My decision to visit downtown for food was a stolen moment, one both spontaneous and light. I wonder if coincidences happen or if serendipity exerts unseen control.
Downtown was an eerie place that afternoon around five. Dimday is a word that describes the point when light surrenders. Winter came like a blanket to a place unaccustomed to it. For those who relish the greyed out quiet, it was beautiful. You can count me among them. Sunlight brings joy, distracted and widened eyes to witness the carnival of our exposure; winter commands reflection and thought.
I parked a street away, around the block, and walked along the broken sidewalk, heading toward one of the rejuvenated eateries along the old street. A mother with her young son crossed near me. She was pleased to hear me greet her in Spanish. Crossing the street, I noted that all the colors, though subdued, seemed to be more vibrant in the odd and fading light. Everything was punctuated by the neon lights at some of the businesses. It was a place I would have preferred to linger in, observing. As I walked behind the mother and her son, entering the crosswalk, I looked up and made eye contact with the driver in his truck, waiting for us to cross. I waved and smiled. To my surprise, the man smiled back, waving like an old friend.
Entering the restaurant, I recognized him immediately at the bar, with a large beer, and a plate of food in front of him. He seemed diminished in comparison to my memory of him. Our memories add armor and soften the complexities that come alive when we revisit those who sometimes stroll in the hallways of our minds. The hardened memories I had of him didn’t align with the older man sitting there.
I ordered and picked up my food. On a whim, I stopped and asked him if he remembered me. He said my name immediately when I pulled down my mask. Not that “X” should be unusually hard to recall. He would remember me for reasons other than my peculiar name, though. I told him that the past was behind us, somehow communicating through intonation that it was indeed true and not a pressing issue between us. Because I’m emerging from my cocoon, I moved closer and made eye contact with him. We spoke as if the past happened to other people. I felt the stolen moment transform into a lemon moment.
My feet, already light and uncaring from the other-worldly light and atmosphere, lightened further as I exited the eatery. I left a piece of me back there, with him. I know my presence lingered with him. Whatever animosity previously prevailed, it dissipated there. I already knew that his behavior so long ago would now be mostly categorized as an interesting story – and stripped of its power.
And that the last year has given me a piece of myself back to experience it.