We take the train to Evanston, your knee pressed against my knee and the threat of storms over the warehouses on the horizon, both sensations familiar and comforting, like it hasn’t been 8 years since we met and 7 years since I loved you, if only for a weekend, or maybe just a day.
I close my eyes and map the history and space between our bodies from the reddark behind my lids, wanting to put my head on your shoulder, leaning against the sunwarm window instead, feeling your hand before it touches me, squeezing my thigh, only once, solid and controlled, as if to say “I know” or maybe “You’ll be fine.”
She’s waiting for us in the train lot, recognizing me from pictures, her mouth breaking into a grin when she sees me, taking both my hands in hers and looking up into my eyes, not speaking, a single twisted braid loose on her high forehead, our bodies blocking the sidewalk, commuters breaking around us like rapids.
Your sons are beautiful, reciting a small list of prepared facts about my life from the backseat of the car, demanding to sit on either side of me in the booth at the restaurant, watching intently as I rip pieces from the paper placemat, showing them how to fold a square into a crane, then a frog, then a box, then a bat.
She orders food for us in Amharic, telling me about her family in Addis Ababa, taking her time and starting at the beginning, including small tragedies and intimacies I do not deserve, tokens of trust she expects me to repay, later, once the children have gone to bed.
On the ride home, I sit between the carseats, listening as you narrate the geography of the drive, your lives, pointing out the parks and the schools, the places the four of you frequent, holding hands with both your sleeping sons, our eyes intermittently locking in the rearview.
We sit on the floor in your living room, backs against the couches, beers in hand, you next to me and her across room, your arm up on the cushions, your hand gripping the base of my neck when you laugh, strong as I remember, the summer moon visible through the branches of the oak tree in your yard.
She finally asks, so I tell her, as honestly as I can, leaving out the sex but including the rest, the parts that might embarrass us both, how we met, how much I wanted to be be with you, how you didn’t want to be with me but wanted to be wanted, how that year of distance made time and my body condense and stretch like a plastic slinky, weakening and whitening and threatening to snap, how it still hurts to think of you, even at 32.
Her eyes are wide as she listens, as she compares my version of us to the one you’ve told, her legs crossed, fingers dancing, picking at the label of her beer, the frayed hole on the right knee of her jeans, the knotted edge of the rug, the calluses on the balls of her feet, and when I am done, I cannot look at either of you, so you pull my body against yours and kiss the side of my head, and from the corner of my eye, I see her smile.
None of us speak for a full minute, leaving the low hum of the air conditioner in the place I had hoped for benediction.