“What I will say is that I’ll always be learning about love. I don’t think you ever do stop loving a person. I think you can hate them a little. But I still love the people I’ve loved, even if I cross the street to avoid them.” – Uma Thurman on the breakup of her marriage to Ethan Hawke
Two weeks ago I was walking around the South End on a chilly, early Spring day. there’s something romantic about walking through this part of the city on a day when the sky is flat white and there are puddles on the ground. People complained enough about the lack of sun but the flower beds had been filled with tulips all over the neighborhood and in the low light they looked almost neon.
My friend, the German who we call L, had invited me to see Beethoven’s 9th at Symphony Hall since he was in the chorus and so after work I had a bit of time to amble around. I walked by Render Coffee, which I used to go to all the time with my ex-boyfriend, and thought about sitting down there for an hour before heading to Symphony. Ever since we broke up last August it doesn’t feel like the type of place I can just sit in on for an hour, though. Somehow I guess it no longer feels mine because once upon a time it felt like ours. Which is a shame; everyone who worked there knew my name and said things like “How’s it going, ____” when I’d stop in for an iced coffee. I went in recently and they had to ask for my name again.
He’s gone now, L. First to Tanglewood for the Summer and then to a conservatory in Canada. Which is not ideal since we had been talking constantly and we’ve grown quite fond of each other in a way that is promisingly between friendship and romance. Why is the timing never right? I feel sometimes like I’ve been collecting all of these little ghosts as I go along. The boy who never texted, the one night stand in Williamsburg who I texted back and forth with until one day I never heard back, the boy I was dating who moved back to North Carolina, the man I was in love with who died…
Sometimes I think about what’s happened to these people. In moments when I find myself feeling lonely, which of late is quite often, it’s hard not to look back and think of how one relationship or fling could have been salvaged, extended, made to endure, etc. Mostly I hit walls in my reasoning through the pitfalls of each one.
Just a week ago I sat out on the patio of the Cafe Nero near Downtown Crossing even though it was a bit too cold out despite how blue and spring like the sky was. In between sips of jasmine tea and bouts of shivering I’d look out at the passersby; tourists, locals, a cute boy here and there…and then I spotted guy I dated for a while last summer. (Well. Dated is strong word for this hard, fast, messy, drunken…experience.)
Do you know that feeling when you spot someone you know in public and you’re praying they won’t see you—and yet, in another way— you’re simultaneously hoping that they do? We hadn’t talked in months: not since he drunkenly asked me to come over in the middle of the night and I refused, instead asking to me for a drink later in the week, which he refused. I panicked and darted into the café so quickly that more than a few people looked up somewhat alarmed, before quickly deciding I wasn’t a maniac and going back to what they were doing. I don’t know if he saw me; I was too afraid to look, and since then I’ve sort of had him on my mind for whatever reason.
Now I think I could have just said hello.