I had dinner with my in-laws tonight.
Don’t ask, it’s a long story.
Just know that if I’m not careful, I’ll be married to a gay man before I know it.
But that’s not the point of this post.
After dinner and some conversation, it was time to go home.
But I couldn’t bear to go home.
I was restless again.
Home, alone, was the last thing I wanted.
Too quiet there.
Too much time to think.
So, though home was my original destination, it changed.
I needed lights.
I needed heat.
I needed the dull roar of conversation not directed at me.
I needed to be alone in a sea of people.
I drove for a while, trying to figure out where to go.
Somewhere that it was unlikely I would be bothered.
Where do people tend to keep to themselves?
I drove downtown.
To a haunt we used to frequent in college.
I can remember walking in the door and knowing everyone.
And everyone knew me.
But that was years ago.
Now, it should be just what I’m looking for.
The front was still the same.
Iron tables and chairs where we spent hours freezing but laughing and staring at the night sky.
Trees with low slung branches that would catch your hair if you turned too suddenly.
The creaky board that Matt used to step on repeatedly, just because, just to do it.
I could smell the cinnamon and coffee from where I stood.
If I closed my eyes, I could feel Jeff behind me.
Funny how memories sneak up on you.
The bell jangled over the door as I stepped in.
Sounds enveloped me.
Conversation, laughter, someone tapping their foot against the floorboards.
This is what I needed.
Sound cluttering my mind, stopping thought.
I stepped up to the counter and ordered.
I thought about calling Stephen.
Did he want anything?
I tapped my pocket for my phone.
It wasn’t there.
I had left it in the vehicle.
I wonder if subconsciously I wanted to.
Just to get away.
From everything, from everyone, just for a while.
My order was ready.
I sipped at the hot liquid as I searched for an empty seat.
Alone, but near others.
Alone, but surrounded.
Alone, but not alone.
I finally settled in.
Kicking my feet up into the empty chair across from me.
Facing a window, staring out, but not really seeing.
Senses humming with activity.
Smells, sounds, overwhelming.
I felt more at ease than I had in hours.
I had my eyes closed.
Most of my drink gone.
When I felt a hand on my knee.
“I thought you looked familiar.”
“What on earth . . . “
“Best coffee in town.”
“Um hm. Until the three new Starbucks run it out of business.”
“They look like they’re doing pretty well to me.”
“Yeah, we’ll see. How are you?”
“I’m good. Really good. How are you?”
“Tired, but good.”
“You looked a bit lost.”
“Funny, I thought I probably looked asleep.”
“Nah. Your eyes weren’t closed that long.”
“How long have you been watching??”
“I saw you through the window. I thought you saw me, you looked right at me.”
“I was day dreaming, or night dreaming I guess. I’m sorry.”
“Mind if I sit down?”
I didn’t know how to handle this.
If he sat down, I lost the crowded alone that I was craving.
And, inevitably, questions would ensue.
Particularly about when last we spoke.
The girl moment to end all girl moments, remember?
5 AM phone call.
This was the man.
The one I had always questioned.
What did he see in me?
“Sure. Have a seat.”
He knows me too well, even now, after all this time.
“You don’t have to look like that. We don’t even have to talk. I’ll just sit with you a while.”
“We can talk, if you want. I’m sure you have some questions about the last time I called you.”
“No, I don’t. I figure you had your reasons and they were good ones. But they were yours. I don’t have to know.”
“I will tell you, if you ask.”
“But I won’t ask. When you’re ready to talk about it, you will.”
So we just sat.
Alone but together.
Saying nothing, but me knowing, if I needed to . . . if I wanted to . . . I could.
Bryan has always been like that.
Knowing when to talk, knowing when to just be.
I caught myself staring at him as he looked out the window.
Why couldn’t I have loved him?
What determines who we love?
Everything about him is perfect.
Gorgeous, successful model.
Intelligent, articulate, accomplished.
Caring and compassionate.
But I look at him, still, and feel nothing.
No twinge of remorse for what could have been.
No jolt of desire to touch him or kiss him.
No anger or pain at the past we shared.
Just that crowded alone, I had been wanting.
We didn’t even say good-bye.
I stood, he stood, we hugged and he winked as I walked away.
The end of a song played in my head:
“Ain’t it funny how you always find just what you need.”
And I got into my truck and was thankful.
And remembered that I should never question.
The feelings that I have or don’t have.
The heart wants what it wants.
And I felt my mind quiet.
And I didn’t wonder at the truth of what I was feeling for someone else.
I didn’t question if things would mend and build.
I just knew.
Things will occur. For better or for worse.
At their own pace, when they’re right, whether you will it or no.
And I can sleep soundly with that thought.
Bryan wasn’t my one.
Years from now, I may not even remember him.
I knew that when I met him.
I knew it when I dated him.
It was just something I felt.
Just as I feel what I feel now.
Just as I know what I know now.
This new someone, I will remember.
A friend, a lover, a partner.
Any or all. However it ends or begins.
I will remember. Even if now, and this, is all we ever have.
“Ain’t it funny how you always find just what you need,
Somebody must be prayin for me.”