So how long has it been? A decade, a year, a month or a day? I stopped counting. For days seemed to be all the same, lost in some cascade of hope and despair. But for all I would know, it’s been just a day, clear as yesterday when you said we weren’t meant to be. That my ambitions wouldn’t take me anywhere and that you were tired of being stuck with me. And yet, you seem to be still here. Did you too get stuck despite all? I wonder what you say to the new guy who dances with you now. Same things you used to say to me? The same old promises? It’s strange. You were never much of a dancer and yet, look at you now. What happened to the girl who used to shy away when I wanted to dance with you? All those years. Guess people really do change, don’t they?
The hall is full of laughter, some from romance and some from reunion; of friends meeting after a long time, of past flames reigniting the embers of love. And for me? I don’t even know why I’m here. Why did I even say yes to coming to this reunion? I’m already bored. Classmates seem so different now. They talk differently, think differently. It seems I never could keep up with the changing times and neither do I know why you are here. You’re waltzing away, that sway of your hips and the drop of your shoulders. Your hair is different now. Not the way you used to like but maybe it’s the way he wants it to be. I hear he’s rich.They’re always rich, those lucky guys. Well, I hope he treats you well. Your dreams were always big and you needed a rich guy for that. That’s okay. Who doesn’t want the glamour? Now you’re with a rich guy, and I’m still the big dreamer.
The music stops. Applause. You peel away from him towards the bar for a drink and on the way, you see me. There’s the glimmer of recognition in your eyes; like you have been hoping to find me. Why? Maybe to show how much better it is now. Without me. Yeah, that dress does look expensive. But your eyes have a hint of hesitation; like you’re afraid how I would behave. Angry or just apathetic? Don’t you want to find out? You make your way up to me instead of the bar, there it is again; the uncomfortable movement of your arms. You’re nervous. Just like you were that day when we first talked. Me all covered in mud, the football crazy kid and you, the bespectacled timid girl, clutching to her ‘Prefect’ badge. How you’ve changed. You look no less than a glamour model; all straight open hair, a one piece dress and high heels. But underneath all that you still know, the real you was still the timid shy girl who loved to paint. The girl I loved.
You put up a smile and mutter a meek “Hi.” That’s all you had to say after all these years? After all the missed calls and messages I left at your number. After all the notes? You seem to understand I don’t want to reply, so you put up your own barrage of words, “You look nice. It’s been a long time…blah blah.” I listen to you like a stranger. Were we the same people who held each other in love and in despair? Were you still the girl who cried when I lost my game? The same girl who screamed at the ref because he didn’t award me a foul? Look at us now, you standing barely two feet away from me and yet we’re a thousand miles apart. What happened to you? What changed? Or rather, what broke?
I put up a few robotic replies while inside there was a hammer banging down my heart as I looked into your eyes. And there it was when I suddenly realised you had everything you wanted but just not the way you wanted it. You didn’t want the new guy, you wanted me to be the version you always dreamed of. You have changed with time, I don’t blame you for that. And amidst all that I couldn’t keep up with you. I remained static with time; the same old dreamer with the same old dreams. Dreams still slightly out of my reach. You give a small smile strangely familiar yet so distant. The smile that only I can read. The one that says you’re okay despite nothing being alright. And as you speak, I can make out you miss us as well. Maybe not me. But what he had. There never has been anyone else who saw you as I did, in that light, in all your vulnerability. Everyone always wanted you to be something else, someone better. I always admired you for what you were. You were unique that way. I remember the day you cut the cord we had between us. Even when you said we weren’t meant to be, every fibre of our body was meant to be an exact fit for the other. But the bond’s gone. You broke it. I thought that it might have been of some satisfaction if I found out that you had been suffering as well after all these years. All I felt was a deep sense of incompleteness. I was just empty. So we both suffered. You, because of your decision and me, simply because I was still in love with you.
I politely say my goodbyes. It’s time to go. There is only so much I can bear; looking at you now and knowing this is us now, two strangers with two different lives. The slow dance tunes are coming up and the couples are flocking on to the dance floor. No place for someone like me to hang about. It’s déjà vu, this moment. Us, going our separate ways; you to the dance floor, me to the exit. How was it the first time? You walking off with a resigned shake of the head into the arms of your friends who, all of a sudden, seemed to have the best interests in you. And me? I don’t think I never really understood what happened that day. It hit me so hard, so quick. All I saw as I stood there watching your back become smaller and smaller in the distance, was the brown leaves falling off a crooked branch in a nearby tree. And now somehow all along my way to the door, I can feel your eyes on my back. Like you wanted to say something. Or maybe you wanted me to say something to you? I walk out into the night. The door softly closes behind. Words never came. And just like that day, half a decade ago, it’s fall again.
A glance up the road, and I start my walk back home. It’s quiet, the night. The trees seem to be whistling to themselves. Whispering my story. Telling each other the story of a guy who was walking home alone, again. Oh well, maybe they’ve heard of my story. Five years is quite long, I guess. Just as I am about to make my turn, I hear someone’s footsteps coming up behind me. It’s someone in a green hoodie. A girl. She’s clutching her gym bag and puffing slightly. She realizes there’s someone there and glances up at me. The stark bright brown eyes look at me questioningly.
“Pretty late for you to be walking alone. You alright?” A stupid habit of mine. Of course, she was more than capable, but I had to ask. Typical.
“Naah, I always get back around this time. Gym, you see!” She replies back.
“Alright then”, I muttered as I started across the road.
“Hey” She calls and runs up to me, “You seem to be out pretty late for a guy dressed in a suit, and pretty alone too.” There’s something mesmerizing about her voice and her eyes. The twinkle and the joking spirit.
“Long story”, I grunted back.
“Oh well, I’m heading that way too. Want some company?” Her eyes are twinkling like orbs in darkness as she asked me. She seemed to be different, and the night was already beginning to be somehow different. And the night had been acting funny all along. Maybe it was time to take a chance again. I smiled at her as she walked up to me. And then I heard them again.
The trees, they whispered the tale of a guy, but this time, they whispered of his hope, not of his despair. I don’t know, but the trees are old and wise. Maybe they knew. Or maybe it was them who were whispering to me to take a chance.
And as we started down the road, I glanced up a tree. At one particular crooked branch. The branch was barren, naked with all the leaves having fallen off.
All but two…