Feb 15

Nothing to Say

The morning was crisp and cold. Fall had just begun. Laura was bundled tightly in her sweater. Her ears were numb and cold, but the rest of her was cozy. She carried a suitcase, pressed tightly against her chest. She could hear her own heartbeat echoing through the metal clasps. The bus stop was still a couple of blocks away, but the blue line shuttle was leaving in only a couple of minutes, so she decided to cut through an alleyway to get where she was going a bit faster. At the end of the alley, silhouetted against the clear blue sky, she saw a shape she thought she recognized. A tall, slim, man, he was underdressed for the weather in a light synthetic jacket but stood straight, not appearing cold. His hair was buzzed short, cropped even closer to his scalp than Laura’s was. He was facing away from her, but even from the back she noticed a familiar bobbling to his stride.

Her friend! As little kids they had been inseparable, but it had been a long time since they had been close, and a couple of years ago she’d lost track of him altogether. But now, here he was, standing in front of her, just a few meters away now. He hadn’t noticed her yet, but all Laura would have to do would be to hold up a hand and call his name and he would see her, and they could talk again at last.

Laura never would have thought that she would lose touch with him in the first place. As children they were joined at the hip, inseparable. They splashed in puddles and held hands and played new games and invented machines that they would never build. There had been whispered talk of marriage. But Laura had never wanted to marry him, never wanted to marry anyone, never wanted to be anything more than friends. Even as a little kid, she had known that someday she would marry a faceless man and the sleepovers with her boy friends would have to stop because he would get jealous. She didn’t want that, at the time, but she figured that someday she would grow up and mature and be okay with the idea, but now she was almost thirty and hadn’t warmed to the concept at all.

Even at five or six she’d understood: Everyone likes a tomboy, until she turns twelve or thirteen and doesn’t outgrow it properly. There was an expiration date on her style, her friendships, the way she played and talked, the shoes she wore. But she hadn’t expired, merely grown and bloomed and shown. Here was her former friend, standing just in front of her. He hadn’t changed, but there had never been any pressure for him to change. The only thing that had changed was that he stopped talking to her, and the dreams they’d had since they were tiny about friendships that would last forever and never leave had faded. She approached him in the narrowness of the alleyway, so close that she could hear him breathing, and kept her eyes straight ahead as she passed. They had nothing to say to each other.