The mall was scrambling with people as always. So many faces, so many shops.
So what were the odds of me running into her in that very shop, in that very moment?
“Hey!” she screamed. But in a calm way. “Hi! How are you?”
“I’m alright,” I managed, not so calm. “It’s, uh, it’s good to see you. Shopping?”
“Nah. Just checking out boys.”
I opened my mouth to speak but closed them quickly. There was a knowing smirk in her face. I laughed, rubbing the back of my head. “I’m just going to believe you didn’t mean a satire.”
“I did not.” Her dramatic tone said otherwise. “So. Where have you been these days? What are you up to?”
“I’m, uh, I’m just… hanging in there, you know?”
“Mm-hmm, I know. I know all about those.”
“And you?” I said. “Did you land that bank job, by the way?”
“I did,” she nodded, not so excited. “It lasted for exactly eight months.”
“Why?” I wasn’t one bit interested in knowing why she could not continue her dream job for more than eight months, but I was afraid of the awkward silence.
She began explaining about something to do with her career plans and then about her passion and then a hefty argument about how passion and career were two different things not to be mixed. Textbook stuff, really.
“Do you think I shouldn’t have quit the job?” she said.
I snapped. “Huh? Oh.” The fuck would I know. “Are you happy?”
She made a thinking face. It suited her well. She was a smart woman, and the last thing she needed was my wisdom. Perhaps she too was afraid of that silence. “Hmm. Not any more than I was before.” She shrugged. “But I do get time for a plenty of mall visits!”
“And isn’t it all that matters?” I made a dramatic arc in air with my hand.
Ah, and finally it was there. The part I dreaded the most. That awkward silence.
She watched my face. I mean really watched. Like there was no pressure on her mind to bring up something to talk. Like it was just okay to stand and stare at each other. Like it didn’t spark any old memories. Like she didn’t care.
My mind, on the other hand, was doing thousands of computations, trying to come up with anything smart to say. The mall is exceptionally well-lit today. Was that stall here a few days ago? Don’t you think the babies shouldn’t be allowed in here?
“How’s your husband?” Oh, great. “I mean… how he’s doing? Not, uh, not how he is.”
She smiled. “He’s good.” She shook her head as if to say ‘meh’. “He’s all right, actually. He says marrying me has been, um, really painful. Worst decision.” She forced a few extra nods at the end of that statement.
I let out a snort. “You always have the right things to say.”
She feigned a bow. Then a moment of silence later, said, “I miss you. Well, sometimes. Can’t we be like this… again?”
I didn’t bother thinking about it. I had done it enough. “No.”
She nodded. I knew she understood that. Ever so practical, the two of us. Too practical, some would say.
“So,” she said, smiling a sad smile for the first time. “I guess I’ll run into you some place else then?”
“I look forward to it.”