The wind had kicked up, or at least by the water it was stronger, not restricted by the buildings. Across the park, it had free reign and blasted the cold air through the long coat he had on. Winter had, at least in some ways, come to the city in force. Sitting huddled on a bench provided some respite from the cold wind, darkness enveloping them.
"What is it that you feel?"
He knew what she was asking him, but wanted desperately to avoid the answer. To avoid actually coming to terms with what was inside himself. A darkness he feared may be deeper than the night around them.
"What do you mean?" he looked past her to avoid her eyes that were canvassing his face. She had always known how to read him. Some tourists ambled up the street, pointing this way and that, Christmas ribbons adorning their bags.
"About kissing me. I mean, you are married now you know." She looked away, at the ground, distancing herself.
They were old friends. Old lovers. And a bit more. He hadnít seen her in five years. The last time they actually talked on the phone was three years ago. He had called her to tell her he was engaged. She told him she was moving to Kansas. Now here she was, home for the holidays visiting her family.
"My love for my wife doesnít preclude my love for you." The words were there, but they rang false somehow in the crisp air. He was positioning, trying to reconcile it in his mind. He was on the defensive with his feelings. For all the logic he used in his life, it seemed to go out the window when they were together.
"There has never been a thing as one person that completely fulfills another. There is always something you give up. When you really love someone, though, you give those things up and deal with it." he paused, letting the underlying truth of the statement reveal itself. His words sunk further into the blackness.
Her hand on his knee tensed a bit and let go. The wind whistled through the and they hugged each other closer. The smell of her was familiar, comforting.
"Iíve always loved you," he finished.
He knew she loved him. She didnít need to say it. They had never lost that like many old lovers do. They had separated due to circumstances. The same set that sends someone you care about away from you and prevents you from following. Or maybe you make the choice not to follow, he thought to himself suddenly.
"Are you happy?" Her brown eyes caught the streetlight as she turned her head towards him again.
"Yes. I can say Iím happy."
"Then why?" she pressed, looking into him for the answer.
"Iím an idiot."
"Thatís the cowardís way out," she spat back at him. She took a drag from her cigarette, turning away to look at the traffic as it past the park.
"Yeah, ok, it is. We have always been friends. Weíve always shared our affection. As long as it doesnít hurt anyone else I love I donít know that itís really wrong."
But it is, he said to himself. For any type of reasoning that he could meagerly concoct, he shouldnít have ripped open old wounds. Or created new ones. He knew she knew the truth, too. She realized it the moment they kissed.
"You know, I donít know if I told you this, but.." she looked into my eyes and he wasnít sure she was going to finish. She looked down, towards his chin, then captured his gaze again. The wind had calmed and they sat in silence. Yellow taxicabs rushed along the corner of his eye, a blur on the city streets, a soft Ďwhooshí as they rounded the turn.
She looked up, into him. A sly smile took over her face. On the rare occasions she smiled, it always lit up her face. The light from the street gave it a pale glow.
"It has always meant a lot to me that you were my first."
He almost cried right then. "That has always meant more to me than you may ever know," he returned. That was it. He never had let her go, really. He knew he never would be fully able to.
Her skin was soft under his fingers. The familiar feel of her cheekbone, and the way she always leaned into his caress brought back more warm memories.
He walked her to the N and R. It was time to go. He watched her cry as they hugged and said goodbye.
They kissed again. Her lips were soft, and he could taste the salt from her tears. She pulled away from him.
"I just want to look at you for a moment." A Brooklyn-bound ĎRí train rolled into the station..
He felt a pain in his chest as she turned and walked through the doors of the train, cheeks still stained with tears.
She didnít turn to wave goodbye.