a paper from my creative writing class in college. i so miss learning.
prompt: secret love
two old friends get together for dinner after a long time apart. one of them is secretly in love with the other one. show this, don’t tell it.
i got here early. of course. i’ve been to this cafe a thousand times, but i still wanted to get here early. i get to airports at least three hours early because i’m excited by the idea of going somewhere new; this is no different. and it’s not just the new dinner menu that i’m excited about.
i’m wearing yellow. i know, i know. at first i was wearing that grey sweater with the pink stripes. then i put on the blue dress. but my last minute decision to get a spray tan did not turn out to be a good call so i opted out of the bare-legs choice. i think i changed my shirt approximately 16 more times before settling on yellow. you like yellow on me. i think.
my shoes turned out to be a different story. black flats then grey boots, but will that make me too tall? so then back to black flats but then maybe brown goes better because then i can wear gold jewelry. but i use my hands when i talk a lot, especially when i’m nervous, so maybe gold jewelry isn’t the best of all ideas. i surveyed my entire outfit countless more times, squeezing my love handles, cursing the four cookies i ate last night on impulse. somewhere in there i started breathing again. that helped. i also remembered that you never really cared what i wore, so maybe it doesn’t really matter all that much. except it matters to me. my excitement makes it matter. and so i am wearing yellow. and i got here early.
your hair is long again, i see. i think i recognized your hair before i even recognized your face. it was long when we first met, too. the way you play with it while you speak reminds me of that saturday we spent at the coffee shop, studying and laughing and drinking chai lattes because you liked to say the word “chai”. i can’t even focus on your questions because i keep laughing inside of myself remembering how you say “chai” and remembering your hair, how it was then. how it’s the same today. it’s just a little more silver now. i notice, but i’d never say that. i know you would probably still be self conscious about that.
yes, yes things have been good. years, i know…it’s been years. well there was the job, then the boredom, then the “dreams: realized” moment, and then the new job. oh and the dog and the huge tax return and the new house. yes, yes i love owning a house. oh, thanks, i guess i decided to go blonde when the big tax return came…yes, yes yes, laugh, laugh laugh. my brothers are doing fine, thank you. and my parents are fine, too, yes…still in denver. yes, i definitely remember that trip! ha…some things never change.
your eyes look tired. i mean, they still sparkle. they’re bright blue for God’s sake, of course they still sparkle. but there is tired behind them. or underneath them. and there’s a touch of silver in them, just like your hair.
i order the salmon and the veggies. and a glass of savignon blanc. yes, i still am a health freak. and a wino. you order a hamburger. plain. i guess you are still a picky eater. i think we even fought about that once. it’s funny to think about the things that pissed us off when we were younger. when you’re 17, everything is the biggest deal in the world.
i shift my fork nervously on the table cloth. over, then under, back, then forth. i make sure to drink two sips of water for every one sip of savignon blanc. no one likes a trashy drunk at dinnertime. i think you’ve had two beers at this point. maybe three. i hope you don’t start to get too…friendly. i never could resist when you started to get too friendly. your fingers are tracing the edge of your glass. the condensation glistens your palms, so you start to trace that too. you have great hands. and arms. i like that space on the inside of your elbow. as if you heard me, you start tracing that space, too. i can almost feel the tracing on my own arm, but we’re not touching at all. maybe when we hug goodbye, i will trace my fingers on your arm. wow, i don’t even want to say goodbye. i wish –
–what? oh, yes, sorry…i don’t think i’ll be going international again for a few months. it’s great work, but i’m trying to let the organization send new people. you would? where have you been in the last few years? any more trips to africa?
i’ve always loved the way you tell stories. you’re long-winded in the best way, and descriptive in your vernacular. i love your enthusiasm; your passion is still as alive as the day i met you. you talk and talk about the things that make your heart beat and i just sip wine, sip sip water, sip wine, sip sip water. and my eyes follow your fingers and the waitress gives up all hope on us ever leaving and the hours pass like minutes.
when i was in college, my favorite movie was “my best friend’s wedding.” i love julia roberts because she has an impossibly beautiful smile and she really makes you believe that she is who she says she is. she loves her best friend in this movie that i like so much. but as the title suggests, she attends his wedding as a guest, not a bride. there is a scene when they are on a boat and there is a line where he says, “when you love someone, you say so. when you feel it, in the moment. before that moment passes you by. because you never know when you’re going to get that moment back.”
no, no i’m not really seeing anyone. oh, stop it, that’s very kind of you. it is, it’s very funny how things pan out. your glass is empty, but you keep tracing the edge. it is simply mesmerizing. almost enough to keep me quiet–
–no, no thank you ma’am. i don’t need another glass of wine. i sip my water and swallow the cool drink, along with my courage.
you give the woman your card, insisting i let you pay. you always have kindness written on your heart, and your generosity is overwhelming. i am flattered to still be treated like a woman. when you excuse yourself to use the restroom, i am left to mentally beat myself up. my mind is filled with “should have”s, and then your phone starts to ring. “cassandra is calling.” it says. and next to that appears a picture of you kissing her. on your wedding day.
i look around; most of the tables are empty by now. the bartender is counting tips and the manager is dangling keys. i stand up. there is no way i can look at you again. the space between this table and my car feels just shy of ten thousand miles, but that’s okay. i’ve walked further before. and i’ll walk it again.