I Know You
I wanted to undress him and see if the arch of his back or the cut of his hips was what I knew it to be. I sat in my old knowledge, untrusting.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
“Yes. Very much so, but I don’t know how,” I said.
I knew him. Not just casually, but I deeply knew him. I didn’t believe in past lives, but if I had, I rejected our past life together. We were together from a present time.
“How is it possible?” he asked.
“I’m not sure. But I feel comfortable enough to admit that I want to touch you,” I said.
And I did. I clasped his hand and it fit like a tight dress. His familiar smell – I wanted to drink it in. I pressed my face into this stranger’s chest. He found my waist, and he felt like my shelter.
I heard the milk hiss angrily at the barista. Mugs and plates clanked together and suddenly, our surroundings caught up with us. A man behind us coughed quietly so we’d move up in line.
“I’ve come to the same coffee shop for years and I’ve never seen you,” I said.
“Maybe it wasn’t the right time,” he said.
I suppose it wasn’t. My 60 hour work weeks in a lab by myself. A broken off engagement. A lost dog. A move. A promotion. A few flings for distraction. A few pills. A few bottles. And lots of hours, minutes and seconds of nothing and more nothing and some more nothing.
I didn’t let go of his hand and I didn’t know his name. He knew my coffee – black with one sugar. We perched on a park bench outside in the twenty something degree weather.
There was no need to catch up. The ring on his finger said it all.
“It’s still not the right time, is it?” I asked.
He spun his band around his finger.
“Why didn’t this happen four years ago?” he asked.
I didn’t want to explain how four years ago I was madly in love and newly engaged to a bi-curious artist with sporadic nomadic tendencies.
“This was supposed to be what we did,” he said. “Coffee on our designated bench in the morning.
We both held our breath while the cold held onto us.
“We should go somewhere else,” he said.
“Where?” I asked.
“I don’t know,”
“Will your wife mind?”
He looked down. His ring hand was now clasping the coffee. The steam was pouring out the tiny holes of our to-go cups. He held out his other hand and I took it.
We got on the subway. We sat down, trembling a bit while we nursed our coffees like flasks of whiskey. I finally got to focus on the crescents under his eyes and the shadow of hair across the side of his face. His shoes were worn to the soles.
His name was Phillip. His name was proper. Classic. He rubbed the scruff of his chin, throwing me a smile. I told him my name was Bronwyn. He laughed and let my name roll around his mouth like smoke.
We got off at the square. I hadn’t explored the city in so long. We got off the subway and he lead me through the herd of people up the stairs to the street. The performers were out, some huddled together, some with layers of clothes, some scantily clad, braving the cold like a performance act in and of itself. We threw coins in hats and open guitar cases. He bought me an overpriced carnation from a sad clown. We split a croissant and stood in front of an opera singer, straining to hit the high notes.
“Let’s go,” I said.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“The performers and artists remind me of someone I used to know. I want to go somewhere else. Someplace we are supposed to go to,”
We rode a cab to the park. A sprinkling of evergreens highlighted the horizon. The water was split, iced and silver. People were dressed in colorful knit hats and scarves, brown coats and black boots. Some mothers had their babies strapped to their bodies while others bundled their babies in thick wool blankets in strollers. A few homeless people took a bench here and there, dressed for blizzards, wrapped in newspaper. I burrowed into his side, wrapped up in his arm, hiding the mystery of our past.
“My wife wouldn’t like this,” he said.
“I wouldn’t expect she would,” I replied.
“She kind of reminds me of you. Maybe that’s why I married her,” he said.
“No, not yet at least,” he said. “What about you?”
“I have no one,” I replied
“You have me,” he said.
I could see his face soften. He fed me the lie, a false guarantee that we both wanted to hear.
“Just for now,” I said. “At least I have you for a little while,”
We found another park bench to curl into, pretending that the sun wouldn’t set, his wife wouldn’t call and that I wouldn’t go home alone, again.
Cara Lee Bradley has a B.A. in Marketing, but her real passion is writing. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, two children, two rabbits and 4 chickens. This is her first published piece.