They decided to meet halfway on neutral grounds. He was driving north from his city condo and she was headed south from her country cottage. They had not seen each other since their divorce fifteen years ago. This lunch meeting was a first. He had suggested it, ostensibly over their mutual concerns regarding their son.
Their marriage had produced one child, whom they had raised together and proudly assisted through medical school. He was a doctor now with the World Health Organization and traveled the world. Communication was always erratic, but neither of them had heard from him since he went to Cape Town, South Africa, a year ago.
They were meeting at The Old Mountain Inn, which was located in the Provincial Park. It was known far and wide for its delicious food and woodsy ambience. The exterior of The Inn was made from natural cobble stones, coupled with heavy wooden fir doors for entry. It was a beautiful setting nestled in the mountains, with the meadows alive with various coloured wildflowers and the melodious songs of resident birds. The inside had cedar walls, oak floors and a floor to ceiling stone fireplace. The walls were peppered throughout with old black and white photographs. There was a piano and even a piano player. He played softly while people drank tea from bone china cups or tinkled their crystal wine glasses. A romantic setting, but they were both married to others now and somewhere along the way had lost each other.
Initially, they were separated by hundreds of miles and by distance of another kind far greater.
Still, she wondered if time could be turned back – would they? Could they? Was this type of thinking another sign of the regrets that go along with aging? All the tomorrows that one can never see and no one says a word about the sorrows they may contain.
Turning into the parking lot, she spotted a man waving to her. He was certainly older, balding and paunchy but she noted the same great long legs, still muscular and suntanned. He had been a runner when they were young and she smiled in remembrance, as she exited the car.
Watching her, he immediately flashed back to the long haired blonde, blue-eyed beauty of years ago. Today he was not seeing her as a seventy year old woman with short grey hair and wearing glasses, which blocked her vivid blue eyes. He was experiencing the reality of how much he had missed her. That smile, that humour and her wit. Suddenly their years of laughter echoed in his ears. Wasn’t it only yesterday when they were young?
They ordered their lunch and complimented themselves on how civilized this was for a meeting. How good they both looked after all the years. Their talk revolved around their common interests – books recently read, live stage plays, foreign films, works of art, plants, gardening and birds. Neither mentioned their current partner. They reminisced about favourite old times and old places. She found herself giggling at some of their early marriage mishaps. She was bemused by his still sharp wit, that half smile always hovering. Now he was laughing with her as they enjoyed seeing themselves the way they were. What and when did changes occur to separate them? With a jolt, he realized he wanted to hold her one more time. He wanted to be back in the hospital holding her and their first born child. He recalled the jubilation of that time and the deep feeling of connection. Does it only occur once in a lifetime?
Reminded of their son, he told her that an email from the WHO administrator had been received this morning, advising that their son was alive and very busy. He was working in a refugee compound with no access to communication devices. He sent his love to both of them. So, he had knowledge of their son that morning, but did not call her and cancel their lunch meeting. She was glad of this as she now admitted to herself that she had often imagined just such a reunion. The truth was she had thought about it for years. It was like old times today. She so enjoyed his company. What had happened? Where had they gone wrong?
It was time to say good-bye. A handshake, a quick hug at the door. Great seeing you again, all the polite farewell phrases. The piano player started to play a slow, sentimental tune. They looked at each other. Should they? Would a jury find them guilty?
They went back in to the tiny dance area. They waltzed slowly, looking at each other. He, with a fond half smile. She, with eyes that were still sparkling after all the years. The eyes he fell in love with the first time. Her eyes, his son’s eyes.
Was this a dance to the end of love? The music faded. They walked out holding hands.
He said, “In everything my inner spirit embraces, I’ll always see you.”
She nodded, but her throat was too constricted to respond.
She wanted to say, “I will always love you.”
Was it only by parting that they knew what they loved?
They returned to their respective vehicles. He slowly turned his car south. She turned to go north, fixating on the road ahead.
Neither one trusted themselves to look back.