Some old memories never melt
By Joyce Reehling
I knew the very minute when it was over. We were at a smoky bar in the West Village, piled into a booth with friends, talking about the state of the world as one does in one’s late 20s. It was Saturday night and the jukebox howled with Bee Gees.
Snow. I remember the loveliness of the falling snow and how it tamped down the sound of the traffic. It was late but the streets are timeless, flowing like the Mississippi past the islands of bars and parks and people who float by, arm-in-arm. I remember the snow so clearly because it was big, fluffy flakes falling in what seemed like slow, elastic time. Instead of being pure white they took on the almost amber color of the streetlights. It was beautiful.
It wasn’t that we had argued or had a bad day, no. It was his slight lingering look at the waitress, not a beautiful girl but known to all of us. And there was that glance as she put down his beer. The warmth of his arm around my shoulder was still there but the chill began in his eyes. My time was up.
My eyes kept going to the huge window watching this flutter, this drifting down, and I began the dance of questioning my own instincts.
We ordered our usual burgers and fries. We continued our conversations and laughter but beneath my feet, unfelt by anyone else, a chasm was opening, a huge sinkhole that was about to swallow me whole. He was my first real love and he was making a decision. In front of me.
The chasm was only big enough for one. It would not swallow him. He would probably say he was merely making a choice, moving on, traveling light through life. He would say, and days later did, “I never lied about who I am.” It was the cloak of a rascal who wraps the hurt they inflict around themselves like a scarf.
The night went on, my tea-reading mind trying to dispel the widening hole just beneath me. He, as he always seemed to do, ran roughshod on the topics. Though others pushed back on his hyperbole, he felt just the way he always liked to feel, smart and just that little bit ahead of everyone else’s curve. It was not really so but the illusion was enough.
The lateness of the dinner and the night was not unusual, but when the time came for the nightbirds to fly home, we gathered our things and walked to the street. He whistled up a cab and opened the door, saying, “I think I will come up to your place a little later.” It was as obvious as a neon glance. As loud as a lingering look.
“Not like this.” It was all I could muster. “Can we not end like this?”
I am polite now and was polite then and did not scream or cry or wail or go punch that girl’s lights out. It wasn’t her fault. She told me over drinks years and years later that though she shared part of her life with him, it was often a misery. That was the night she reached out to apologize. He never did.
This was long ago and far away, and yet the feeling of the impending coldness, of being left, hovers just over my shoulder. There is no burn as painful as the first time the world goes up in flames right in front of you while everyone else keeps laughing. I don’t think about all of that very much, but sometimes when the night is late and the snow is falling and I walk under a street lamp or see that slightly yellow tinge as the snow slices through the spot of light, the pain of dying love bubbles up.
And the snow, the lovely and peaceful snow, did not help me at all that night as I waited for footsteps up the stairs that never came. PS
Joyce Reehling is a frequent contributor and good friend of PineStraw.