I do not expect to see him, but there he is. He looks older, of course. I do too. He also seems taller. I do not go out of my way to say hi, but he’s in my path to exit the wedding festivities and I have no reason or desire to avoid him. So I wave.
Recognition comes after a beat and he smiles. “Hey! I haven’t seen you in forever.”
“I know, it’s been a while. Like, something like–”
“Like six or seven years or something,” he finishes for me.
“Something like that, yeah.”
He tries to conceal the smirk on his face. “Since that-”
“Yeah,” I cut in. I knew he would mention it. “That party. And that weekend.”
He suddenly appears guilty, so I smile. But it seems he feels the need to explain himself anyway.
“I didn’t mean to, like… I mean if that was…” he stammers, still smiling, but also rubbing the back of his neck. “I didn’t want to be… I don’t know. It probably wasn’t the best idea, but you were really cool about it. I expected you to go a little psycho afterward.”
I laugh lightly. “Why?”
He shrugs. “Because that’s what women do when guys do what I… you know… did.”
“Well,” I say, also shrugging. “I don’t really give that incident much thought.”
“Because when I think of you, I don’t think of that weekend.” The words roll off my tongue before I can assess their true meaning.
“Really?” He appears marginally insulted, but he’s still smiling. “So what do you think of instead?”
I look past him to the dusky sky for a second as I think of everything. Then I look back at his green eyes, noticing the crow’s feet that haven’t always been there.
“I think of… seventh grade. First day of school. When you wouldn’t stop poking me in the back with your eraser, and I turned around to tell you to quit and you said, ‘if I quit, will you give me a kiss?’ and then I turned back around with my cheeks burning and wondering if some boy would actually want to kiss me.
I think of high school, when my best friend had such a huge crush on your brother and I had to go with her to a party you threw just so she could talk to him.
I think of my first night after moving back here and going to a bar with people from my new job that I barely knew, seeing you bartending and spending the whole evening talking to you instead of them.
I think of a year later at that same bar when I got into a scary fight with my boyfriend, which you defused by stepping in and casually engaging him in conversation about some video game.
I think of the first time I saw you after you came back from Iraq and noticing you finally looked like a man and not a boy.
I think of the day my best friend married your brother and us walking up the aisle.
I think of the day we stood in front of the glass at the hospital, looking at their newborn baby, talking about how crazy it was. How a baby could be such a perfect combination of two people.”
I stop talking and he’s wearing a wide grin.
“Oh yeah,” is all he says. But his eyes say more.
“Yeah,” I agree, taking a step back. “Anyway. It was nice seeing you.”
I start to leave again when I hear him speak.
I glance back and see him holding out his hand toward me.
He flips his fingertips slightly, gesturing toward the dancefloor. “Come on.”
“What, you want to go dance?”
“Yeah.” He’s still grinning. “Come on.”
He shrugs. “So you can have another thing to think of.”
Sometimes it is not, nor should it be, love.
Sometimes it’s just a thread. One you don’t notice unless you go searching for it, skimming over the tapestry of your life. Maybe you can find the beginning, maybe you can’t. Maybe you can find the ending, maybe you can’t. But the thread is there, adding color and intricacies.
And even though you rarely think of this singular thread, it is part you, and you know that without it the whole thing would look a bit different. Like it was missing something.