It seemed like a good idea at the time. Meet up in a strange city, where we didn’t know any other people. Nobody to start whispering about us going around the place arm in arm. And for the first couple of days it was a good idea. The cracks that appeared had to do with each of us individuating a bit, feeling out our boundaries. That had to happen. The cracks had to appear.
First I would forget things. Then you would forget things. We didn’t become hostile, there was no open conflict, just a gradual giving up on each other. By the time it came to part ways and head each to our respective homes, the hugs had grown half-hearted. And then after the final hug we ended up just clasping hands, very tightly. That was unplanned. It came from whatever part in each of us that didn’t want to let go. All the more reason to let go, to have to let go.
Neither of us knew other people there, but you just happened to get approached a lot. That was fair enough; you were prettier. I’d go off and talk to some bunch I’d just met then, nice enough people. You didn’t expect me to hang around watching some guy drool all over you, did you? Neither did I expect you to give me exclusive attention. You’re not like that, you never have been, I didn’t assume that was going to be the case. But after putting myself out, after going some distance, making some time to spend with you — I didn’t really expect exclusivity, that wasn’t it. Some kind of recognition, I don’t know. If I’d known what it was I really wanted, there wouldn’t have been any problem.
So I didn’t get mad. I didn’t start hating you. After everything, that would still be hard to do. Something just started to grow inside me from then on. Not quite resentment, though it started with resentment. Not quite feeling abandoned or hard done by. Just a gradual feeling of — I try to call it independence. Keeping some kind of stake of emotional independence. Not to get too caught up in someone, no matter how much you like them. Then there was wariness because we hadn’t seen each other in so long. What were you going to be like after 20 years? I mean, you were good. You were okay. You were and are still the same nice, unique person.
It was no great calamity. I suppose it took that week to realise that we’ve moved on as people and that things are never going to be the same. Nothing new there. What tugged about it, what still tugs about it, is the way something small would happen – some look on your face, some attitude, some conjunction of time and place every now and again – and with it would come that feeling of deep togetherness. Something I’d never expected. It hadn’t been like that in the old days. Things have changed.