slept well.
I didn’t try to kiss or push him up against the wall nor him me. We stood and hugged and swayed. It was good to see him in more than an animalistic lust way.
“I think about you an awful lot,” I said, like I was 12 and wished my heart didn’t feel the need to go sleeveless all the time.
I didn’t fantasize about taking him to bed, not right away, until the next day and the next and the next.
“Damn, you’re still good looking,” I said. He was. And is. And will be. And I know he finds me attractive by the way he lingers and grazes every glance. He says so but he doesn’t need to. It’s not a feeling I hate.
Will that temper and fade or keep us from being friends?
Loving but not lovers. What does that make us?
Those are the questions piling in my stomach, gut and center connected to the heart up here and that right thigh connected to the brake foot.
Maybe someday we will set each other up on dates, read at each other’s wedding or pet sit for each other again? Maybe we’ll tell stories of how our lover’s fart or snore.
For now, here’s what I know:
Author: Christine “Cissy” White
Editor: Travis May