now playing: james taylor, “believe it or not”
they’re both older now, in some unimportant ways – the grey around his temples, her shorter hairstyle – but in any way that was significant, she was still just as beautiful as she was the first time he saw her…that day over ten years ago when she caught his eye as he walked into the lobby for a job interview.
the small space was bustling with people when they walked in…he let the kids walk in first, and his oldest practically walked right up to her before she was recognized – it really had been that long. the two children she’d seen last over five years ago had since been embraced by puberty, and both were as tall as her now.
their reasons for coming were innocuous enough…pick up some paperwork and take a look at her ailing computer…and business was good – there were people in and out of the shop for over half an hour past what would have been closing time. she made her way back and forth from patron to patron, answering questions and showing off merchandise – she was such a natural, the way she related to people she’d never met as if she’d known them for years.
she’d always had that gift, and it made him smile a bit to see that it was still intact.
the usual ever-present sparkle in her eyes was tempered with a sadness that was unfamiliar to him – he’d seen glimpses of it in the past, but as was typical for him, he chose to remember only the good parts…until he saw her that night, all his memories of her had managed to overlook the sadness that he had always chosen to ignore when they were closer than he considered them at the time. it was easier to remember the smile that used to crinkle her nose between her eyebrows and her laugh than it was to give space to her demons.
he noticed that she was playing a CD that he’d made for her in the background as she worked…he made a weak attempt to sing along to one of the songs, although to do so in a way that did justice to the song would’ve required that he sing much louder than he was comfortable with at the moment. she’d breeze in and out of her work area in the back where he sat with her computer, exchanging small talk and making the odd observation here and there.
he knew that getting any kind of actual conversation time was a longshot, and that was understood before he got there, really…but he’d hoped he was wrong. the closest they really got was a short pause during one of his favorite songs that had made it onto the CD he made for her…
the ghost of you is almost faded now
drifting in and out of my life…
when leaves fall, you’ll come right back
‘cuz i was yours…for a little while…
she paused for a minute, and turned to him and said, “it’s so good that you have your kids. grownups come and go, but they’re always there…”
he nodded silently, and she came and sat down next to him at the desk for a few minutes before it was time to lock down…they managed to scratch the surface a bit, but it was obvious to him that there was more that needed to be said. he wasn’t sure he’d ever seen her like this…but he was determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past and try to ‘fix’ things. this was hers, and maybe all she really needed him to do was listen. maybe that really was enough.
in a few fleeting moments, they’d said their goodbyes and he was back in the car with the kids, driving through a steady rain back toward home. the kids were tired – there wasn’t much in the way of conversation…certainly not like there’d been on the way there, when dylan was busy keeping everyone in stitches by just being dylan. no one talked about her, or about having seen her, or anything regarding her, really…it was as if they’d gone somewhere else and seen no one.
and that was all right, really…he drove home thinking how grateful he’d been that they’d found themselves in a place to have some wounds scratched open the fall just prior – they’d been in that position before, but this time for some reason, they’d been willing to allow them to heal…instead of just trying to stop the bleeding. before, they’d tried to offer brief concilliatory overtures to one another, but it had never been at a time devoid of ghosts and fresh memories.
and it wasn’t that this was a time without ghosts…but they seemed so much less scary now. he felt freer to say what was on his mind, less prone to trim the venom from his words…and while it didn’t make his pain any easier for her to hear, it made it real enough that she could acknowledge it in a way that he could actually feel…and forgive.
and those were the ways in which they were both older…
in important ways.