Sunrise at midnight

Hey. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Years, I reckon. Years which have only stoked the brushfire that is your absence. That might be too literary a way of putting it, but you know me. That’s how my brain works. I only really know what to say when there’s a pen in my hand and a fresh sheet of paper in front of me. My conversational ineptitude should come as no surprise.

Anyway, do you remember the last time we saw each other? It was a cold December night, like I said, years ago. You were home, visiting your parents for the holidays. I remember you texted me, asked if we could catch up. I didn’t tell you this at the time, but I was… To put it frankly, elated. I was elated because then, much like now, it had been years since I had seen you.

So all of those old feelings began welling up. Feelings that I’d developed for you, and that I then actively tried to suppress because I wasn’t quite ready for them. And of course, I told you “Sure, let’s meet somewhere,” and you suggested the old diner that we used to go to, way back when. I drove the forty minutes. You met me in the parking lot.

I remember thinking how stunning you looked… You were wearing a charcoal pencil skirt and a scarlet blouse, with a matching shade of lipstick. Your chocolate hair fell in airy waves about your shoulders… God, you looked so beautiful… And then I remember thinking that you were very likely always this beautiful, and I was simply too miserable to appreciate it. Those old feelings welled up even stronger now, but I tried to play disinterested. First mistake. When you saw me, you rushed up and threw your arms around my neck. I politely reciprocated your embrace, only for a brief moment before shyly pulling away. Second mistake.

We got a booth, the one you always liked, by the window that looks out over the main drag. You always loved watching the road, especially late at night, when there were only a handful of motorists out at any given time, and the entire scene became an incandescent panorama of streetlamps and big box store signs. You said it relaxed you. Given what a shit I was back then, I’d say you needed it.

We talked about what was going on in our lives. You, about your recent broken engagement and how hard it was finding an affordable apartment in the city; me about my new job and the poems which had recently been accepted for publication. We talked about the old days, too, before my stupid, juvenile hang-ups made a mess of everything. And as we were talking, I couldn’t help but marvel at the changes in you that had taken place since we broke it off. You seemed much freer, much more at ease with yourself. No longer the insecure girl you’d been before.

And then I thought about how little I’d changed. Because I was falling in love with you all over again, and I was just as frightened of it now as I was so many years ago. Surely you’d noticed. It was so obvious. The fact that I stammered ever so slightly at the start of each sentence, that I fidgeted with every container of half-and-half I’d dump into my coffee, and the lovelorn looks that would manifest on my face whenever our gazes met.

Why was I so afraid? It would have been so easy to just confess right there how I felt about you. The most natural thing in the world, and yet… I resisted. I grabbed that impulse by the neck, lopped off its plump head, watched the blood drain from the stump and soak the carpet of my imagination. Third mistake.

You walked in front of me to the counter when it came time to pay for our food. There was something sensual in the way you moved. Instantly, a myriad lascivious ideas swept over me: I wanted you more than I’d ever wanted anyone. Still, I kept quiet, though now it was because I was utterly ashamed to be thinking those kinds of thoughts about you, the poised and confident woman you’d become. I offered to pay for the both of us, in recompense for my transgression. “Such a gentleman,” you said. Not really.

I walked you to your car. A light snow was beginning to fall, the first of the season in all its underwhelming glory. We hugged once more, and this time, I held on just a little longer, allowing the feeling of you in my arms to penetrate every inch of my body. And as I reluctantly pulled away, our gazes met yet again. I could live forever in your gaze, you know. But… There was definitely a magnetism between us that night, because you thrust your lips against mine. I shut my eyes, felt the two of us dissolving into that kiss, and for a full minute, that kiss is all that existed.

I had to catch my breath after you pulled away. There was such an intense glow and warmth about you. It felt like a sunrise at midnight. All I wanted then was to let all of those feelings out, to run away with you to New York, Paris, Tokyo, anywhere that we’d dreamed of. But I didn’t. And all that remained for us was silence. You finally said goodbye, got into your car, and drove off. I lit up a smoke and drove my own way, forty minutes back, listening to “Sky High” by Ben Folds Five.

-r. miller

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