By Karen Crawford
I saw you today.
You were standing on the platform on the other side of the tracks. The ones you accused me of coming from. From behind a pillar, I took you in, unnoticed. Catching glimpses between express trains that whizzed by in both directions. Glimpses of thinning hair and faded jeans. Of running shoes, and the J. Crew sweater I’d bought for you when we were still together. Your train pulled into the station and whisked you away.
I’d often wished we’d never met. That my hair wasn’t blowing in just the right way when I sat by the only fan in that rundown hall on campus. The way you sauntered over. Your chiseled jaw. Hotter than the humidity that had caused my skin to blemish and my hair to frizz. I often wondered what you saw in a girl like me.
The first time we made love, you played Elvis Costello on your boombox. Whispering the words to “I Want You” in my ear. Candle wax dripped down our bottle of chianti—a colorful work of melted art. The red-orange flame flickering heat across my body along with your tongue. I pulled the rumpled sheets across my chest. You laughed at my modesty.
You went home that summer. I held my breath when I saw you. I didn’t know you were back. But there you were on this very same platform—holding hands with her.
After that, I was always checking the answering machine. Rushing out at a moment’s notice to meet you at a bar where you told me she was pregnant and you were going to do the right thing. You had it all worked out down to the details of how we could still hook up. You downed one shot after another. When I slammed my drink down and walked out the door, you staggered after me. You fell to your knees and screamed obscenities while everyone on the sidewalk shot pitying glances my way.
We never spoke again. Not when I was late or even as I sat alone in a waiting room doubled over in pain while blood seeped through my underwear. I was empty. Like the lobby I later stood in staring at the payphone, all out of change.
I saw you today. A guy who looked like he’d spent too many last calls at the neighborhood dive. Your perfect hair, now ancient history. The J. Crew sweater clinging in places it shouldn’t. Shoulders stooped like someone more than twice your age.
I know I shouldn’t admit it, but seeing you after all these years made me happy. Happy you chose her instead of me. Happy I wouldn’t be tied to you forever. Happy that for you, it looked like time had not been kind.