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Distant Memories

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I don’t drink it anymore, but I still like the smell of coffee. Aromatic. I cannot describe it more precisely with any other words because ‘earthy’ makes me picture mud or dirt and ‘woody’ is more like the smell of a man’s cologne. Also, the smell of coffee relaxes me. I needed to be relaxed for this meeting. It was not the first of its kind, but there are things that one never really gets used to. Like tests and break-ups.

“How is work?”

“Still slow. But it’s not terrible. How are things on your end?”

“We’re busy. The cases have been piling from February and…”

So this started before I came into the picture. I start to smell his cologne. It can definitely be described as having a woody smell. Wood and citrus. He stops talking.

“You seem preoccupied.”

“I am. It’s raining?”

I panic the way a woman does when it starts to rain and she only has a light sweater on and her umbrella is by the door back home.

“I’ll drop you off.”

“We can split a cab.”

It rained the first night we met. He complained about his woolen suit getting ruined. He’d had court earlier in the day. One month later, he sent a text and we had dinner at his house. I had leftover fried fish, mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli and cauliflower for lunch at the office the following day. I consider asking him to ignore everything I said about his emotional unavailability. All I want right now is to go back to the way things were before I noticed that something felt wrong.

“What’s wrong?”

“We’re broken.”

He sighs, leans in. Deeply and dramatically. He thinks I’m over-reacting, being overly dramatic, over-thinking this. I’m surprised when he doesn’t reach for my hand. It feels like something he would do to put a woman at ease.

“We’re fine. You’re upset. And that’s okay.”

The first night we spent watching reruns of Monk in his living room, I told him that I was cold and he brought me a winter jacket and zipped me up. I still remember wishing that he had kissed. The following morning, after I had slept fitfully, I was glad that nothing had happened. I realized how much I liked him when he fell asleep next to me on my bed. We lay on the pink duvet cover I dislike and his head grew heavier against my own as I drew circles around his Adam’s apple. I became of his fingers running across the small of my back and stopping at my waist. I smiled at the thought that he had done this before, with someone else, and realized that I wished he did not like his work so much.

“I’m not fine. I don’t think you like me that way and it’s difficult for me to accept.”

“Who says I don’t like you that way.”

“You just did.”

“I didn’t.”

“Please stop. We’re not in court.”

The words come out as a small whisper. I have yelled at him about this before, both on phone and in person. My best friend would joke and claim that our sexual tension was palpable. I would remind her that if that was indeed the case, we would have had sex the few times we spent the night together. He fights fair and that’s all there is to it. I like that. He won’t go easy on me because we’re friends or because I have feelings for him. And he will always gloat about an argument he wins. Tonight, he’s more careful, tiptoeing around my wounded pride. He doesn’t know what to do with a breaking heart. He also doesn’t know how to lie about what he does not feel.

“We should probably leave now.”

There is no warmth to the words. All I hear is resignation.

“Good idea.”

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