We sit in a small bakery eating rhubarb pie and sipping earl grey tea. She tells me she doesn’t feel the way she thinks she should. She complains that her house is cold and that the sliding glass doors are rattled by the wind at night. She feels no warmth in merino wool socks and heavy knit blankets. She thinks that he is going to leave her.
She can’t seem to comprehend the stacks of cotton fibre paper she found covered in fluid scrolls of handwriting. It wasn’t hers. They’d been tucked away in a drawer for safekeeping and all she could think about was how he still cared about the way her hair smelled during winter when she’d bake bread all day and the constellations of freckles on her shoulders.
I cannot imagine what they would say to one another if they had a chance encounter at the coffee shop they used to frequent years before. She’d likely be sitting there by the peonies drinking her café noir and flipping through the pages of Don Quixote or Oliver Twist — her hair falling over her shoulders in loose braids. He’d struggle to wriggle free from the impulse to say hello as she sat there alone. So he’d sit down and talk and they’d relive their vacation from a summer years before where they visited Tegalalang in Bali to play with the elephants. She bought beautiful scarves and ate curry that made her cheeks red.
I didn’t have words because I knew the feeling too well. She’s sitting here in front of me flaking apart the pie crust and thinking about the way this other’s woman’s handwriting twists across those pages she found. Maybe it was a way for him to hold onto a piece of her wildness. Or maybe he just didn’t know how to fully let go. She mushes her finger into the pie and mumbles something about having your cake and eating it too.
I cannot blame him for holding on to these pages because I have my own. I used to write about the way his hands looked in the morning. I’d write about that night that winter when it was so cold outside I could see my breath and he drove for hours with all the windows down because he needed to feel alive somehow. I’d write about the way my hair smelled when I was alone and try and remind myself how beautiful the lake was that morning when we fought in the mountains. Memories to remind myself how I became so jaded.
We sit and talk about old times without realizing that each passerby has their own compartmentalized memories and ache packed away in the letters they keep and boxes they collect in their attics.