Old Friends

I was walking towards the coffee shop when I saw you over there, serving tables. Pain of recognition struck. I knew I should have moved on, but it felt stupid to sneak away. I’ve known you since we were almost children. Could I really just turn and run?

I crossed over to the restaurant and walked in, convinced that you had seen me and it would be weird to walk away. You were punching in an order from a lunching couple sitting outside. We looked at each other and hard anger passed over your face. I had done nothing to you to hurt you, but I felt instantly afraid. I held my breath and walked over and said hello anyway. We made small talk for a minute and then you asked me if I had tried to vandalize your car. Someone had messed with it days after I saw you last. Days after I told you I was hoping to not run into you. I hadn’t touched it, but instantly my knees began to shake, popping around under my jeans like some frightened animal. I told you that was simply not in my character. You quizzed me like an interrogator until you were satisfied I was speaking the truth, then kissed me on the cheek. I walked away feeling robbed.

Do I refuse to cross the street next time? If you see me at the coffee shop, do I stay on my side and wave across to you, mouthing small talk? “Your hair looks nice like that,” I’ll say with my eyes as I stare admiringly at your new coiffure. Looking my body over, you’ll mouth silently that I still look good. You’ll squint across the street to see if I have began to develop crow’s feet or gray hair and I’ll do the same to you. We’ll hold up the pageantry of our superficial relationship without all the trouble of direct interaction. Then I’ll walk away with my coffee beans and ice tea and wave goodbye. “Until next time, old friend.”

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