I saw my ex the other day. At least I think I did. Similar build, same height. Bright eyes tinged with cynicism. That same easy confidence I both admired and envied. A wry smile playing on full, soft lips.
But he seemed so out of place, standing there in the freezer aisle, contemplating the merits of frozen yogurt. Instead of in my mind, living in the space between auspicious adolescence and acrimonious adulthood. A breathing memory, misplaced. He belonged in the shade of an oak tree, strumming riffs on his guitar. Or pinned against the fence near my house, eyes closed, mouths open, his arms serving as my only connection to Earth as our lips met.
I almost ran to him. In the excited, girlish way I used to when we first started dating. When all was new and everything shimmered with promise and possibility. When the sun seemed to rise and set by the sound of his laugh; the weather syncopated to his moods. Time was a commodity we both had and neither could get their fill.
I don’t know if it was love; if I was in love. At the time, it felt like it must have been, or at least a very close approximation-a counterfeit almost as good as the original. We certainly said it a lot, exuberantly. But as with most things, distance and reflection make room for questions never before considered. And you are left wondering if anything was ever actually what you thought. I used to think that our ability to sit quietly for hours with nothing more than a half-smile shared represented a connection too deep to warrant verbal expression. Maybe it was actually a lack of one, an inability to truly connect that fed the quiet. Maybe the silence simply drowned out our incompatibilities, our inadequacies. Were we ever one of the shiny happy couples? Or merely an imitation?
I suppose it was inevitable. The end. Always lurking, just beyond the periphery. Young love rarely lasts, often a bright blaze that consumes then fizzles. But we knew best.We were not our parents. I was not my mother, a self-saboteur with a penchant for chaos. And he was not his alcoholic father, pining for something he never quite had. Baggage was illusory, an impediment only to those who believed in the power of the past. We were the captains of our own destiny and our future was bright. Infinite.
I cannot pinpoint the hows and whys of the end of, us. The catalyst, the inciting event, the moment that did us in. Would it matter if I did? Was there any coming back from the sort of destruction that occurs when two people decide that committed oneness is no longer an option? We tore ourselves asunder, leaving ragged edges and hairline fractures. Invisible, yet enduring. Collateral damage for the next one to clean up.
A flood of emotion surfaced, with such a voracity I feared drowning was imminent. My fingers were numb from gripping the shopping cart, legs stiff from stagnation. I couldn’t stay here forever. Frozen, here. In this aisle, in this place, in the space where ghosts live. thrive. It was time to move. I needed to. I needed to move, on. It was time.
So I disconnected from my metal, rolling tether and steeled myself for a confrontation long overdue. My mind buzzed with long-held questions and declarations of truth unspoken. My heart pumped painfully in my chest and as I moved forward, I questioned legs’ integrity.
I didn’t get far. The ex was joined by another, a slight woman with hair unruly and eyes dark, intense. She appeared annoyed with the existential crisis spurred by frozen dairy treats. After a few moments of heated discussion, he gave up his quest and followed the woman down the aisle. I opened my mouth to stop him, but the frog in my throat thought better of it. It wasn’t time. Not yet.
So I went back to my abandoned buggy, grateful for the interruption. Besides, who knows if it was even him? I never got close enough to know for sure. His chin seemed a bit too long and the woman who retrieved him a bit too contentious. The mind often plays tricks, and ghosts of heartbreaks past appear in the most unlikely of places.
And even if it were him, did it matter? What would be gained by revisiting something that had ended years ago? Closure was vastly overrated. Just another ending to process. And I was tired of endings. As I moved towards the frozen desserts, I decided that I was okay with the incompleteness of it all. That phantom heart pangs were better than nothing at all. They were, at the very least, a reminder of what mine was capable of; a ghost worth keeping.
Not all hauntings are bad, I thought, grabbing a pint of frozen yogurt. Caramel praline. One of our favorites.