I sat at the bar rotating a beer bottle between my open palms, watching the brown glass perspire, tear drops of condensation rolling down its voluptuous neck and onto my spread fingers. How long had it been? It was 5 years since he had kissed me in my car as the sun rose over Melbourne zoo, but I knew I’d seen him since, run into him at a party and been brusque, averted my eyes, avoided his corner of the room…
Would he look the same? Did I look the same? How much does someone change in 5 years? Even if he did look the same, I would be looking at him with different eyes—he wouldn’t be the same. I was 21 when I was crazy about him. And I was an innocent, naive 21. He was that older guy, that musician with sparkling blue eyes, and I coveted him quietly in this beautiful, earnest way that makes me smile when I reminisce—I don’t do that anymore.
The way he held me in awe without even trying to, the way I gave him my heart with this absolute, hopeful enthusiasm, endears me always to that gorgeous, wide-eyed thing I used to be. I wondered if, when he walked into the bar and I saw him again for the first time in years, I would feel these things rushing against me again and realise that they’d been there all along. I smiled into my lap for that thought—it made me think that my silly young heart was still contributing beats to my newer, evolved pulse.
I scanned the room and felt suddenly nervous as it occurred to me that our history was just that—history. Here I was, waiting at a bar, twisting a beer anxiously between by damp fingers, waiting, essentially, to meet a complete stranger. My flight instinct slapped me in the face as my foot twitched dangerously against the bar stool and my hands abandoned my beer to grip the vinyl beneath me. Breathe Kat, breathe. There’s no big deal here.
When my roving eye finally found him, all the tension released—here was my old friend from years ago and miles away, standing right in front of me as though he’d been there, just so, only a day before. And, despite my overwrought rumination, neither time nor space had altered us a smidgeon. We were older, sure—him coming up on 30 and the faintest lines smiling around his eyes and me a little bit fuller, more woman than girl—but in each other’s presence we were still those kids from once upon a time, and, as adults, we eased back into each other without awareness of any of the time that had passed. The only feeling washing against me was contentment to be sharing a beer with someone who I had once been close to, and who, somehow, felt like home.
There were the superficial nods to the years that separated us: conversations about what we’d been doing, whom we’d been seeing, and other requisite ‘catch up’ topics. But aside from those insignificant markers of time, it was like almost none had passed at all. Maybe my little girl’s love was gone, but it was replaced with a woman’s understanding, which made the impact of those years all the more poignant in their passing—now, as a sign of our ‘getting older’ and ‘growing up’, time and the change it begets were both passing us quickly and unnoticed.
At the end of the night, when we parted ways, I felt the satisfaction of reconnection, and a first-time awareness of the years and the lifetimes I was accumulating. And yet for the first time as well, time felt like a bug—I knew that sometimes it would bite me, but that every so often it would seem very insignificant, like I could pick it up, as I did with my old friend, and squash it, quite effortlessly, between my fingers.