Monday, February 13, 2017

The 4th One

I rounded the corner and ran right into him. My head was down so I didn't see him coming. I hadn't seen him in around seven years. His hair was blacker than I remembered. And his eyes had a few more wrinkles around them when he smiled. He was brighter than before. He was warmer. And he was just as surprised to see me. Being confronted with those royal blues all over again made me a bit nervous. Everything makes me nervous.

We immediately hugged. It was an involuntary reaction that we both had. He smelled the same. He was probably still wearing the Armani cologne that I had suggested to him back in college. After he splurged on a bottle, I realized that he always carried a hint of spice on his sweaters. It was quite sexy actually.

"You're still wearing that cologne," I blurted. 

"Well damn Gracie," he responded a bit impressed.

Then he went in for another hug. This time it was a little tighter. I had nothing witty to say back. His embrace was bringing on emotion that I had been suppressing for a while. My nerves were revving up again, because I could feel it. He knew. 

He sighed, "So, how are things?" 

His hands held the sides of my arms and he stood back to take a good look at me. I titled my head up to meet his gaze although I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks. I wanted to hide it. I wanted to hide that look I give off when I'm uneasy or unsure. I didn't want to talk about this with him. It's embarrassing. 

"I'm good," I replied with confidence. 

Squinting he said, "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I promise."

***

After our quick catch-up we swapped numbers and went our separate ways. He must have went right to checkout though because I received a text just ten minutes after we parted.

I think of you whenever I buy a new bottle.

I didn't respond right away. I couldn't sort my feelings. I was embarrassed still. The last time we spoke we had a huge fight about the relationship I was currently in and where it was going. He was convinced it wouldn't last. He was convinced that I would never be truly fulfilled. But he was wrong, or at least that's what I had argued.

When I did muster up the courage to say something back, I noticed that I had another message from him.

Let's go out.

My stomach sank a bit more. What did he want? I didn't think I could sit and look at his face for longer than a few minutes without the weight of my wrong choice circling around. I didn't want that feeling to be planted firmly on my chest mid-conversation. But then I remembered I was different now. I was braver. I texted back.

When?

***

We were sitting on the floor and the papers I had printed out were all over our legs, covering up the carpet and crunching under our feet when we'd get up to grab our drinks off of the counter. I couldn't believe I was sharing all of this with him. I couldn't believe how comfortable I had become throughout the night. And it wasn't even the wine. I was still nursing the same glass he poured when he first knocked on the door. I could tell he sprayed a bit more of his cologne for the evening too. I didn't mind.

I, on the other hand, had no clue what I was supposed to wear for the occasion. Jeans at home seem too stiff. Sweatpants were too casual, like I didn't care at all. So I just went with my go-to, a tight maxi, an oversized cardigan and my hair running wild.

"This all happened Gracie," he asked.

"Yes, every bit of it."

It's not that he didn't believe my words. I think he was just genuinely surprised. My story was quite the pile of coincidence and irony and made-for-TV moments. He went through every page recounting my emotion and what it was stirring up inside of him. He'd laugh. He'd get angry. He'd question some sentences or make me explain some memories that I hadn't quite finished yet.

Once he was done reading, I started piling up everything I had printed off. It didn't matter whether they were in order or not, I'd eventually shred them and get back on the computer to complete the work. He could tell I was hiding my face and feeling self conscious. He slid his arm under my sweater and pulled me closer.

"Stop," he demanded.

I was silent. I still didn't know how to approach this subject. I could tell he wanted to talk about it but I wasn't comfortable enough or confident enough to take it on just yet.

"You don't smell like cotton candy anymore," he teased.

I giggled, "Yeah, I eventually got over wanting to smell like dessert."

He laughed quietly and started rubbing my back. The room fell silent and I stayed focused on getting my pages stacked.

"You were completely over me right?"

His question startled me. I looked up at him and saw it in his face too. He was uneasy and unsure. He wasn't completely confident in this exchange but he also seemed eager too. Maybe this was the point all along, to finally know.

"What do you mean," I asked.

He sighed," I broke up with her for you, in high school. And then nothing happened."

"This is about high school?"

"No, but that's where it started. Every time I was with someone else that's when you would promise me things. I'd be free and you'd leave," he replied.

"I was with him for years when you came back in the picture though."

I noticed that he was clenching his jaw, "But that's why we fought. I could see it. I didn't think this would be the outcome, I honestly thought you'd end up leaving him."

Laughing I responded, "Yeah, that seems to be the general consensus nowadays."

"You're okay though," he questioned again.

I nodded yes.

That's when he did it. He kissed me. I hadn't kissed him since I was 16-years-old and I immediately started wondering why I did that to myself. Why had I kept him at an arm's length for so long? This was the fourth man I had kissed since I was a wife and this is the one that mattered.
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