Friday, March 21, 2008

Someone I used to know

At the sound of my name I looked up from where I stood contemplating the back of the latest novel being promoted by Starbucks. I scanned the crowd for a moment before settling on a face I hadn’t seen in several years – the source of the voice calling my name. In the half second it took him to make his way to me through the line I stood, shocked maybe, and scanned the face that was at once familiar and strange to me. So many things had changed about him, his hair peppered with grey, more lines around his mouth and eyes which somehow made him look handsome instead of old, he was heavier than I remembered but it looked good on him, gone was the mustache I secretly hated. His smile was the same though, slightly lopsided and fast, it used to be my favorite feature of his, reminding me more of the smile from a 10 year old boy looking for approval on something wild and crazy he had done than that of a respectable man of 40.

Conversation was awkward as we struggled to find something to say. We talked about my pending wedding, to the man I left him for. We talked about his marriage and pending divorce, his daughter. The man who swore he would never have children grinned like a fool when talking about the little girl who changed his life. “The only woman I’ll trust from now on”, he joked. I smiled. It was good to see him. We talked about what we had been doing in the several years since we’ve seen one another. I regaled him with stories of schizophrenic bosses, starting my own company, being unemployed and finally finding balance, of buying a house. He told me of his move from one career into another, his relocation to the city and decision to move back, being unemployed and finally settling for work that he swore he’d never do again yet pays better and more steadily than anything he’s had in awhile.

We moved from standing in front of the bar to outside, realizing that after the catch up was over there really wasn’t too much to say and yet hesitant somewhat to leave. We could each feel the strangeness in how someone we used to know so well could turn into a stranger in a manner of years. We laughed about how utterly wrong for each other we had been and yet how much fun we’d shared. I told him I was thankful there was never any bad blood between us at the end. He acknowledged that it had certainly been time to move on and joked about how he had “forgiven” me for finding someone more suitable before he did. It was a fun conversation, a friendly one. I remembered what I had liked about him before. I remembered why the choice, when it was presented to me, had been almost embarrassingly easy. He was/is a good man, just not the man for me.

As we said our goodbyes one of my co-workers walked by us and in to Starbucks. I caught her eye and the raised eyebrow. I’m not one to stand on street corners talking to strange men after all. We talked about getting together, an empty offer as neither of us offered updated contact information. I think we both realized that there isn’t a place for one another in the new lives we’ve built since we parted. A quick hug and wishes for a wonderful marriage for me and general good things for him and he walked away. As I stood watching him go my co-worker came out with her cup of coffee. “Who’s the tall, dark and handsome stranger?” she asked. An explanation would take too long. And really, did I know the answer? “Just someone I used to know”, I replied as we walked back into the office.