i sat across the table from them in the overpriced restaurant. the woman that i loved, and her brand new lover. i watched them. listened as they dove into open-ended questions meant for the discovery phase of a new connection. sipped my cucumber water as they flirted in hushed tones. what was i doing here? she wanted to see me, she said. she said missed me during her third trek across the country, seeking…who knows?
she offered us a taste of the “best chai in town.” i declined. the new lover glanced at me, as if waiting for a sign of approval – or rejection. i gave none, lifting my own mug to sip the nicaraguan coffee my once-lover ordered for me. the new girl brought the porcelain to her lips and sipped, pink lipstick staining the edge. i smiled as she, my now-friend, retrieved her chai and searched my eyes for a response.
i couldn’t determine whether she wanted me to be jealous, approve, or simply accept, but i knew she questioned my silence. she wanted me to talk. she was used to me talking: trying to get her to understand the way i loved her – freely, with no expectations for her to be anything or anyone other than who she is. talking to cover my anxiety about being around her, lest she see me: raw, vulnerable, naked beyond my control, and decide it was too much for her. or not enough.
she mentioned once that my emotional freedom was refreshing, but scary. i attempted to talk her off the cliff, away from the fear, my words assuring her safety. over time, i believe she grew accustomed to my voice, to my talking, my coaxing.
But i had grown tired of it.
so today, i decided to try something different. i listened. i observed the way she moved and spoke in this space between two people who represented her emotional transitions and frequent romantic relocations. i peered behind the mask she presented to the new lover, and watched her wordlessly beg me not to pull it from her face, exposing the truth i knew.
i obliged, continuing my meal in silence. once i was full, and decided i’d had my fill, i rose, leaned across the table and kissed her, my lips savoring the cinnamon, peppercorn and hazelnut mix. i turned to the new lover, offered a smile and a wink, and walked out into the street, joining the crowd heading toward the farmer’s market.