It was a dry and hot afternoon as i set out for the restaurant, all the while consumed by a curious desire to drop my things and run till i was drenched and thirsty, mouth and tongue absolutely dry. I knew it was just my mind trying to take my attention away from what was to happen, which was somehow making me slightly nervous, and i thought it clever.
My workplace was not so far away and in less than a half hour i found myself at the entrance of The Soup Kitchen, our agreed-upon meeting spot. It was my suggestion and she’d happily agreed. I still don’t know why i made that phone call and i don’t regret it, but if you asked me to choose again, i’d say no. Not yet, at least.
This had been the place where we’d first officially dated five years ago, and it was an easy choice to make. Perhaps the familiarity of the venue would ease my growing nerves, and it didn’t hurt that their clam chowder was simply divine. It could also be that i didn’t get out much and this was clearly the only option on my mind.
To be honest this was perhaps the fourth time i was dining here, yet the place felt oddly familiar. It must have been the smells… yes, the aroma of the food served here has become inextricably linked with joy and good times. I’m big on smells, you see, and they really hammer in memories and feelings.
I gave my name and was shown to our table. What an interesting coincidence at that, for i found myself back at the exact same spot from five years ago. There was something reassuring yet slightly off-putting about being back in this seat. It was a good day, that day, but today is still uncertain.
Work had brought me to another country for a year, of which i had been back here a total of zero times. In that span we had grown first closer, then rapidly drifted apart. There was nothing of bad blood between us; things had simply taken their natural course and we followed along without protest. I guess eventually the waves stopped crashing, i washed up back to these shores, and we figured it made sense to pick up where we left off.
But something didn’t feel right.
And that’s when i saw her at the entrance of the restaurant. She did a quick scan and spotted me, her eyes going wide and a big smile breaking out instantly. She gave a cute little wave that somehow managed to convey the excitement and happiness she was feeling. I returned her smile, conscious that it wasn’t as automatic and sincere as i’d hoped it would be.
I have to admit she looked as good as i had imagined, though i remember she used to look better. Time, life, work and stress had started to take its toll on her, and in her short walk to the table i could see she no longer had that spring in her step. Her posture wasn’t one of strength and health, rather of practiced habit. But still her eyes had that unmistakable spark, her lips right at home in that sweet smile.
I stood up and we both embraced. Not as long as lovers do, but not as short as friends would.
‘Hey you remember this table, right!’ she asked excitedly.
Of course i did. And so we spoke, not forgetting to take some time off to scan through the menu.
The conversation flowed. I found her voice irritating, something i had never felt before.
She told me some exciting stories. Her actions were excessive and her style lacking.
Our food arrived, and as soon as i got that first mouth in, i knew the universe got at least some things right. So goo- why is she chewing with her mouth open?!
Obviously she was having a great time and was nothing less than thrilled to be able to see me again after so long. In fact she rapidly began so sink back into her comfort zone, to the way she used to be with me back then. She had that softness in her eyes again and she appeared to be at home, with me.
The conversation took us somewhere i can’t remember. I was losing focus, getting bored, doing my best to look as excited and into-it as her. Then i got an opening and just dropped the bomb.
‘Shall we get married?’
I couldn’t stop myself. I had no idea what i was doing but none of that showed on my face.
And she started crying.
She loved me so much and we were always so good together and yeah we fought but we stuck through it all. Then we drifted apart and gosh that was so strange but we were okay and where were we after that, i didn’t know, but it didn’t feel wrong. And then you came back and i couldn’t receive you and silence for a few days and then you called me and oh Jacob, this is all so much, oh Jacob… I’m… I’m ready. Yes. I’ve wanted this and i still do and i knew we still loved each other yes we should get married oh my God you just proposed to me oh baby did you just propose i’m sorry i can’t stop crying oh baby come here.
She was crying and smiling and holding me and i was smiling and not really holding on to her and screaming in my head.
I wanted to pick my things up and run, just get away, but then i saw there was still some delicious clam chowder in my bowl and my heart did a little jump for joy.