Tuesday, September 9, 2008

measuring angles


We were going to be late, we were already late, we were going to miss the ferry, but I wasn’t driving and I didn’t care. The traffic was all but stopped and I was staring out the window when I saw him, the white shirt like the ones he used to wear, improbably unwrinkled the way his shirts always were.

My first thought was that, for all these years, I’d been flinching at the wrong kind of car. And, in fact, his car looked new, brand-new, with two empty booster seats in the back. There was no-one with him and I remembered that someone from work had told me that his oldest daughter, the one from his long-ago first marriage, was getting married this weekend in a little town south of the city and next to the sea.

I told myself what I always tell myself: There was absolutely nothing special about him except for the way he made me feel. And I thought about that day, that unseasonably warm day at the very beginning of a unseasonably warm September, when I was standing in someone’s backyard, holding a plastic cup full of soda water and wondering if it was too early for me to leave.

This is Steve, someone said and I said hello. He had one of those receding Scandinavian chins and was much too old to be wearing a baseball cap. He was younger then than I am now.

Nice to meet you, Niobe, he said and, because he always had good manners, he probably looked me straight in the eye when he said it and he probably reached out to shake my hand. I can't remember if I smiled or not, but I’d already lost. I just didn’t know it yet.

19 comments:

Antigone said...

I saw him when CNN's cameras took a crowd shot at the RNC last week.

Tash said...

(wiping up coffee spit-up after reading A's comment)

I would read the rest of this story. I'd already lost at the first sentence.

Which Box said...

Antigone makes me laugh. A lot. And Tash is right, I would read the rest o this story. Heck, let's be truthful, I've been waiting, what, a year? 18 months? to read the rest of this story.

I was going to be all solemn and ask why you were so sad lately (this week? past two weeks?). Maybe the coming fall brings on the sadness? But maybe it's just a reflection of my current sadness, brought on by who knows what.

But Antigone pulled me out of melancholy. Which I appreciate.

niobe said...

Antigone: I am so Not. Saying. Anything.

Which Box, Tash: The rest of the story? Isn't that what this blog is about?

debbie said...

"always had good manners"

Somehow I don't think that's true.

Which Box said...

Yeah, I am growing impatient with the author's use of artistic license to reveal bits and pieces out of order and only in glimpses. I may have to turn into a stalker and force the narrative out of her, a la some bad novel (Steven King?). Particularly if she takes a hiatus.

(kidding. mostly.)

slouching mom said...

yes. i'd like to read more of the story, too.

like a punch in the gut, this was.

Clementine said...

Ha! The RNC thing is genius.

Thinking of you, Niobe.

Elspeth said...

Good lord, I do the same drop-off-the-cliff-ending thing when writing about my past and the men who occupy it. I had no idea how irritating, erm no, what a dramatic and clever literary tool it was. *bemused*

painted maypole said...

it's so amazing the hold people have over us. or that we give them over us, as I've struggling with.

there was a car... "someone's car"... that always made my heart race in my old town, and after we moved half way across the country I would have the same reaction when I saw that same car. For months. When there was no possible way it could contain the cause of my anxiety.

Furrow said...

It's always a different car by the time it actually happens.

Tash said...

When I say I don't hope and wish for much anymore, I mean it. I don't wish or hope you'd out and tell us about this dude, I just figure you will or you won't but either way it will be beautiful getting there.

I am half wondering though, was it one of those things where you didn't realize you were looking for him until you saw him?

Lori said...

Okay, but was it really him?

Oh, I'll admit it, I hate it when you do this. I can't decide which one of is more tortured by these encounters with the past.

Oh, and around here, one always misses the ferry.

Sarah said...

Geez.. I'm clearly new here.. you do this often??? I was just wondering how you described him so perfectly, and which one of my friends had ratted me out to you... you who did not know I was there.

Either way, yes, I would so read that story.

Aunt Becky said...

*sighs*

I understand perfectly.

Smiling said...

i was feeling for you and then I clicked over to cake wrecks that you introduced us to... and the cake today, well (http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/2008/09/cake-head-diet-aid-killing-appetites.html) was a very random segue for me and led to this strange flickering of images of all of us readers doing our own unique method of telling steve what we think.

Then I got back to reality and just sat and thought about you awhile, and then about me awhile. I have no idea what I would do if a certain person drove up in a certain car and popped out to say hello. Certainly not a cake, but something I'd remember whether I'd want to or not.

wheelsonthebus said...

I feel like these echoes can come up any time to any of us. The detail is unimportant. What is important is the way you have conveyed a universal here.

Ahuva Batya said...

The banter of your regular readers is a whole sub-plot that only adds to your beautiful writing. I had a Steve. We met in the fall; the turning leaves and the brilliant blue sky always brings such an odd melancholy for me as well. It's like I spent a year of my life hitting myself in the head with a nail-studded board, and yet I look back and think "I wouldn't have changed it." I must have some serious issues.

Karin said...

I'm certainly curious about the receding Scandinavian chin. :-)

I've googled a couple of old flames, just to, you know, see where their life branch has headed.

I'd be VERY stunned to see one on the street, down-under, where they just would never be.