The One That Got Away?

Her name was S. I had known her since she was 10 years old. She had always felt like a sister to me; we even went hiking through woods on the outskirts of town, dipping our feet in the river, sitting on the rocks snacking on candies and sandwiches. It was a blissful day. That was the first time I had seen her in about three years, and it was a peaceful, wondrous paradise. I didn’t think much about anything after that day; I would be returning to the mainland shortly thereafter, and she would continue to prepare for her dream of living out of her camper van. Then next summer hit.

I would’t say that the tension between us was palpable, because it wasn’t, not really. When I offered her a place to crash for the night, that’s all I was doing, wanting her to have  some amenities at least for one evening. Perhaps I was too naive. She pulled up to my house to familiarize herself with the neighbourhood before driving around town for the day. My buddy from Switzerland was staying with me while my roommate did a student exchange in Wales. She picked Joe and I up from the bar early that evening, her van being the epitome of a hippie lifestyle. I loved her for that. She was living the life that I could only dream of; a life of wandering, exploration, traveling from town-to-town, place-to-place, off-the-grid.

The night back in my suite was most uneventful, we spent a couple hours catching each other up on our lives, our plans for that summer as well as the coming years. I recall at one point during our hike the year before she mentioned that she wanted to study traditional Chinese medicine; I never did ask her how that was going. Most of that evening is quite the blur. One thing that I am quite sure now looking back on it is how much I lived – and in a way, still currently live – in fear. I suppose fearful is a more accurate term; that, and a sense of uncertainty, unsure of myself.

I have always been a guy who hesitates when it comes to romantic opportunity, however brief it might be. More so especially within the last couple of years. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the issue is. Yes, I am jaded when it comes to love, but my inability to process even the most obvious of gestures appears to have a deeper root cause than that. Perhaps it’s my severe social ineptitude, although even back then it wasn’t as strong as it currently likes to be; the lack of self-confidence at times is stark and shocking.

Mind you, I have been getting better at it lately, mainly when alcohol is involved, but on this day, the summer I was 25, I was still a nervous, anxiety-riddled teenage boy. We just sort of sat there, friendly and chummy, but a bit awkward, each waiting for other to make the move. (Well at least I perceived her after-the-fact wanting me to start something, who knows if I was actually correct or not). I think I passed out with my arm around her.

Perhaps in the end I’ll look back on that night and laugh at myself and sighing that it wasn’t meant to be; I do think about it every now and then, wondering what would have happened if. It might not be all that healthy, but not everything about life is. Awkward moments can bring about both humour and reflection and I suppose, ultimately that that’s what this is. A lot has definitely happened in the two plus years since.

The goodbye process was an acknowledgement really, for all that we had been through, both the previous night and our past brother-sister-like friendship. That’s when it happened. We were pulling out of the hug when we found our lips touching. It wasn’t a long-lasting moment or anything more than a “see ya later”, but that second or two did give a nod to whatever underlying sexual tension there may have been during her stay.

The walk out to her van was rather brief, she really seemed to want to hit the road as they say. That was fine by me. It’s not that I wanted her out of the house and gone and be done with her or anything, but given what happened there was a lot going on in my head. There was – inevitably – another goodbye, another briefer coming together, and a subtle rejection from her when I tried to push for something more. Then she simply got in and drove away.

Just like that she was gone: one minute she was backing up my street, the next, her camper merely a faint outline in the distance. I walked back into the house. I don’t even remember if anyone else was home, but nothing was ever said or spoken about it; I can’t even remember if I have talked to her since. For someone who’s mind can be all over the place, and who can remember minutiae about films, yet fails to have discernible memories about certain parts about my childhood, this night is surprisingly seared into my cortexes. I suppose because of its unique circumstances. Every so often, I wonder “what if”.


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