It’s like a second skin that you slip back into after many moons have passed.
You see him as part of a group gathering, this man you shared a small part of your young life with. And he still carries your bag to the car. You turn to find it, spinning, wondering where it went. And then you see him, already halfway down the driveway, placing it in the trunk.
And you smile, softly, to yourself. There he is. The “he” that you knew so long ago. Still so much himself, only worn around the edges—smoothed—in the beautiful way that happens when life has its way with us.
While the others tease you, as they love to do, and you all laugh, he sits in his usual quiet way. Smiling through it all, with watchful eyes in which you see gratitude for old friends, old jokes, known ways. As you share a communal meal, convivial conversation and wine flow down the long table. And suddenly, you look down to see an intimacy you’d forgotten you had. His fork taking a bite of your meal, absentmindedly, as if you still had that kind of relationship. That food-off-my-plate, easy, intimate, comfortable relationship.
In a flash, you are decades prior, lying in a college bed and talking until the wee hours. You are both so full of dreams, of promise, of a life you’ve really just begun to live in the way ambitious souls do. And you wonder what pulled you apart, although you know quite well. You each had places to go and people to see that weren’t each other. He went east, then west. You went to the Big City. He needed things “just so.” Your free spirit chafed at that. And so it went, separate ways and all.
Is life a series of leavings? Or a string of reunions?
You don’t have time to ponder the questions that flit across your mind because he is offering you a bite of his meal. And you take it, knowing this is as far as it goes. That you’ll both wander off later for a private talk by the fire. The deep respect and affection you still hold for each other palpable to those around you. But you each have made promises to another, commitments you’re both honorable enough to keep. There are so many ways to love. And you each decided long ago the limits between you. Decided them with vows in separate churches, happy tears in birthing rooms across the country from each other, the daily commitments a marriage takes in different kitchens, bedrooms, soccer games for children you don’t share.
So, for the moment, you take the bite he offers, meeting his eyes briefly.
And you smile that soft smile again. Food off your plate. You’d forgotten. How nice to be reminded.