When we said our byes at the airport I walked through security and did not look back. I am not one for those sentiments. Do not drag the goodbyes. I was moving on to a new life in a new place. I knew this was easier for me than who I had left behind. And I knew she had tears in her eyes. But I did not belong here. Or so I thought.
Now over five years later I have returned. Nothing looks the same. Even the cafe where we are hanging out, where we used to hang out for hours on end, seems alien to me. Over coffee she tells me I have spoiled her. She has been through so many boyfriends since me that she lost count. No one would compare to me. She wants to know about me. I lie and say it has been eerily the same for me. It is true I too have been going through girlfriends but for entirely reckless reasons. But when I look at her the lie comes naturally. Almost as if I wished it were the truth. A small part of me still longed for her all these years and now with her in front of me it is cannibalizing me whole.
She tours me through the town and we end up at the movies. The theater has had a makeover. It looks like any other big city theater. I feel sad. I long for the simple look it used to have. I am usually very picky about what movies I watch, especially in a theater, but today I settle for the first movie she picks. It’s a big budget action flick. The fight scenes have exaggerated sounds. I lean over and say it bothers me. No real fights have such sounds. I should know. I have been watching MMA on late night TV. She shushes me and pushes me back in my seat. The movie drags on and I have lost interest. Of more pressing concern to me is whether I can hold her hand or would that be exceeding my bounds.
After the movie she says I should check out her new apartment. The apartment is sparse yet tastefully decorated. She is a miracle worker with odds and ends that I would throw. She has made a stunning showpiece out of discarded hard disk drive platters and spindles. I say that my absence has not corrupted her taste. She says on the contrary she has more time to decorate since she doesn’t have to keep picking up clothes tossed on the floor. She has a new fridge in her tiny kitchen but still has some of her old magnets. And a lot of new ones. I longingly run my fingers over the Eiffel Tower. Backpacking through Europe as students was arguably the best time in our lives. She breathlessly delights me with the stories behind each of the new ones. I am happy to hear them but sad to not have been a part of them.
Later she shows me her photos from the previous week’s office party. I say her dress is stunning but the straightened hair makes her look prudish while her natural curls make her look like she is wild in bed. She giggles. She wants to know what I comment on some more of her pictures. She takes back her phone, searches for a while and then shows me one of her with wet hair looking sultry. I say it looks like she is ready to slip her fingers under her pants when no one is around. She laughs. She shows me another where her lips are puckered. I say it looks like she is ready to slip her fingers under my pants when no one is around. She playfully pushes me. She calls me a goof. How I have missed that endearing nickname.
In the next one, she has on ipod earphones. I say that one looks like she’s a party girl and oh so pretentious. The next picture I say looks like she’d rather be eating a burrito than posing for the picture. After a few more of these I snatch the phone and put it away. I pull her in my arms and look into her eyes. I say the picture in front of me leaves me speechless. I don’t have words to describe the beauty. She says she doesn’t need words. The kiss still smells and tastes the same as I remember. In all these years she hasn’t changed her lipstick or her perfume. Or maybe just for today she put on the ones I remember. She is the kind of person that would do that. We both communicate without words just like we used to. Muscle memory.
I had fears that visiting her would be as much a disappointment as has been the rest of this trip. It was as if I expected time to stand still here while I was gone. She shushes me when I say that. She insists I stay back for the night. I had hoped she would.
I don’t know what the future holds. What I do know is when she drops me off at the airport this time I will be saying bye and not goodbye. And I know I will be turning back.