Tuesday, March 02, 2010

II of II - The Fountains of Miramar

A quizzical look, followed by that lopsided smile. She stepped forward briskly, side stepping my push cart, with a loud, pleasantly surprised "Hey". I mumbled something to the same effect in return. She grabbed my arm and almost gave me a hug, giving me a once-over even as I recover poorly from shell shock. A torrent of queries followed. Of her friends, some common, most I had never noticed back then. Note to reincarnating self; pay attention to beings accompanying, yet not including amorous interest. Of places she left behind. Of chumps that went for my friends, still my friends, chumps nonetheless. She smile on their mention, a chuckle a split later. I might know what that was for, oh dear. I spy a sparkle in her eye.


For all that I left unsaid, it seemed she'd the most to share. Almost catching up for lost time. Eagerly waiting for answers, prodding when I groped for names, an old affliction. Even a sly poke at the little chubby I had become. She spared the baldness, thankfully. I dare say I got to know her more in those few minutes, than ever I'd done before. It wasn't crow's-feet by the way, my eyes might have aged. The odd silver strand does her some credit too.


Of course, 'how have you been' is no question. But since you ask, do I mention the numbness, the drift, the unkempt beard kept only as long as I could take the teasing? Sighs unseen and sobs, a few? Life threw greater twists in your wake. I stopped remembering out of preoccupation, so to speak, and not because I didn't miss you any less. Not that I've wondered about what would have been. Those ghosts have long hushed; too busy completing the chores of life. Am I happy? Sure. What else would I be.


We reached an awkward pause, as I fumbled without anything more to say. Then it popped. Not, I swear, by design. "I missed you". I groan inwardly as it slips past. Twenty years to say this. Half a lifetime to inherit the earth. I wish all would go away. I so badly wanted my life from a quarter hour ago.


The lines harden around her eyes, the lips purse. I feel my eyes moisten, a tingle on my nose. What have I done? She winced, and then straightened herself. As if reeling from a jab. Now intently peering at my face, she’s probably toying with the idea of just moving on. Regretting ever stayed. I cannot but find my sorry self looking down, pinching my palms, fighting tears, pain, anger and years of whatnot. All I can manage, as a mid-life crisis-ridden grownup, is a blurry sounding "Sorry". "I must go now", I add.


"I know" she said. I look up. A slow, weary smile creased her lips. She seems to have aged a bit. A shadow falls across her face, as her eyes look into the distance. She sighs. I guess it's been all about me, all this time. And at that moment, I wished none of this happened. The single silver strand has raised itself, only momentary; the long fingers on her left caressing it out of sight. “You haven’t changed”, she chuckled. Or grown up, for that matter. We say our goodbyes soon after. I'm an invitee to a dinner.


I lug my carry bags out the front door. The fountains at the mall entrance gush skywards, dancing to a hummable symphony playing somewhere nearby. As their mothers watch, toddlers scoot around in the mist. A rainbow plays peek-a-boo. High amongst the spray muddying the west bound amber and purple Florida sky.


I am parched no more.

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