Tuesday, March 04, 2008
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.