By Lauren Suval
His hand rests on her upper thigh. Not in a sexually suggestive way. In a sweet way. In a way that says, I just want to be close to you right now.
It’s been six months. Half a year. Twenty four weeks. Six months, half a year, and twenty four weeks since he stopped touching me. It was as if I was contagious with some kind of infectious disease or something, and nobody saw it coming.
I’m glad everything’s going well for you, he says as his new girlfriend stares at me uncomfortably. I decide that she’s cute, but not that pretty. Maybe I’m trying to make myself feel better. I suddenly become conscious of the acne that just broke out on my chin, of my coarse curls due to the humidity.
That’s great about your essays. I saw something about them being published back in June.
I remember last June when our first day at the beach made us giddy. We got back into the car, bodies covered in sand, and decided we wanted something spicy. We talked about seeking out the ‘perfect taco’. Whatever that was.The sun made us a little delirious. But an hour later, we were making out in between bites of corn tortillas and cilantro and obnoxiously licking each others’s salsa-stained lips at an outdoor cafe on Ocean Boulevard. Later that night, after we showered and cooled off, we literally stared at each other as we laid in bed. Granted, we were exhausted. But still. We stared at one another with one of those pertinent glances. One that means something. One that you just know is emotionally significant.
And you’ve been good? I see that since you’ve been promoted you have a decent break. Gives you some time to regroup before the kids start coming in, wreaking havoc with all their sugar and caffeine.
He lets out a light laugh.
Yeah, just the highlight of my day. Rachel and I were saying how when we were that age, we didn’t even drink coffee.
I think I hold my breath for a second when he says Rachel and I.
Through all the hand holding in movie theaters and silly three am phone calls and late night Snapple runs (I never drank as much Peach Snapple as I did when I was with him) and spring-time walks around the park and weekend road trips and deep conversations and not-so-deep conversations, we lost it. We got off track. We hurt each other.
Not intentionally, though. Never intentionally.
Those first few months apart — I deem those ‘the crying months,’ especially whenever a trigger manifested — I couldn’t even bring myself to walk down Bellview Ave. To look at the Starbucks on the corner.
And yet, at the same time, I remember feeling comforted at a mere possibility. It wasn’t just his ghost that lingered — it was him. And to think that I could see him if I were to walk through that door made me feel a little bit more balanced. A little bit more relieved. Knowing that some things didn’t change. Knowing that there’s still a thread that didn’t unravel with the rest of us.
It was good to see you, Julie.
I wonder if he’s going to get up and hug me. But no. She’s right there. And it’s new. He’s sensitive like that.
You too, I say softly. I pause and then turn my attention to her. We exchange pleasantries, saying how it was nice to meet one another.
I look at Ben before I walk away. He looks right back at me with one of those pertinent glances, transparent only to the two of us. A glance that says everything we shared together is captured right here. A glance that says it won’t be forgotten. I acknowledge him with a glance of my own.
When I leave that Starbucks on the corner of Bellview, I wait a block before I let a tear or two fall. Because I miss him. Because a part of me still loves him.
But I also let a tear or two fall because someone who gave me some of the best years of my life is happy. And for that, I’m happy, too.