We saw each other again in the afternoon. Hugged our hellos, gave a replay of our recent histories. Work, sleep, every day. Work(lather) Sleep(rinse) Repeat.
It wasn't supposed to be that way. There should have been more chit chat, more laughter. Tales of the exciting life of the Intrepid college student becoming a man of the world, preparing for the so-called real life of post-college existence. Yes, there was this one time, I say, and her heart pounds as I tell of the thrilling experiences I've had since we last met. Reality check, it's only a summer job, and a dull one at that. Four dollars an hour more than food service is still 5 dollars an hour short of what you need to survive.
I barely listen as she tells me about her job (lather rinse repeat/same shit different day), just as she feigned interest in what I had to say to her. It's not that we don't care, but we have nothing to say to each other...we're merely being polite. It's accepted as a fact of life.
Small talk aside, there's a reason I'm there besides her company. The exhibition, her first major show. A stunningly emotional display. Not the silly/happy cartoons of high school. Her works have matured, as she has. I never noticed just how much she had matured. She seemed to me to be a lost child the last time we met. Had seemed that way, in fact, since I had left her. Her works prove me wrong... The child at the zoo who wanders off to the monkey house knows exactly where he is, although the frantic mother perceives the child to be lost when she can't find him.
Such beautiful work...she leaves me alone to appreciate it without her influence to affect my impression of it. I watch as she walks away, appreciating the beauty, intricacy, and delicacy of her artwork, and of her. So much depth to her (art), so many layers to discover. She is beautiful and passionate, and that shines through her work.
Art. Poetry. Pain. Emotion. Love. As I find these reflected in her paintings I realize the paint is merely a reflection of her soul. I begin to understand that all I perceived her to be, all I ever loved about her, is a mere candle next to the bonfire of her soul. I thought I knew everything about her, and I loved her for that. Now I know that I knew nothing about her, that I couldn't fathom a fraction of who she really is. And ironically enough, I love her for that too.
All of these thoughts and emotions fill me as I reach the end of the exhibition. She invites me to leave comments in the guestbook, but how can I explain feelings like this in a few short lines? Wonderful work, I say. I'm proud. Good luck in school. Same old standard bullshit, because it's all I can think to say. I'd love to tell her that I love her (work), and that I have a newfound appreciation for her (talent). That I'd love to bring home my favorite piece and hang it on my wall.
Instead we sit and talk about the future. College in two weeks. In the span of a lifetime, two weeks is the blink of an eye, and yet it seems like the distant future to us. The future is something to look forward to with hope, but the present is comfortable, and so that's as far ahead as we dare look. Looking forward to the present. Living our lives, pretending that we haven't changed, pretending we aren't still in the process of changing. Denying the cataclysmic changes in our life by living in the moment. Stare at an inch of fabric on a car seat: it appears still, though backing away you see the car flying by at 80 miles an hour. When that car reaches it's destination, will she still be sitting beside me? I think this to myself. She sits beside me, and I think this to myself. I fail to see the irony until after I leave.
"Goodbye" I say, and we give clumsy hugs and promises to call. To call and say, "How's life?" Next time it won't be work, it will be all about school. No longer work/sleep/repeat. Next time it will be class/sleep/repeat. We have so much we want to say, but all that comes out is small talk.
"How's your life been?" ("Tell me all about the interesting things you've been doing, I'm interested in your well being and I want to know you've been all right.") "Same old, same old. I go to class, do a little homework, maybe party on the weekend. How about you?" ("There's lots of stuff going on in my life, I'm doing well, I'm happy. I'm glad to know you still care about my life, but I'm afraid of boring you. Besides, what I really want is to hear how *you* are doing.") "Same here, too much homework and not enough sleep. Dorms are hell." ("I'm glad to know you still care about me. I wish I could tell you something more interesting, but I think you'd be upset to hear the story of me kissing my RA at that party.") "Well, I gotta get going." ("I love you, you know.") "Goodbye. Keep in touch!" ("I know. I love you too.")