That old familiar ache

I was finally in New York, sitting in a darkened bar, drinking a glass of wine across from a man I had just met. Things hadn’t changed much in two years.

My date and I were engaging in idle chatter, mostly small talk. I wasn’t feeling it. Most of all, I was just going through the motions because I was alone in a new city. My date excused himself to go to the bathroom and I began plotting my escape with a feigned stomach bug. I was warming my hands over the candle on the table, when I noticed someone across the room staring at me. One glance, and I knew. It was a face I could never forget. I felt my stomach lurch like it was going to fall out, and suddenly, I really did have that stomach bug I was going to pretend to have.

I saw him make his way over to me decisively like he had the first time, and I hoped my date wouldn’t come back from the bathroom any time soon.

“Still playing with fire I see,” he said, with a heart-wrenching smile. Reeling from the unexpectedness of bumping into him, all I could manage was a feeble yes.

“How long are you here for?”

“I was actually thinking of leaving soon.”

“I meant in New York.”

“Oh. I’m here for another 2 weeks.”

“Great. I’d like to take you to dinner while you’re here,” he said, looking earnestly into my eyes and grasping my hand over the warmth of the flame. I wanted to say, you had your chance two years ago in Tokyo. In Sydney. In Thailand. You had so many chances already.

Instead I said, “sure, I’d like that. Text me, my number’s still the same.”

He smiled his adorable smile again, which never failed to ruin me, and said he would, and got up and left, and I watched him walk away like I had so many times before. My date came back from the bathroom just then, and saw him departing.

“Who was that?” he asked.

“Just an old friend,” I replied.

After a few drinks, and the experience of bumping into J, I felt atrociously sick and decided to call it a night. I could pretend all I wanted, but after all that time, J still had my heart. I had tried desperately and unfailingly, but in 2 years, no one had managed to captivate me the way he had.

J was a tremendous man, and I don’t mean in size. He was the kind of the man who could walk into a room and own it with his presence. He had me from the first moment I laid eyes on him.

The next day, he texted me asking to take me to dinner. I knew it would only lead to disaster, but I got ready to meet him anyway. When I got to the restaurant, he was sitting across from the entrance smiling his disarming smile. When I sat down, he took my hand immediately and said, “I’m so glad you came.” He said all the right things.

“Me too,” I said, smoothing down the folds of my dress, and suddenly wishing I had worn something less revealing, as I saw his eyes flicker downwards.

We soon fell back into old ways, him chatting about all the amazing things he had been doing, and me, listening, enthralled. After we finished dinner, we stood outside the restaurant awkwardly. “So… do you want to come back and hang at mine?” he asked hesitantly. It was the first time that night I had seen him look anything close to nervous. I was still thinking about what to do, when he interjected again. “I just feel so comfortable with you. It’s like we can just pick up where we left off.” He held my gaze steadily as he said this, and I wanted to believe him so much, but his past behaviour had indicated otherwise. He always slipped back into my life so easily, and every time he did, he acted like he hadn’t been gone.

You had so many chances already, I wanted to say, but like all the other times, the words hung in my mouth, unsaid.

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