"I'm still in love with you," I said to the girl I hadn't seen in four years. I'm pretty sure this caught her off guard. At least, that's what the expression on her face told me. It probably doesn't help that I threw that statement out there about 7 minutes into our first conversation since college.
I should back up. We met during our senior year at State. Julia and I only dated for about three months, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a spark. The timing just didn't work out.
The way we met was a little unorthodox. I, kind of, stole her parking spot. It's not as if the spaces were assigned or anything. I just pulled one of those jerk moves where I pulled into a spot that she had been waiting for. And I knew she had been waiting for it. Her turn signal was on and everything.
Thing is, she didn't let me get away with it. She pulled her car up and parked it right behind me. She got out of the car and got right in my face. Julia said a few choice words that I'll refrain from repeating. But I was really hearing her words. I mean, she was yelling pretty loud, so I heard her words. Maybe the right thing to say here is that I just wasn't listening.
I was mesmerized by her eyes. They were open wide and the brightest green I think I'd ever seen. It was almost as if I was seeing her in slow motion. "I'm sorry," I said. Even now I'm not sure that I meant it.
"You think and apology is gonna cut it?!" she yelled. Clearly her anger was not about to go away.
"What if I say I'm really sorry?" I said with a smile, hoping some charm would float her way. It didn't.
"You're a real jerk, you know that?" Only she didn't say jerk.
"I know," I said. She shook her head and started to turn around. I reached out and grabbed her elbow to stop her. "No, what I meant to say is, I'm not a jerk. At least, not usually." I didn't know where to go with this, I just knew I didn't want this woman to walk away from me. I didn't want this conversation to end. I wanted those angry green eyes to keep staring me down. And I wanted to find some way to make those eyes light up with a smile. I knew I had my work cut out for me. "I'm Matt," I finally said, extending a hand.
She rolled her eyes. "Julia." She refused to shake my hand. But that was okay, because I had stopped her from leaving. That was enough for me. I don't know how I convinced her to go out with me later that week. I must have done something amazing, 'cause she had a boyfriend. Maybe I really was a jerk.
That's how it started. It was all a blur. And it seemed to end just as quickly. We both graduated and took jobs in different places. It just didn't make sense to stay together. I argued that we should try, but the only reason I could give was because I loved her. And I remember, she just looked at me and accused me of not really knowing what love was.
It was like a spear was driven right through my chest. I'll admit, looking back, she was probably right.
And that brings us to the events of tonight. I was out, driving around, and decided I was thirsty. So I pulled into Cruizers to grab a drink. As I got out of my car, there she was. She was walking to the car parked next to mine. Her hair was shorter and a little lighter. But there was no mistake when I saw those eyes.
"Julia?" I said as she reached into her purse for her keys.
She looked up. It took her a moment, but once she recognized me, she smiled. That's when I fell all over again. She ran around her car and gave me a big hug. Honestly, I didn't want to let go. "Matt! It's so good to see you!" she said as she pulled away.
The conversation started out as cliche as these things normally do. I asked how she was, she asked how I was. Turns out she moved to town a few weeks ago and she loved her new job. I told her about my recent promotion. After our brief catch-up discussion, she told me she had to go, but that we should get together sometime. And then I blurted it out.
I've never claimed to be the wisest of men. So saying those six words might not have been the best thing to do at the moment. I probably should have waited 'til we'd at least met for coffee. Seriously, who does that?
"Matt..." she began, unsure what to say next. Who could blame her? I just made a nice reunion into a very awkward situation. Good job, Matt. Why don't you just tell her that Flick saw some grizzly bears near Pulaski's candy store? Or that you're manning the next mission to Jupiter?
"I'm sorry... I shouldn't have said that," I stammered, "I don't know why I said that."
She walked back toward me and opened her mouth to speak. I stopped her. "I should go," I said as I reopened my car door. "And don't worry, I'll lose your number."
Unexpectedly, she covered my hand with her own. "Matt, wait," she said softly, "It's nice that you still think of me that way. I'd be lying if I said you never crossed my mind over the last few years. But maybe we should just start fresh, hmm? Call me later this week and we'll have dinner or something, okay?" She reached up and kissed my cheek before walking back to her own car.
I watched as she drove away. My cheek still tingled where her lips had touched. I walked into the convenience store and bought a Coke before driving home. For the rest of the night, I had to keep reminding myself that calling tonight would be way too soon.