life, pt. 2


After you came back from London, when we finally met again at a party, I remember thinking how incredibly unchanged you were by everything. You treated me exactly like you always did--just like you did when we first met, as if I hadn't left you at the airport and as if you hadn't run away for several months, and avoided me for several months after that. I even said something like that. "You never change, do you?"

And you gave me that little ironic smirk and said "I change plenty, you just aren't clever enough to notice." Then, later, you joined some of your friends out back for a smoke. You never used to smoke. I must have been giving you a surprised look because you just smiled and blew a smoke ring in my face and gave me an insufferable 'I told you so' look.

I think that broke the spell. I realized that when I was looking at you before I was just seeing a memory. Whoever it was that left all those months before, she didn't come back with you. You still looked like her, and you still had her smile, but life had happened since then.

Eventually it was just you and me out back, and your smile was starting to wear a bit thin, and of course I couldn't ask what was wrong. Instead, I said, "Life's a funny thing, isn't it?"

You took a long time before answering. "Not really," you said. "We like to think we're all characters in our own stories, but we're not. We like to think we've figured out the story, but it never works out that way. Life isn't funny, or ironic, or anything like that. Life just is." Then the smile came back. "That's all the philosophy you're getting out of me tonight, Nicholas."

It wasn't until you were long gone that I realized I'd probably derailed your story just as much as you'd derailed mine.

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