Fifteen years passed before I saw him again. This time, it was by accident: at the edge of a photo in the Atlanta paper.
At first, I thought he was dancing with the curvy redhead, her sparkly sequined back to the camera. His leg and foot stepped toward her at a jaunty angle. The band blazed away behind them—good. He’d finally found someone.
But her feet were flat on the ground, and her weight shoved firmly into one hip. She’d turned her head to better see the guitarist giving it hell onstage.
He wasn’t dancing.
He was dodging bodies, escaping glances, leaving the festival while it was still daylight.
Years before, he maneuvered a hot iron with incredible grace and skill. He liked sharp creases in practical fabrics: twill, denim, broadcloth. Whatever he had on was fresh, clean, neatly pressed. But now, that rumpled shirt, those wrinkled pants—how many days in a row had he worn them?
Inside the yoke of the forlorn plaid he still buttoned too high, his proud shoulders sagged. His belly clambered over his belt. Strong and sure when I knew him, his hands now simply dangled from his arms. Gaze locked on the ground, he seemed to study where he would next place his right foot. His face had fallen the way faces do when their owners sleep flat on them. He hadn’t aged so much as retreated into “Don’t look at me.”
At the edge of the photo, I saw a man trying to disappear. I saw a man telling the universe “NO” before it had a chance to say the same to him.
I folded the Metro Living section, and wished I didn’t still love him.
© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)