I dash around trying to find just the right outfit for seeing one's ex after a span of a year. We'd spoken on the phone, chatted online, texted, sent emails in the interim, but I had not seen her since I kissed her cheek while she took back what remained of her furniture.
I choose a v-neck sweater and jeans, attractive without appearing to try to be so. Most importantly, nothing I would need to iron. I absolutely don't want Emily to be attracted to me, but I want her to remember that I still am an attractive being. Perhaps more so than she has occasion to remember; I have been eating better and working out more than when we were together, having found cuisine and exercise that begins to suit me. I ascribe to the notion that the best revenge is a well-lived life, and this is the only way in which I ever want my vengeance. I want it clear how happy and functional I am, which I think come across anyway given her text of a few days before, after she read my entries from just after the breakup and felt the need to apologize for every way in which she hurt me and express gratitude that I am happy.
I arrive early so I can stake come claim on the Panera Bread where we will be sharing a lunch. It is territorial and petty, especially as I've never previously entered this building, but it makes me feel a little more assured. I'd joked that I didn't know whether body armor would be gauche when meeting with her, but I did need this little scrap of security. I couldn't be the one to search for her.
I get out my mini-notebook computer and start writing. I type anxiously, just wanting this meeting to begin so it can begin to end. I am not unfriendly with Emily, or this exchange of remnants of our time together would be occurring at a truck stop with no suggestion of dining together. Eating - watching the other person open their mouth, insert food, chew, swallow - is all so intimate. I was once close with this woman, sharing my life and all but a few secrets, now the thought of her eating verges on too familiar.
A year is quite the chasm, though not insurmountable, and we remain on pleasant terms despite the expectations of the world at large. Despite, perhaps, our own unvoiced expectations. Still, I have supposed friend with whom I am ostensibly on better terms who have been outside my company far longer.
Ten minutes later, she greets me and it is both startlingly odd and comfortable to hear her voice in person. Still a bit petty, I want her to look worse than she does and I wonder if she thought more about what she was going to wear than I did. One never wants to be the least formal at an event. The fleece hoodie she is wearing is memorable, and I know that she acquired it late in our relationship. Was it a gift? I can't recall now. Her glasses are different, light purple with rhinestones flecking the edges and she has several more involved ear piercings than when she left me, but she otherwise looks largely unchanged. She could have left yesterday, save that she exudes a perfume that varies greatly with the Burberry Brit or patchouli she wore around me. Memory is so closely tied to scent, so my brain can be convinced that she might be a different person, something closer to a friend than an ex-partner.
I hand her a box containing some photos of her fighting, a plush bear that had been a favorite toy/bed of our cats, and a Van Gogh tie that belonged to her father before it was bequeathed to me upon his death. In return, she hands me a bag containing a DVD and a game I'd since replaced, along with a moldavite ring that was at one point to be our wedding band (I have the other, but it never fit and I enjoy the stone too much to let it languish and gather dust). There is a pause after the exchange, because this technically completes our transaction. Anything beyond this occurs because we wish it to, and this is untried ground. We'd never before been just friends, not even when I put a moratorium on our relationship early on because I'd only even known her as a lover when what I really needed was a friend. In over eight years, this is a first. Going through my old entries, she was once my best friend, but that seems odd in the present tense. She knows so much, and I know so much about her (or think I do), but we are almost starting again as strangers with extensive dossiers.
We joke and gossip a bit, unnecessarily catching up on things the other person likely knows, until I ask if she would actually like something to eat. It is an acceleration of our friendship, a suggestion that she might want to stick around until she finishes a plate of something. She tells me to go on ahead but, when I get back to the table, she admits this was a mistake and gets up to purchase a lunch of her own.
When she returns, I comment on her purple and deep blue ring, as I am the sort to notice anything that glitzes and knew the contents of her jewelry boxes as of a year ago.
"It's my engagement ring. I like it because it is the color of a bruise; I didn't want diamonds," she replies, wiggling her finger. It's a design I know, but at least she is consistent in her wants.
"You women and your dislike of diamonds," I chide, though I suppose she and Tim are not in a place where they can fork over for ludicrously overpriced rocks when there are more pressing bills. She tells me that his doctoral stipend has been cut because he is not nearly ready to be finished with his research, that they are living only on her meager paycheck. She then comments on my mala, a birthday gift from Melanie, as she likewise knows all my accessories still.
I apologize for changing the date of our meeting as I had erroneously assumed that Melanie wouldn't want to meet Emily.
"And I want to meet her," she begins and then adds, "briefly. I don't really see why she wants to meet me." She puts a forkful of salad in her mouth to fill the pause in conversation.
"She doesn't really dislike you. About the worst thing she says is that she is glad that you dumped me because then she got me." While this is the absolute truth, I catch my breath for a second in wondering whether this was a callous thing to say, but the glittering from her ring distracts me. I do not quite think I am ready to see Tim again. I will feel differently at their September wedding, where I will have both Melanie and appetizers.
"When does she come home?" Emily asks.
"You must be excited."
"Absolutely, it's been a month..." and I trail off half in fantasy, because suggestions of Melanie tend to have that effect.
"I guess you'll probably be busy then," she states idly, but I make some comment about using my crock pot to make chicken and dumplings so Emily doesn't make any reference to my sex life.
Still, there is very faint flaring of competition between us - her fiancÚ was a cook in an Italian restaurant, my girlfriend is French and therefore genetically an exquisite cook - but these are minor and almost sociable boasting.
"Well, this wasn't as awkward as I expected," she laughs, meaning it beyond the joke. I wonder what part of this is potentially awkward, because there is a lot to choose from. But it truly isn't awkward, we are very much getting along and conversing as friends while actually looking the other person in the eye. It is certainly going to take a bit longer before things are strictly copasetic between us, but this is a very good start.
She excuses herself a bit more than an hour after she arrived. Outside the restaurant, I go in to hug her, not knowing if she is waiting for it, and get her perfume on me even though she is wrapped in a huge padded coat. The smell does not abate for hours.
"This was fine," she says.
"Yeah, we should do this again."
"Yeah," she agrees and reiterates, "This was fine."
Soon in Xenology: Reunion. Jenn's party.