She almost didn’t go. They were supposed to meet in Washington Square Park, and she mentally prepped for the occasion ever since she caught a glimpse of something pretty fucking special on the day they met. But it was one of those January afternoons that warranted staying indoors with a cup of green tea, while procrastinating anything and everything.
Wrapped in layers (her mother discussing the frigid weather at lengths that morning made it all the more cold), she sat by the fountain steps, coaxing the internal butterflies to calm down. He was five minutes late, which felt longer since she could hear her heart beat rapidly, keeping pace with the flow of the city.
Just as she was checking her text messages, searching for the words that explained why he couldn’t keep the long-time-coming-plan, he appeared. He was coming towards her, grinning like he was just let in on a secret. She grinned back, understanding the secret too.
The subway lets Becca off into the gritty outskirts, downtown. She’s standing on the corner of Christopher Street, tugging at the edges of her newly-bought sundress, just in time for a New York spring, when she spots him. He is sitting outside the local bagel café, reading the Village Voice, while casually lifting the blonde strands of hair away from his eyes. His eyes are green, but not just a green-green, a piercing green that absorbs the sunlight in the most beautiful way imaginable.
Suddenly, she was eight years-old again, gripping her sister’s hand tightly as they approached the Log Flume in Coney Island. Astroland was desolate, except for a few seagulls nitpicking their way through the concession stand litter that engulfed most of the boardwalk. She remembered looking at the slide as a majestic feat, one she knew would make her stomach hurt. It was the feeling she had every time she passed it and walked onward.
“You’re sure you want to ride it today?” Emma asked. Becca silently nodded, closed her eyes, and then opened them when she felt her insides contort as they reached the top. She braced herself for the plunge downward into the blue liquid below.
Her chest tightens at the sight of him. Jason. She chooses not to think of the way his skin felt against hers, the way a specific chemical energy pulled her towards him. Becca searches her mind for the last memory they shared together. She decides it had to have been that summer night, four years ago, when they sat together in her backyard, listening to the night sounds, truth lingering in the air between them. Nothing else really mattered; they gave each other what they both needed in that moment.
She looks ahead, and in that instance, she knows he’s watching her. She could turn away. She could pretend not to notice the green, but then he brightens.
“Well, you look familiar,” she says, barely audible for anyone to hear. Peering at him, she sees an expression she’s trying to pinpoint. All she knows is that it takes her to a place that she’s unable to remember, yet can’t quite forget.
“I do believe I know you from somewhere,” he says softly. “We once shared an elevator ride together, right?”
Becca immediately finds herself forming one of her big, toothy smiles. He remembers their first encounter. She knows that he could see her.
He could see that despite the fact that she’s been out of his life for so long, there is no disdain, or any burns from a flame that had died out. He sees her for what she is – just a girl who missed him, who missed how he made her laugh.
Why did he leave? Becca spent countless nights lying awake, going over every detail of their history, wondering what she might have done differently. What a whirlwind of a nightmare that was.
It was never really about her though. He gave what he could, and when he realized that he was too depleted to give more, he just stopped.