Mirrors Of Home

Entry by: meb

29th September 2017
That face.

With its clusters of freckles that had once been traced with the soft pad of my index finger. Brilliant blue centres and hazel edges, those colourful eyes I had carefully studied, too far away now, but I could still picture each subtle change in hue I had observed when our faces were inches apart.

Now, feet apart, in the World Food aisle of a supermarket. The artificial lights aggressively illuminated her form, the great landscapes of her body hidden under the folds of her favourite coat that I had bought her in Paris on a lazy mid-June day. I remembered how it used to sit in a crumpled heap on my comfy red chair, set in the form of her waist and lower back for an entire weekend if we decided to stay in.

I had not let myself think of her for weeks. To the relief of my friends I had stopped going on about how things ended; although grateful for their support, I could tell they were growing tired of my pining and never-ending realisations. But now, as if by some twist of ambivalent fate, I found myself staring at her as she frowned over a can of coconut milk.

Did she think as I did? Or was she moving on as though nothing had happened? As though I had never explored her skin, her lips and darkest trenches of her mind with our wasted hours of examination and debate? Moments before, I had veered around the supermarket shelves to find pickled olives when the bliss of mundanity was violently ripped from me. The feverish optimism of olives vanished, leaving me shaken by a cascade of white water memories, my inner monologue pulled and twisted and thrown about by this living, breathing token of the past.

Her hair was short again, above the shoulders. Last time it was that length, it had grazed my collar bone while she confided the reason for her low self-esteem: the childhood trauma of losing her mother, and the fear of never being able to live up to her memory. It was the half-light of dusk, our flesh pushed together, whispering thoughtfully as though keeping secrets from ghosts.

What would she do if I reminded her of that now? I wondered if she was sorry for all we had shared. If those exotic beaches and strange cities we had together explored were now tinged forever with regret; I imagined falling to my knees, confessing that no matter how things were now, no place or photograph or happy memory meant less to me than they had done before. How I longed to know if she felt the same!

I stiffened with panic as she placed the can back on the shelf. If she turns now, she would see me with my ruffled hair, clutching my basket to my chest, staring at her. I wanted to go for the olives, let the chance encounter happen with dignity and grace. But I felt my feet shift and carry me down the cold, repeating corridors of shelves towards Home Goods.

A deep breath in.
A deep one out.

Once my friend had shouted at me for cowering in behind a tree when we had played paintball in the woods out of town. The hard, colourful bullets whizzed over my head, so I tucked it between my legs and closed my eyes tight shut like a child hiding from a nightmare. He had told me that if I didn’t like the game, I shouldn’t have agreed to come. I was letting his team down.

My right hand ached from clenching the basket so unnaturally. I was only halfway through my list, but at this point I needed home more than groceries. As I walked, soundbites of wisdom rotated in my head: heartbreak is something everyone goes through, you will come out the other side stronger, this too shall pass. Maybe for some they helped to ground meaningful experience, but these hollow words offered no comfort against the fire of doubts raging through me. I doubled my pace to the check outs. The chill of the frozen section bit at my nose. My heart rate rose and fell, seconds becoming hours as memories and thoughts and reflections raced around the circuits of my brain. I locked in the target of the shortest line.

“Alex!” A familiar voice just to my left thwarted me, a hand falling onto my shoulder. “Hey. How have you been?”