Mayer closed his eyes for a moment and heaved a sigh. This was going to be every bit as frightening as he dreaded.
He pushed open the door to Mia’s café and squabbled in. He took a quick look around the place and headed right for the most inconspicuous spot, breathe, he told himself as he sat down.
If a hundred different varieties of fear could thunder upon you in one moment that is exactly what happened to him as he looked across the window and saw her walk in.
He slashed his thoughts for a return to the present, just this moment, he thought, that is all you have to work with.
As she reached out her hand he shook it, not the most firm handshake, but he didn’t want to hold her hand too long, it felt frightening.
“Hey!” she chirped, a little too shrill, but that would evade his ears. All he heard was her chirping, she always seemed so much ahead of him in the play-it-cool game.
“Hello,” he replied with a nervous, polite smile.
He couldn’t understand if time was standing still, or moving in concentric circles really, really fast. It felt unreal. It had been eight years since he last saw her. She looked different, in ways he couldn’t understand, but her aura felt the same.
It made him nervous and calmed him down at the same time. Eight years later it was still eight years too soon. It was, he realized at that moment, one of those moments that you could spend your whole life preparing for but never be ready to face.
“This place is such a find!” she exclaimed. “I wish I’d known of it earlier, we were looking for a location to host our book club last month, this would have been perfect.”
“It is pretty neat, right?” he decided to reply, after all there was only so much leaden silence he could contain.
She smiled and nodded, looking a little lost.
That, he retained, was her essence. If he ever had to paint her, or write her, if he could do any of those things, she would be lost. Lost in the wonders of the little things around her, lost in a million thoughts that she would never articulate, lost in the silence of beauty and of pain. She was that way, there was always a part of her that was a million miles away, and that part, he suspected, was what made her so beautiful.
“It’s been eight years,” she said, averting her eyes to the table behind him.
“You still can’t look people in the eyes,” he said, bemused.
She laughed, and he could sense that she was nervous too.
“Some things never change, I guess,” she said.
“What has been the biggest change in your life over the past eight years?” he asked, cutting right through the massive wall that was built between them over the years.
“I know that I like me,” she said. “I think I always rather liked myself, but when I was younger and people told me that a certain thing was what was right, acceptable or beautiful, I thought I had to become that. I think I grew out of that, letting other people define what is my right and my beautiful.”
“I know what you mean,” he said “I always had a whole checklist of things I had to do and become and achieve to get people to like me, to get you to like me.”
A short, quick laugh escaped her.
“Do you think anyone ever gets exempted from that phase of life, one where they don’t like who they are?” she asked.
“I’m not sure. How would you ever really love who you are until you learn how to?” he thought out loud.
“Funny how we can love other people without needing to hate them first though, right?” she said.
“True, true,” he said.
A few minutes later they both sat with their large mugs of coffee and he understood for the first time what it felt like to be lost, the way she would get lost. If more people could listen to all the voices in her head, they would understand why she looked so lost all the time. The voices in her head, ah, how he could fall in love with those all over again.
Eight years later, it was still eight years too soon.
They were too afraid that evening to say anything pertinent, to look each other in the eyes and to just talk with no fear. They could sense that there was much to be asked and so much to be said, but maybe some conversations would be easier over a phone call.
So they stuck to the familiar, the little things about life that made them guffaw, the old friends whom they still spoke to, the ones they almost forgot, a little of this and a lot of that.
Everyone has that one person that defines the very tense past to them. Life isn’t as short as people believe it to be, and we keep running into our past from time to time. He, on the other hand, chose to meet his. Head on. It was everything he never could put into words, calm, chaotic, painful, peaceful, but more than anything, it was life coming to him in a full circle.
He could make peace with that.
To Vas, you sure taught me a thing or two about myself.