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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

intersection



There is an intersection of two roads near the university. Not the one that leads into the university, but down the road a bit, closer to the art school. I ride my bicycle across it twice a day, to and fro.

An ex-lover moved back to Canberra a couple of years ago. We had loved each other dearly once, but we were very young. The first time I saw him, almost twenty years ago, he was walking past me and my friends at the university. He had a gracefulness about him, a tall, lithe frame, a quiet, young dignity. I orchestrated a meeting with him, I liked him a lot, and I worked hard to woo him out of his determination to not fall into another serious relationship, having just come out of an intense school-sweetheart engagement. I can be charming and persuasive when I want to be. He fell, and so did I.

A few short years later we fell apart, for a variety of silly reasons that periodically through my adulthood I would weep in frustration over. I used to wonder if he'd been the one, if I'd pushed him away, or if he'd pushed me. Not having seen him for years, I would fantasise about meeting him again, and finding out if we were right for each other, now that we'd worked through our issues, dropped a bit of baggage, picked a few other pieces up. Now that we were older.

When he moved back to Canberra, he got in touch. I was newly married, he was following his heart north and moving in with her as she started a post in the Public Service. We met. The earth didn't move, of course, and by that time I didn't want it to. We both look different, but not so different that we don't recognise each other. There's a different kind of recognition between us now that is like a sad undercurrent, a mutual nostalgia, a shared history, a glimpse of an alternate universe.

We told each other that we should meet occasionally, have coffee or something. We haven't. But we both travel along the same path towards the university. We travel it often, he on foot and me on my bike. But the only place we ever cross paths is at that intersection, always with him going in and me heading out.

We face each other across the lights, and smile. The last few times I have held my hand out in a high five motion and we clasp hands briefly as we pass. And we keep going, in opposite directions along the same path.

Today I got to the lights just as they were changing. He had just crossed to my side. We stopped, and talked. One of the things I'd forgotten about him is how hard it is to have a conversation with him, as he is self-contained, shy, a still, deep pool of water. We shared news, a fact each, for a while, and then he told me that he's suddenly become an uncle, many times over, as all his siblings have had multiple babies. I asked if he planned to join them. He winced, and shook his head, looking at his feet. No, he was glad the pressure was off. I understand that pressure, and nodded, looking at my feet.

We were almost parents, once upon a time. We chose not to be. I don't regret it; I can't speak for him. But the undercurrent ran deeper all of a sudden. The lights changed, and we kissed each other hurriedly on the cheek and moved apart, travelling again, in different directions along the same path.

15 comments:

Tim said...

Not nostalgic barf at all - rather, beautifully written and evocative.

Mindy said...

You are so lucky to have an ex that you don't mind running into. I've never run into any of mine, but I think I'd probably try to avoid them if it looked like happening. Too much water under the bridge, too much baggage, too much "oh my god what was I thinking". And probably a little too much junk food on my part too.

Ampersand Duck said...

Thanks, Tim. Sometimes that idea of meeting up with old lovers and rekindling can be a load of nostalgic barf, but I've seen plenty of people who actually do it!

Mindy-- I'm ok with most of my exes, the ones who are still alive anyway. The only one I'd lose contact with utterly if I had my druthers is the one I'm forever lashed to by the rope that is my beautiful son! Meh, life, go figure.

ThirdCat said...

That is so not barf.

Pavlov's Cat said...

It being Writers' Week and all, I've just spent a lovely 45 minutes catching up with a major ex of mine (we speak on the phone regularly, but he reckons it's two years since we met), from the early 80s, since which time he has been through two and a half wives. His kids are now older than I was when I first met him. I pointed this out, and was pleased to see him turn pale.

Loose Swillings said...

Ampersand duck, this post is excellent. It most reminds me of a TV series called The Men's Room where at the end, Harriet Walter and Bill Nighy see each other on a bridge after all those years. Thankyou for it.

I am interested in half-wives, Pavlov's cat - are they like half-lives?

Ampersand Duck said...

I really love those reality jolts, PC. I'm old enough to be the mother of most of the new students, and it makes my face go pale...

Like your name, LS, guessing it's the way your real name sounds after a few cocktails? I thank you for your thanks.

PAPER LEAF said...

This was a beautiful piece. It made me think of one of my ex's whom I often wonder about and hope I'll cross paths with again sometime.

Lost in a reverie... said...

I enjoy those glimpses of an alternate universe that happen when I meet up with someone from the past - friends I fell out of touch with, as well as exes.

I also enjoyed this lovely piece of writing. Thanks &duck.

Anonymous said...

Duckie, I have been trying to think of a way to complement this amazing piece and, without wanting to sound trite, it's perfect!! Of course, as you well know, there are some old lovers one would like to bump into but can't, except in ones dreams every now and then.

Sach

Adele said...

That was lovely.........sniff...........

I still see my first love. I first met him when I was 13 in 1960..........whoops!!! there I go dropping dates again...........
Still it is nice to have a friend of 48 years who (whom?) I still see occasionally.

Zoe said...

How lovely Miss Duck, and timely as my ex-mother-in-law is staying for a few days ...

Pen said...

Thank you.

Jonesie said...

it made my heart flutter

Me said...

Your guide to starting a new life abroad: www.dreamzfulfilled.com