He was standing there before me as if he had never left, as naturally as breathing; which, in that moment, I’d forgotten how to do. The face was slightly tarnished, yet somehow more beautiful; like an oxygenated statue, or the graphics on an old faded t-shirt. For more than a moment, we stood in awe of one another. He found words before I did; and the voice was the same as it had been ten years before. It had not weathered like the face....
"Wow...how are you? You look..."
He stopped short of a compliment, but his cheekbones were raised at attention, his head slightly tilted. When he smiled, the skin around his eyes smiled; too. I knew he was impressed with the sophisticated woman I'd come to be. I hoped my silence didn’t give the wrong impression. I just couldn't believe my eyes…
Though I said nothing, he seemed not the least bit offended. He continued to converse; as if silence was commonplace in his everyday conversations.
He didn't fit into this picture; but, conversely, was a cold steel skyscraper interrupting my sprawling water colored landscape. He had crawled out of some dead hole I had no desire to revisit.
I felt heat from the inside of my cheeks...I saw glares that weren't, heard whispers that originated from an internal shame that no one else in the small room could possibly know. I wanted nothing more, than to expunge this colossal Sears Tower hat had disrupted the serenity of my Water Lillie's masterpiece.
At last, I found my words. Hindsight being what it is; I wish I'd chosen them more carefully.
"What are you doing...here?" I said. It just kind of… came out, and I knew how bad it sounded. It was simply the truth; unraveling itself, in that peculiar way it has a tendency to.
He was silent a moment, his smile changed in a subtle way only one completely fixed upon it could have noticed.
I recalled the way he smiled at everything, some time ago; my tears, my joys, my contempt, and my lust for him. When he smiled, I was his sole source of admiration. That was, of course... until I wasn't any longer...
"What am I doing here?" he finally said. He looked perplexed.
He looked down at his crisp Dress Blue uniform. "Buying cupcakes." he huffed sarcastically, but his smile betrayed the tone of his voice. I really wished he’d quit grinning at me… laughing at me....
I wanted to crawl under the bistro table. Calm down. I tried to regain control of the conversation.
"Oh...well, I live here, was all I meant. I know its cupcakes, silly. Its just that you’re here, in Georgia, with me…I mean, not with me, of course, but you’re here... and I’m here... with my husband I mean… Yes, my husband and I,... my husband is...an attorney...we bought our home here in Buckhead last spring...so I guess you can say this is home for us now..."
I'd repeated myself past the point of redundancy. I heard my voice and wanted desperately to control the pitch. I was louder than I should have been. I sounded obnoxious, and I knew it. I couldn't help myself; he was standing there with that smirk, thinking about God only knows…I guess it gave me back my footing into adulthood- and out of this realm of past indiscretions- saying it...husband.
...So I said it one more time.
''My husband and I...we've been married six years."
He was completely unaffected; smiling even harder than before.
"Texas! Congratulations! Your all grown up now!" he said.
Did he seriously just call me Texas? All Grown Up...? The nerve! Had he thought me a child, back then?...surely not. Who did this asshole think he was? Whatever. I would conform to no box; yield to no road barriers. I am a respected woman in this community. A wife and mother. Where was the exit...from this man and these unwanted memories...
"Mrs. Jennings..your order is up!" the baker called. Thank God.
I turned to him once more, confident that I would be able to walk away from him this time.
"Well...it was...interesting to have seen you again. You take care, now." I said, as shortly as possible.
As I walked away, I could still feel his eyes on me, and I knew he understood. He had not had the best of me; after all.
I felt eyes on me. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t that I'm not still capable of turning a purty young thang's head every now and again; but this broad was...gawking.
Maybe she's looking behind me. I thought . She made me uncomfortable in a foreign kind of way. I stared back; hoping to break her comatose expression, awaken her from her daze.
She blinked, cocked her head to the side. Still; she didn't turn away.
She knows me...
Think quick, where do you know this chic from? I drew blank after blank.
I should know her...
I felt warth settling in the pit of my stomach, this was potentially about to be an awkard encounter...
The look on her face, one of both awe and confusion; made me wonder just how well I knew this familiar stranger.
Dressed in loosely tailored, heather grey Tahari; there was little hope in appraising her assets underneath. She was too familiar in her gaze, so brazen it was impossible that our acquaintance was merely casual. The face wasn’t much to look at; and it seemed she’d gone out of her way to blend in. The type that wear Mrs. as badges of honor. not at all the type I used to step out with. I liked my playmates, well… more playful. Normally, I would never have looked twice at this stale woman glaring across the room at me.
But now that she had my attention…and I was intrigued, I guess.
So, I walked over to her. You know what they say…The best offense…
"Well, hey you!" I tried it on, see how it fit.
It was risky, but I figured, one can never go wrong with the good ole "hey you" in place of: “I can‘t remember who you are to save my own ass..”.
I hoped it was a mistake in identity, and the worst that would come of it was a quiet apology, and a quicker exit.
But still, she stood there... silent.
I tried again.
"Well...wow, you look..."
I wasn't sure how to finish. I could have said "great" or "wonderful," but that would have been a lie; as I could not rightfully say it was an improvement on any prior look. See, I didn't just forget her name. I simply didn't remember her… at all.
I was drowning in the awkward silence. I was just about to say forget the damned cupcakes and head out of there.
Just then; she broke her silence.
"What are you doing here?" She said.
Good question. What was I doing there? Buying $60 cupcakes for my neurotic wife who can't just go to the corner grocer and buy a pack of Duncan Heinz. Who the hell was this woman?
I had her voice now, but it lent nothing familiar to my ear... Except that she was very nervous. Why? Had I slept with this Plain Jane? Man...I should really lay off the Patron.
"What am I doing here?" I laughed. "Well, the same as you, I suppose. Buyin' overpriced baked goods."
I really hoped she would laugh. It is harder to mask a laugh; they almost never change.
No dice, so; I laughed for us both.
She looked both annoyed and embarrassed by the obvious oversight. Had she thought I was stalking her? Hell, if only I could remember her!
Just then, my luck changed! In her embarrassment; she'd started to ramble...I couldn't tell you what the hell she was talking about, her husband or something or another moved to Georgia...???
Now we were getting somewhere! She was unraveling like a very uninterestedly wrapped birthday gift. Her voice was cracking; and the pauses between words were longer than is natural. The more she rambled on; the more a distinct southwestern twang slipped from her city slicker tongue.
"Texas." I said aloud. I was proud of myself, I couldn't help grinning from ear to ear. Sherlock Holmes ain't got nothin' on me!
I started to feel myself, knowing I was seconds away from cracking this mystery. I congratulated her on her marriage, told her I was glad she'd grown up so. Strangest thing, I almost thought i had it wrong, she looked a bit put off.
When her order came up first, I started to breathe easy, knowing she was exiting without a "keep in touch" moment, or forcing me into some awkward "put me in your blackberry" scenario. Had that happened; any hope of walking away not looking like a complete douche bag, would have been lost.
I only wished I could have remembered her...
Then it happened...
She exited the small shop; strutted across the busy intersection. I watched in awe; as she took each step in her stilettos, each rounded cheek defied he other under her corporate business attire. Only one girl I knew possessed a behind so grand it would perform under this most restricting gear. Memories came rushing over me so intensely I could barely contain my childlike giddiness. My smile was no longer painted on; but permanently etched into my head, like those memories of that magnificent specimen perched atop the burnout hood of my old Honda. It sat as just as regally in the air as it had all those many years ago...
I wanted to call after her, run through the pink frosted glass double doors and yell her name… . I stood mesmerized by the way her posterior swayed and bounced in cadence… in the most beautifully familiar way!
Of course. …Nadine....
- ▼ Sep (8)