When she calls me, she asks how I am, how work is, but never about the one she calls “that man.” At first it irked me, made me want to tell her every little detail of our lives, but we had an unspoken agreement. When I had called her that first time from the diner, I had tried to apologize, but she wouldn’t let me. She’d just acted like nothing had changed, like I hadn’t packed a bag and left in the middle of the night.
Soon I became thankful for the silence. The gaps in our exchange were her pain, the blame she laid on him for my leaving. But it also meant I didn’t have to tell her that he too was gone now.
“Do you remember what I told you when you were nine years old?”
She asked it one day in the midst of a pause. How could I have forgotten?
“I think about him a lot now.”
Now the pauses grow shorter and shorter. She fills them with another man, one she only knew as an infant. When she rattles on about him, I wonder at how these men have shifted the course of our lives; but somehow it is not the ones who left us who have changed us more, but the one she left, before I was even a possibility.
Maybe it’s her age that has cemented him like a fly on paper in her mind. Now even as she asks about me, I can hear her receding, the lackluster, “That’s nice, dear.” I want to attribute it too to her age, but I know he’s standing there, ever on the plane on her mind.
“I wonder if he’s happy.”