I arrive 20 minutes early. The hostess walks me to our old table set for two. I take my customary spot, facing the bar. Who, I wonder, has sat here drinking you in these five empty months?
I busy myself—jotting down made-up errands, picking up phantom calls, mouthing responses to questions no one has asked, rummaging my bag for nothing at all—so I will look absorbed by something other than you.
The bar has drawn its quorum of underdressed hipsters slipping in and out of this and that. I play a solitaire version of our favorite game: inventing story lines for each party in process. Day trader and architect. Partially assembled bachelorette bash. Ob-gyn and software developer. North Shore varsity quarterback and his mom’s best friend. And there you are, kibitzing with the barmaid.
I free-fall into the lavish drape of your body. The odd melody of your gestures. The unsettling beauty of your face. The way I imagine your gorgeous heart lists to one side since I stomped all over it.
A ripple in the air calls me back to the now of you sitting across from me. This close. That far. No kiss. Barely a smile. A bottle of our favorite Malbec appears. Someone pours. We clink glasses, forage for pleasantries, exchange a few updates, then silence: my cue to cross the threshold.
I plead my case for us. I say every word I planned to say. I listen for your response. Nothing. Nothing.
You pass one hand over your jaw. The sound of your fingertips scraping the shadow of your beard makes me dizzy. You take a healthy swig of wine and hold the finish between pressed lips. I want to touch you. I see your lips purse and part slowly, as if giving your unspoken words time to line up in the right order. You reach across the table, and the words retreat to the Eden of your mouth. You wrap your hands around mine like you used to do. I feel the moment flutter inside the dome of our nested palms. v