Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I of II - A Twenty Year Sentence

The grocery aisles, all awash in tube light, crisscross over a few hundred square yards. Not a soul in sight, being a dull mid-week afternoon. My sweaty palms grease the push cart handle, empty but for assorted knickknacks. The air conditioning has failed me miserably. I feel an embarrassed burning around the ear lobes and a rush of blood to the jowls. In addition to a nauseating static, all I sense is the aching thud of my heart. I feel parched. An in-store promo chimes in the distance. For its déjà vu, at the corner of Staples and Salsa.


Those eager eyes have always been the give-away. Still crowned by increasingly arching pencil stroked eyebrows, contemplating the small print on a pickle bottle. The hair, held in place with a sport band, has the odd grey that might have escaped your habitual left-handed smoothing. Your choice of ear rings haven't changed yet, generic silver trinkets of course. You don't ever seem to give much for accessorial fashion, do you? Sporting a miniature duffel bag that was passé for the 90s, and I'm afraid to say, this decade as well. Maybe you'll try the next! I catch the delicate profile as she moves on to peer over stacks of half-price Colombian, much like me, out of place in that aisle. I spy crow-feet, or maybe I don't. Small faced Citizen on your wrist; as is your fashion, should be ten odd minutes ahead. Got you earlier to class, so you claimed. Faded denim, crumpled cotton. You still carry grunge as it should. Lightly.


Two decades and half way around the world later, memories flicker away. Youthful fancies had shriveled and crumbled in the harsh seasons that followed me into later youth; your memory but a bittersweet reminder of an innocent, carefree time. When, smitten and at a loss of words, I proposed, via snail mail. At the very mature age of 17. You were considerate, to haul me aside one memorable evening, even while declining. Must have been hard, considering the prospects this no-job, no-spunk, mealy-mouthed avatar had offered. Since then, I’ve been around, you know. Navigating the shallow social prerequisites of college, more college, jobs, and then, family.


Do I say 'Hi'? That was always easy; it's the follow on conversation that I stumbled on. Or should I let her and the moment pass; that'd be easier and time-tested. What I knew I couldn't do any more is stay there, frozen with stage fright. Twenty years, God. I ply a resume that trumpets my calmness and communication skills. All lies.


I make my move. A half-turn. The other way. My life can do with what it had, or never did. My heart, whatever, could not take a snub. Not from her. Some memories are best left untouched, unrevised.


Just then, she moved too. Sans cart. Right my way.

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