The years have not been very kind to you. You look older than your 26 years, haggard, cracked. Your hair is close cut, but you're nearly bald now. You once said it was from stress, but I remembered the genes carry from a mother's father, and I almost ask, then remember you never knew your mother. The only grandfather you can remember was cruel and drunk, and poured whiskey on a beetle while your uncles laughed. Your eyes are still those of a frightened child, a well-like soul, lit with some insane fire. You're thinner than I remember, but still not thin enough to fit into your dress blues. Where are they now, I wonder? Probably in the house that never felt like home, sheathed in plastic, smelling of cigarette and marijuana smoke. You're smoking again. I watched you leaning against your old truck, talking to someone, flicking the **** into the grass. I entertain the idea of stopping to speak to you, some primal urge of a broken heart. The broken heart that isn't sure if it still loves you, or your memory, split and driven by the reminder that some things simply aren't meant to be, no matter what the books say.
My heart leaps to race again, like a frightened rabbit, unsure where to go, or what to do. Going back was never an option. I turn away.
At work I glance in the bathroom mirror, I am very pale. You don't frighten me, but there is some storm which has blow up, confused, convoluted with time and the gilding of memory. I remember you fondly, if that is any consolation.
I told someone how I loved you, and he asked, half mocking, if I would go and find you. It stung. He was jealous, maybe. He'd already given me flowers, though with promises of friendship, unlikely more. He and I don't speak much now, and it hurts. You and I, another story. We spoke once a year, twice maybe. Always ending with the same scabs tearing off, the same regrets, the same pleading from you, and the same apologies from me as to why it is so impossible for us to relight the drowned kindling that once kept us warm.
We walked such different paths. Life is unfair, that way. You surmounted Everest, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, only to arrive in a barren, muddy place, without the terrible desolate beauty they sometimes possess. You said I once calmed the storms in your soul. I've never forgotten that. It was always the wrong time, the stormy time, with you. Abandoning a ship you know will never truly make it to harbor, though it may bob and sink and drift for years before running aground, sails tattered, anchor lost.
If I did stop to speak to you, I don't know what I'd say. If it were a film I wouldn't need to say anything, I might run up and throw my arms around you before you could think, and kiss you, long and sweet. You would taste like smoke and coffee and rain. I would draw away, and say something about how I never go to kiss you goodbye. Which is true, I never really did. The last time I saw you, our hands didn't even touch. But this isn't a film. If I did stop, I wouldn't know what to say. You might not either. If I tried to kiss you, suddenly, I might scare you, set off the combat-tested reflex of self-defense, paranoia, panic. You would taste like coffee and tobacco, maybe ***. The pungent smell would be noticeable on your clothes as you pushed me away from you, cursing me, reminding me you told me never to speak to you again, unless it was to say I found some impossible way to return your dogged love. Your hands would be rough, dwarfing my small arms, your tall body dwarfing my small frame. I felt beautiful when I realized how small I was next to you. I still remember that night when you put me on your shoulders like a child, and carried me back to the car, as I bent down every so often to kiss you, wearing your hat. You'd cut your hand badly at work, but still insisted on holding mine.
I don't know what you'd do now. I don't know what I would do now. What should be done? I know I do not want to rekindle the drenched flame, but care is still lingering. I think of leaving a ten under your windshield wiper, hoping you'd buy yourself a meal. I consider writing the title of the song I wrote about you in the bill's margin. I wonder what you'd think now if you heard it. I can't remember if I ever sang for you. Probably not. We never got drunk together, and I've only ever sung in front of others slightly intoxicated.
But I'm drunk now. Drunk on rainy-day memory and what if's, and I realize I will never sing for you.
Ran into my ex.