Lost and Found

Love is like a tree. It always blooms in spring, grows to become exotic and colourful in summer, cools down to the subtle hues of greens, tans and burnt oranges in autumn and freezes over in winter, bare, cold and resistant to any warmth. Looking at the couple sitting across from me, I believe that they’re in summer, because she’s no longer smiling shyly, but coquettishly, and he’s comfortable enough to lay a heavy, tanned hand just above her knee.

I glance away, looking around Cookie Lounge, taking in the smells of pizza and bacon wafting from the kitchen, mixing with the wonderful aromas of coffee and liqueur. Occasionally I can smell the bitter stench of beer, but unlike in my youth, it doesn’t repulse me anymore. Hell, I’ve drank a few bottles since then.

The atmosphere is foreign to me, but I can feel myself slowly relaxing, adapting. I sip my Kaluha with milk, savouring the chocolate taste. I always did have a sweet tooth. I’m becoming giddier as I finish my fifth drink; catching the eye of an attractive businessman type, I smile a shallow, hollow and flirtatious smile, and am about to crook my finger invitingly when I hear my name.

“Anna…?” The voice is familiar, yet deeper to the one I remember. I can smell the cologne, Bruce, even before I see him.

“Hello Andrew.” Turning around slowly, I want to prolong the moment for as long as I can. My heart is pounding a mile a minute, and I feel like crying, but I don’t. I look up at him, taking in his shaggy blonde hair and eyebrow piercing, recalling the small ‘bum fluff’ that he used to call his ‘beard’. The little black and blonde hairs have matured, forming a goatee where his chin piercing used to be. His face, although still as smooth as a baby’s, has lost most of its roundness and hollowed out to give him a more masculine edge. He is not handsome, but oh, is he attractive.

“I didn’t realise that you were back in Australia.” It’s such an ironic statement to make that I accidentally snort the drink up my nose, spitting and coughing all over my new ruffled silk, cream jacket. He grabs a serviette and wipes at the jacket, taking care to avoid my breasts.

“I see you haven’t changed that much.” He says, a note of laugher in his voice. But his robin egg blues betray his anxiety, and his voice catches a little as I meet his eyes. His fashion sense has also changed; he’s wearing a buttery soft, cream shirt, rolled up at the elbows, just as I like it. His jeans, although old, fit him like second skin, and he has finally learned not to expose his underwear. Or perhaps that is only because he is out in public. I don’t know. I don’t know him anymore.

Andrew sits down, not looking at me. He’s suddenly finding the small cigarette hole burnt into the wooden table a very fascinating phenomenon.

“I can’t believe I ran into you, here of all places! You don’t like fancy lounges…” But I stop, because I can’t tell him what he does and doesn’t like anymore. It’s funny how easily I slipped into that role as soon as I saw him. It’s as if those six years have never happened. I can still see his room, the double bed made up beautifully with a set of brand new black, white and brown sheets and the brown elephant rug he bought at the discount store in Hoppers Crossing lying next to the bed, covering the otherwise cold, wooden floor. I can picture the fifty candles, costing only four dollars, but so effective, burning merrily on his furniture, and the smell of cannabis incense filling my nose with its sickly sweetness.

“Would you have tried to find me if we hadn’t bumped into each other now?” He asks casually, and I try to pretend that’s exactly what this meeting is; casual, fun and comfortable.

I don’t want to answer him, because I don’t know what to say. From the moment I set foot on the airplane in Frankfurt, knowing that I was going to be back in Melbourne in twenty hours, I didn’t think about anything or anyone else. But would I have contacted him?

“Andrew…it’s been so long. Sometimes it’s good to forget.” God, am I a hypocrite. I haven’t even forgotten that tie I gave him for his twentieth birthday, the shiny, smooth, silk black one with the intense orange lines, sewed in diagonally and spaced out every seven centimetres. Or the one CD he always played in his car, ‘Ministry of Sound: 2007’, because he couldn’t be bothered burning another one, even though we were both sick to death of ‘Changes’, ‘Deep Throat’ and ‘Put your hands up for Detroit’. I would nag him to at least let me burn something of mine, but he’d always say, “Naaaaaaaah. Baby, no offence, but you have terrible taste in music. But you’re beautiful, so it’s ok.” That used to make me laugh so much, because every time I was bad at something, for instance playing pool, or got something wrong, he’d say, “That’s ok, because you’re beautiful,” and give me a big smack on the cheek, all wet and sloppy like.

Now, the candlelight from the antique glass chandelier bathes us in a golden light, his blonde hair shining silver, my highlighted hair a soft caramel.

“I regretted it straight away, you know. When you screamed at me to have the nerve to let you get on that plane, I wanted to prove to you that I could do it. That I could turn away from you, like you always expected me to. It was the worst decision I ever made.” He can’t look at me, nor I at him. The pain’s still too raw, still makes me tear up. Not sob hysterically everyday like I used to, and then just quietly every few weeks or so, until it gradually faded into an ache I felt especially when in the company of another man.

“I was going to propose the day you told me you were being transferred to Germany for a few years. The news hit me so hard, I couldn’t forgive you. But as soon as you got on the plane and out of sight, I tried calling you, but you wouldn’t answer. I called and called.” I know this, because I felt my phone vibrate for a good fifteen minutes before we were told to shut them off. And after, I just didn’t turn it back on. As soon as I got to Singapore for the stop over, I placed it under the running water to ruin it for good, and then carelessly thew it in the bin. It still didn’t erase his face or his voice or even his number from my mind.

I place my hand over his. Andrew finally turns around and looks at me, so hopefully that my heart hurts. It must show in my face, because as soon as I begin to respond, he cuts me off. “Don’t say it! There’s someone else, isn’t there? As if there wouldn’t be, look at you! I don’t know what came over me, I’m sorry. I just saw you, and I thought that finally I can say something to fix what I did. I thought…I just thought…that it would be enough…” He hangs his head, and I can feel what he feels.

“Andrew. Look at me.” And he does, slowly. “I’m sorry, but we can’t go back.” He’s about to interrupt again, but I quickly continue. “But, we can try again.”

He smiles, and suddenly we’re in spring, and those six years never happened.


ravenskar said...

y'know, i quite enjoyed that. i felt some bits dragged on with unnecessary dialogue. but i really enjoyed how you created her character, how she observes all these material things & people. and also, the whole seasonal metaphor.