Just like old times
I saw her for the first time since I went to her wedding, last night. She's finally discovered how to stand up ramrod straight. At 6'1, that's imposing.

Last time I saw her, she was wearing her wedding dress, I was in love with my date, and her baby wasn't here yet. This time, she was wearing a velvet shirt cut so that she kept nearly falling out of it, my love fell apart, and I met her daughter.

She was my dearest friend in high school. I hesitate to call her my best friend because it's inaccurate. She was the woman I would have kissed, if I'd been in a mental state where I could kiss a woman. She's the woman I would have dated if I hadn't choked the words off, unformed, each time I almost said them. She's the woman that I said "You know, if I were going to date someone, I'd love to date you" to, who laughed a frightened laugh, after which I dropped the subject.

We used to go for long drives in my Checker. See all of Connecticut in a vintage cab. Get stopped by people: Hey, nice car! Is it still a Taxi? Does the meter work? We ranged from Hartford to virtually every city in the state. Me and my 6'1 blonde. But not mine. Never mine, not because I didn't want her, not because she didn't want me, but because I couldn't say to her "I've wanted to kiss you since the moment I met you, when we were 14, and I was more awkward than I am now, and I didn't have this car, I just had braces and pimples and was terrified of you, because you are so beautiful it hurts me." We did everything that all the couples I knew were doing: the long walks, the long drives, the endless hours talking over coffee. We never kissed, not because we were chaste, but because it takes two to tango, but one to lead, and neither of us put a foot forward.

She dated other guys in high school, hooked up with both of my best friends. Nothing serious, just teenaged experiences. I hooked up with nobody, expecting rebuffs at every turn, afraid to ask.

She went to college in Vermont, and I went to Vassar. I visited her my Freshman year, spent the night at her place, and didn't make any advances on her in case I got rebuffed, I had nowhere else to turn, and ended up stuck in Vermont. And I was a coward. So we went wandering all over Burlington, on one of the coldest days of the year, just talking and wandering and reminiscing about the year before, telling one another stories of how our freshman year was going: I, overwhelmed by the academics and beautiful women at Vassar; her, adjusting to life where it's cold.

We saw each other sporadically on vacations, calling one another up, "Hey, want to go for a drive?" My taxi went into storage for a few years, and driving around in my mothers car wasn't the same. The large smooth seats of the Checker allowed for contact, unintentionally, when I took a turn too tightly. A car with bucket seats like my mother's gave us no such excuses.

As we got older, and I began to accumulate experiences, I lived by the mantra "any woman that wants me, can have me, they just have to tell me." Cut out the rejection possibilities with one deft move. I no longer had to worry about being rebuffed, I was at Vassar, where men are scarce and women are forthright. I did see her a few times while I was still a student there, and told her of my policy. I was trying to tell her that if she wanted me she just had to say so. I couldn't even look her in the eye, she was too beautiful for me, it hurt. I got a longing in my stomach, a desire that I refused to quench. And she had a boyfriend for many years after I visited her in college that one time. I wasn't going to interfere with that.

And then one day I got email. She told me she was single. My heart leapt. I thought that finally I could tell her. I'd come far enough to say to her "I want you" and the next day I received email about the boyfriend she'd later marry, her new man, close friends with her old one. I was still at Vassar, and she was still in Vermont.

And then I met another woman, who turned my life upside down. All the pent up passion I'd saved for my high school non-sweetheart, I poured into this relationship. I loved her with my heart, and my soul, and my body. I let it all out, let myself passionately love someone for the first time. After three months of dating her, I received a call from my high school non-sweetheart.

"Hey Jon. Guess What?"
"You're getting married and you're pregnant."
"How did you guess?"
"Oh jesus. I was kidding."

And that was that. I was invited to the wedding. I took my new love with me to meet my high school non-sweetheart. I hardly got a chance to speak to her, as it was her wedding day. I took my New York lover to meet my Vermont high school non-sweetheart. It was quite a dichotomy. In the light of day, in her wedding dress, pregnant with her husband-to-be's daughter, the light of my love finished it's movement to my new lover. The feelings I'd once had, the spark, the thought that someday I'd be with her, all evaporated in a 20 minute ceremony, when she married another man.

And then last night, for the first time since her wedding, I saw her. I saw her alone, without her daughter, without her husband, and without my now Ex-love. It was she and I alone again, and she looked better than I'd ever seen her. She'd stopped slouching, grown out her hair, and was wearing flattering clothing. A far cry from the woman I knew in High School, or College. I stood in her doorway, and that spark reignited. She was at her parents' house, I'd pulled the Taxi out of storage, and I walked up to the door just as I'd done as a teen, only now, I've had relationships, I've fallen in love, she's got a husband and a daughter, and I've got a burgeoning career. She's still in Vermont and now I'm in New York City.

Her father teased us that we were going on a date. I didn't see it that way, perhaps I'm obtuse. I was taking out a married woman. But I wasn't, I was taking her out the way we always had gone out. Me coming to her house, us going for food, and just talking the night away.

We went for pizza, and coffee, and then back to my cab, like we'd always done. We sat in the front seat, but this time, something was different. I didn't say "where to?" I didn't even start the car.

Instead, I told her how I'd felt for so many years.

I told her about our teen age. About our time in Vermont. I told her everything. I told her about myself, and about my love of my Ex, and that her marriage and motherhood had changed everything for me.

She took me by the hand.

She rarely ever spoke. It was not uncommon for us to drive for two hours and have me do all the speaking. Here, she finally spoke. "I know."

We held hands, and talked, and I looked her in the eyes for the first time in years. Something was different now. Everything was, really. Not just her, but me, also. I wasn't ready for the flood of emotions. We sat and talked for three hours. Sat in the front seat of my car, holding hands, talking, about our feelings, our non-history, our lives apart, our lovers, her husband, my ex, her daughter. We just gushed.

Then we ran out of things to talk about.

It's awkward, sitting in a car, holding hands with a married woman, and wanting desparately to kiss her. Unfinished business. Unclosed accounts. A daughter.

The car had totally fogged up. Someone walked by and we heard her say "Jesus, who has a checker taxicab in this city? It's so big. You'd think they'd learn to park it." We'd fogged up the windows entirely, nobody knew we were there. Nervously, I said "If they only knew that the guy that doesn't know how to park his car is sitting right her listening to them with a married woman by his side... I wonder what they'd think."

"They wouldn't know I'm married" was her response.

Yes, but I would.

Ten minutes later, a city police officer walked by us, shining his flashlight into stores. We were parked in the town parking lot, oblivious.

Just like old times.

I decided it was time to go.

I drove her home.

At her parents' house, with her parents asleep upstairs, and her daughter asleep somewhere too, she and I sat in the front seat, holding hands. The rain spattered the windshield, the motor running loud, as it does in the rain.

5 minutes passed. We said nothing.

10 minutes.


"I have to let you go now." I said. Fighting the passionate urge to kiss the woman I'd wanted to kiss for 10 years. I gave her a gentle kiss on the hand, and let her hand go. I caressed her face, as I wish I'd done years ago, and told her to go inside.

She took my hand from her face, kissed it, and held it at her lips. The urge to kiss her grew stronger. Time ticked away. She let my hand go, opened the front door. She paused. Looked back at me.

Picked up her purse.

Walked out of my car. Walked to the back door, as she'd done so many times in the past. It was just like old times, only different, because now we knew, and would do nothing about it.


Monday, February 12, 2001


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