I keep seeing the ghosts of things I've wanted but could never have. I think I have a knack for preparing people for their next best things. Or, at least it always feels that way. And since this is clearly the era of seeing, remembering--frequently, at that--even when you don't want to, I suffer. Memories real and hypothetical wring at my insides.
I saw a Him I wanted once in the train station today. He still looked like the gentleman that I knew him to be. Button down shirt, slim jeans, dress boots. Tall and lanky with the swagger of a Harlem trumpeter. A quirky tangle of locks that had nearly doubled in length since we were last in each other's midst. Engaged. Invisibly, of course. You can't tell on the outside--the She was not there--but I know. Thanks to the joy and unwanted charity of social media, and that we remained "friends" on one the most visual platforms of our generation, I see constant proof that the flame I'd hoped for three or so years ago wasn't strong enough to burn. Maybe only I convinced myself it even existed.
We haven't really spoken since the gradual fade out--his days delayed responses to my texts cemented the inevitable. Just a "like" or two on Instagram from him to me. We have no reason to talk. I talked all could back then, tried to be forward, put myself out there. Drop every hint in the good book. He was sweet, charming, good hearted, and frustratingly oblivious. Every proverbial wink and wave went over his head. Or maybe he just chose to close his eyes. I thought we had something by how much fun we had when we hung out, how we danced, how sweetly he checked in on me, but evidently that was that imaginative mind of mine doing its thing again.
I see him, all these years later, in the heat of underground rush hour, he still does not see me. I don't want him to. I don't want to small talk. I don't want to talk about him finally getting that dream job he'd been chasing, or if he still lives in the same Harlem apartment he offered to pay for the cab from to get me safely back to Queens. I don't want to have to congratulate him on his engagement. I don't want to remember my own loneliness. Or maybe, once again, his eyes are "closed," and he's sparing me.
Of course he'd get off the same stop as me. Hopefully not buying groceries from Trader Joe's like I am.
I make a mental effort to look down and lose him as I scurry through the turnstiles and up the stairs. Allow all six plus feet of him to disappear from my line of sight. I am unsuccessful. Even out on the street, I try to lose myself in the mess of confused people and he goes his own way. I am unsuccessful at first, but I keep my head straight forward until I'm standing in the market's vegetable aisle. I turn around and he is gone. I exhale, embarrassed at my relief.
I am happy for his happiness deep down, as I am happy and hopeful for every human's fullness of the heart. I just wrestle with the reality that mine always seems to draw the shortest stick.