“It’s like, at this time of the night there isn’t as much interference. Other people’s thoughts and minds aren’t clogging up the air space. You know what I mean?”
We’d gotten into the habit of walking home together after work, talking for twenty minutes and finally getting somewhere. We would really be talking, then we’d reach her house.
I’d say goodbye, lingering that few extra seconds I knew she noticed, and wanted her to notice, but neither of us would ever acknowledge.
My house was still another forty-five minutes away, every other night I would catch the bus. Sunday was our day for walking.
I had that forty-five minutes to continue the conversation inside, mumble regrets, and imagine what the night could have become had I hugged her.
In my mind, our conversation flows through the evening. We’d manoeuvre the initial awkwardness and then speak freely.
I imagine it every night after we say goodbye.
It’s no matter, though. I don’t need company. Missing people isn’t a problem. It’s only when I want someone specific.
With her it was specific.
“I’ve always wanted to go see the ballet, but I’ve never had anyone to go with. I don’t really want to go by myself, you know? I’d like to go with a group of friends or something. But, no one will want to go.”
“I’ve always wanted to go, we should go, yea? We could ask Nyla as well. It would be fun, make a night of it. Dress up all fancy-like.”
“Really? That could be good.”
We never went to the ballet. I never bought it up again. We both knew that we wouldn’t go. It was one of those conversations you have to fill time. It’s like talking about what technology will be like in the future, we might never see it, but it fulfills something just to toy with the idea.
I should have asked her again. More regrets.
It could have played out like The Nutcracker, but instead I walked home with the combined sound of Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet, Schoenberg composing beside me, and Coltrane improvising during his free period.
“Hey, are you walking home tonight?”
“Oh. Yea, no. I’m sorry, I’m meeting somebody for a drink. Next week, we’re back on like normal”
“Ok. See you.”
She smiled when she said that. There was no walk the next week. Or the week after that. Or ever again.
I couldn’t take it. I quit. Working there was a reminder that at 4 am I would be lonely and unable to sleep.
They went to the ballet. Of course they went to the ballet. He asked her. Of course he asked her.
Evolution was at work. Not my evolution, though.
“Hey, long time. You’re looking well.”
“Yea, you too.”
“Hows things? You kind of just disappeared on us, huh?
“Yea. I needed it. A change.”
“That’s cool, I guess. Well, I’ll see you around then?”
“Yea, of course. See you.”
I didn’t see her again. Better said, I never let myself see her again. We passed on the street once, but she was with him, and so I tucked my chin into my chest and pretended to button my shirt cuff. I went to the ballet alone.