She asked me to walk her home, but she was really walking me. My hand was clasped tightly in hers. Her skin was soft.
This wasn’t the first time we walked together since that chance meeting at a restaurant. I say chance because she did not expect to see me there; she knew I hated the place. I say chance because I did not plan to go there, I went for work. I was meeting with a client, a client who was prettier than her.
The initial meeting had been awkward. We hadn’t seen each other for a month. She asked how I was and I said I was fine; as is the customary response where I come from. Then she asked if she could call me. I said yes. Not because I wanted her to call but, instead to prove I was over the heartbreaking awkwardness of finding someone else (someone wrong) in our bed.
She called; I should have known she would call. I should have known a lot of things. We spoke of the weather and of work. I wanted to ask about her dog (he used to be our dog) but the past was not something I wanted to bring up right now.
She did not want to talk about the past either. She wanted to talk about the future. My simple “how-have-you-been” turned into an “I-miss-you-we-should-go-to-coffee.” I also should have expected that but I had not. In my shock I said yes.
The coffee date was uncomfortable. I did not know what to say and she prattled on and on about nothing and everything. Yet somehow, she still did not mention an apology. She never apologized.
When it was over I stood to leave, wishing it were winter so my hands would be full with my coat and gloves. Wishing my hands were full so I did not have to wonder what to do with them. Wonder how to say goodbye. Did I have to hug here?
She smiled at me and looked at me with her big eyes. They were quite pretty but I could never remember the shade. Blue, green, hazel, it varies in my memory. Before I said anything she was asking me to dinner on Friday night, and wouldn’t that be just wonderful? Just like old times? And then she kissed me. It was a dramatic and bold move. There was a certain familiarity to that boldness that I remembered loving and, perhaps because of the familiarity I said yes.
That dinner turned into two, which turned into three, four, five, and now we are here. Walking in the street. Walking her home.
She was pleased, humming to herself a little tune. Her hand only slightly covered in sweat and her hair just beginning to frizz in the humidity.
She had remarked to me, over lasagna and breadsticks, that getting back together felt just like putting on a pair of your favorite, old, blue jeans; comfortable and familiar and soft.
I was thinking about that, as we walked down the street, as she hummed, and the sun shone, and I sweat uncomfortably. I was beginning to realize I disagreed with her metaphor. What we were doing did not feel like slipping into a pair of my favorite, old, blue jeans at all. Instead, it felt like I was forcing myself into a pair of shoes one half-size too small. It wasn’t an impossible feat but it was too tight, it pinched, and I was overcome with a certain sense of overwhelming wrongness.
The woman whose hand held mine stopped moving.
She looked at me sharply with her big, green eyes, for I have decided that in this telling they shall be green, perhaps next time the color will be different; and asked, “What?”
“We’re here,” she seemed annoyed that I hadn’t noticed.
And so we were. The apartment building had seemed much more friendly when I lived there. Now it was the home to shattered promises and bad memories. Oh, and her, of course.
“I had a lovely time,” she cooed, pressing her body against mine. It was too hot out for that. I ached to pull back; she was making my shirt stick to my chest. But I didn’t, that would have been too rude. It would have upset her.
“Me too,” I responded, not quite as cheerfully, nor as seductively.
Her eyes, still green in my memory, sparkled, “Did you really?”
I nodded and she threw her arms around me with delight. I felt hot.
“I’m so happy we’re together again,” she whispered into my ear. The moisture in her breath adds to the sweaty dampness that had collected on my neck. I needed a haircut.
My toes felt pinched and moist.
We stood like that for a long while but what couldn’t have been more than thirty seconds. Then she kissed me again. Her sweaty forehead touched mine and I tried to remember why I loved her kisses so much.
“Goodbye,” I murmured, as we pulled apart.
“You’ll call again tomorrow, yeah?” she pleaded, a smile on her damp, soft lips.
I only smiled back, not wanting to remind her that she was the only one who had been doing the calling.
“Good. I’m so glad we’re together again. Isn’t it fabulous?” she asked, laughed, and kissed me again. It was light and fast this time, only a peck. Then she ran up the stairs and into the building, out of the suffocating humidity.
I turned around, wiping my hand on my jeans. I wondered if she noticed I hadn’t told her I would call tomorrow. I wondered if she noticed I did not tell her how “fabulous” it was that we were together again. I wondered why she assumed we were together again.
I knew she would call tomorrow but inside I hoped she wouldn’t. But then, I did not have to answer, did I? Stepping down the street on that humid summer afternoon my toes felt less pinched. And I smiled.