“Long time no see!” I say, giving him my professional smile. “How’s life treating you?”
“We just moved back from Fort Lauderdale. I am living with my girlfriend and her five-year old daughter. She’s actually someone I was with years ago and we got back together.”
“Oh, wow! So you’re a dad now. Congratulations!” The irony in my voice is not lost on him.
“She’s not mine, but she’s a sweet kid and we get along really good.”
“Good for you, Alan. I’m glad you’re happy.”
“And how about you? You look happy yourself.”
“I’ve been working for the village for six years now, we bought a house in Palm Beach Gardens, the kids are grown and doing their own things, so yeah, life is good.”
The silence that follows is awkward, and I am on duty, so I say goodbye. We embrace once more before I climb back into my truck.
I look him up on Facebook later that day and request him as a friend. He accepts. But he is one of those guys who just collects friends, never posting content. And it’s just as well, because we really have nothing to share. Nothing in common at this point. Nothing but a memory.
My recollection of our sexual relationship is like a song that gets stuck in my head. Because I own it, I can play it over and over. But memory is something I can control and manipulate. I like to idealize the good parts, polish them until they shine in my mind. I conveniently forget how every high brought an equally devastating crash. But, why does his song never seem to get old?
I’ve read about how addiction to drugs or anything else is all about chasing the original high. The repeated attempt to duplicate the euphoric sensation of that very first time. Maybe for me it is this way.
What I can’t get over, I must work my way through. Over the years, I write in my journal about Alan when thoughts of him preoccupy my mind. I happen to know where he works, at TGI Fridays, right around the corner. I see his car in the parking lot most days on my way to pick up groceries for my personal chef business.
One day I notice him sitting in his car. His body posture is unmistakably one of someone rolling a joint. I think it will be funny to pull up alongside his little green Honda with the rear bumper damage and startle him.
“Hey! I thought that was you! Did you just make a circle around the parking lot?”
“Yeah, just passing by, I decided to come back and say hi. How are things?”
“Really good. We are going to Amsterdam this summer with Yazmin when she visits her dad.”
“Oh, wow! That’s major.”
“And what are you up to? I see your sign here. Personal chef?” He points to the magnet stuck to the door of my red SUV.
“Yes, I’m finally back in the biz.” I give him my natural smile that is irrepressible and all teeth. “And I just became a grandma.”
“Wow, congrats! You don’t look like any grandma I’ve ever seen.”
“You know, it’s been twenty-two years since we met?”
I shuffle in the console for a business card and hand it to him.
“It doesn’t feel like that long.”
“I know, right? Well, I’ll leave you to your…”
“Yeah, just taking a little break, heh-heh.”
We climb out of our vehicles for one last hug.
“Take care, Alan.”
I never see Alan again in person. But I locate his girlfriend’s public Facebook profile because I need to know what she looks like. I am satisfied to find her not particularly attractive in any way that would make me envious and she’s far from skinny. From time to time she posts pictures that include Alan in partial view of the camera, but I know it’s him. They’ve moved to Rhode Island where she accepted a teaching position.
In my mind, Alan ended up with everything he was resisting with me. The solid domesticity of a committed partner. The bland daily rigors of child rearing. And rearing another man’s child.
Could I have been happy with him in this situation, though? The answer is absolutely not. I have no patience in real time, for a man-child. Maybe he realized this all along, even when I couldn’t.
We were kids back then. I couldn’t have known what the future would hold for me. I grasped at whatever brought me comfort in the moment. What I had with Alan in that moment, was enough. But the moment was brief and it was early on. We never did get back to that place where I felt like we existed only for each other, that place of complete union.
Sometimes when my hormonal tide is high, Alan will visit me in a dream. But it’s never about sex. He appears as a calm, loving presence, almost Christ-like. Jesus when he was young and beautiful, from the suffer the little children portrait I grew up with.
I used to imagine that someday when we are old Alan will find me, wherever I am and confess that he still loves me, that he always loved me. That it took all these years to realize that nothing could ever compare to what we shared. I still believe this could happen, because as Sade sang it so well, love is stronger than pride.