I’m not exactly sure what possessed me to act so spontaneously or what would come of my trip. All I knew was there was no turning back as my plane landed in Dallas-Fort Worth Airport where I would catch my connecting flight into New Jersey. Only a few hours remained before the moment. The moment I rehearsed over and over in my mind days before my departure. Four years prior, I did one of the most difficult things I ever had to do. I ended a relationship with a man I was still in love with. I haven’t seen him since.
The connecting flight was not as uncomfortable but seemed endless. The sun was trying to make an appearance through the cloudy mist and was successful by the time I landed. I couldn’t believe I was really there. I was certain Frank would be waiting right at the arrival gate but his familiar face was nowhere to be found. I then realized that the airport allowed only travelers in that area and all others had to wait near baggage claim. My heart was fluttering as I approached the long walkway. From a distance, I could see his familiar face over the crowd searching for me. The sight of his eyes looking for me gave me butterflies. I walked slower towards him with a bit of hesitance. Each step that brought us closer felt like still frames of a movie. I wondered what possessed me to do this. As we met and said hello, for a moment I felt alone with him in the crowd. His embrace was strong yet careful, and his stare was searching.
He made lunch for us at his apartment and our conversation was filled with the trivial goings-on in our separate lives. We talked about nothing for a long time. He had the same habits. He still ate with a spoon and a fork and still drank that sickly sweet flavor of Kool-Aid. His cupboards were still filled with an ample supply of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, and Captain Crunch cereal. He still unconsciously rubbed both sides of his mouth with his thumb and middle finger while he spoke. It was all so familiar yet he felt like a stranger.
Later that evening we went to Greenwich Village in New York City, a place where we had fond memories. The streets and surroundings looked exactly as I had left it. We held hands and I started to feel at home with the city and with my companion. It seemed as if we touched a part of who we were and what we meant to each other, as if we spent no time apart.
The next few days were filled with our favorite excursions from the past. We walked up and down Chinatown sampling foods from various street vendors until we were sick. We visited the Buddha temple and prayed as if we were faithful followers. We had Indian food for lunch and cappuccino in Little Italy. We drank sake at our favorite Japanese restaurant where the walls were decorated with simple drawings created by the community. We worked on a hangover at a run-down bar where enough alcohol induced us to befriend people we normally would have nothing to do with. We pretended to despise each other while on the train to entertain ourselves with the reaction of people around us. We did everything familiar to us in all the ways we used to be and found that not much had changed.
On my last night there, we strolled through the cobblestone streets of South Street Seaport and watched the sun set behind the Hudson River as we reminisced about our previous trips when we excitedly planned our future and our life together. Our reunion felt like coming home after years of being away. Our love and desire for each other was rekindled among the familiar surroundings of our fondest and most blissful moments. His gaze, his touch, his arms around me, and those kisses. Kisses that were soft and tender yet demanded me in a way that made me feel sought after and yearned for. It was a connection I felt like no other. As we realized only a few hours remained before I returned to California, the mood slowly started to shift.
Once I returned home, I knew that life would continue as it was within our respective environments and our individual lives. It became painfully apparent that many things had changed. We had changed. The years apart were lonely and painful but made us resilient and career-driven. We evolved into different people with separate lives, needs, and goals. We were connected, yes. And, we were also two people who had anchored themselves to the lives they created apart. Two people who were still unprepared and unwilling to sacrifice it for the other. For years we clung to the idea of an “us” someday in fear that letting go would be forgetting. That going on would be invalidating the deep connection we shared. A connection that brought us together again and became the proof I unknowingly longed for to confirm that our love was real. Proof that we deeply mattered to each other. It gave me the closure that I had no idea I desperately needed to move on. Closure that allowed me to grieve the painful loss of letting him go and the permission to release the years of guilt that bound me to him.