Sunday, September 8, 2013

Old Friends


John Matney

            O’Brien saw them first.  He hoped they would walk past him, unrecognized. She was as he remembered, a trim, short Asian woman with a protruding belly, looking like she was 3 months pregnant. She was 50 or more years old and had never had children. He was a little taller than O’Brien, handsome and still in shape. On her left had was a very large diamond ring. It was her third marriage. O’Brien remembered her saying once that she had told a previous boyfriend that before she would get married a second time, she had to have a 1 or 2 karat ring, O’Brien couldn’t remember what size. Her current ring had to be at least 3 karats.
            O’Brien was dressed in cargo pants, hiking shoes and a short sleeve linen shirt. His hair was long and he had a white beard. He hoped that was enough. It wasn’t. She noticed him and before passing stopped and stared. He looked back in silence. She poked her husband in the side and said loud enough for O’Brien to hear, “hey, that’s O’Brien!” The man, Mike looked at O’Brien for a few seconds and smiled.
            “Hey, what’s going on man?” Mike said with a big smile. O’Brien looked up and said, “just waiting for a plane, you?” Mike said, “we’re on our way to the Bahamas, Lynne has a marathon and we want to get in some beach time.”  “That’s nice” said O’Brien  hoping the conversation would end soon. Lynne then asked, “tell us what you’ve been up to.”
            O’Brien knew how this was supposed to play out. He remembered years ago, when he and Lynn had been friends that Lynne would ask him the most personal questions and he would oblige, revealing his most personal thoughts or experiences. She did not provide any stories or thoughts about her life. Questions about her weekend were answered with, “okay or the usual.” It had been a frustrating relationship. He used to feel foolish revealing so much of himself to a woman who was essentially a stanger. With that in mind, O’Brien said, “just enjoying myself.” 
            Mike asked “what’s with the beard man?”  Lynne added, “yes, you look so much older.” O’Brien thought about his recent trek through Nepal and Tibet, hiking over tens of thousands of feet in the mountains and smiled. “Well said O’Brien, I just haven’t felt like shaving.”
            “People have been asking about you, wanting to know what you’re up to,” Lynne said. O’Brien knew she wanted a story from him about the beard or what he was doing.  She wanted O'Brien to entertain her. Staring into the middle distance, he heard his breath and remembered. Remembered that years earlier, this woman didn't write, call or make an effort to see him in person when everything was falling apart around O’Brien. Years ago, O’Brien would have made a sarcastic remark peppered with a few F-bombs to chase Lynne away. Now, he was a different man.
            “I’ve been traveling and doing a lot of thinking” he said. He added, “I hope you have a great trip in the Bahamas”  He looked at the couple. Lynne had once said to O’Brien that she made a better girlfriend than she made a wife. That may have been the most revealing thing she had ever said to O’Brien. It was a true and revealing statement. He almost felt sorry for Mike knowing Lynne would get bored with him in a few years and start her search again for her perfect mate.
            “Well, Lynne stammered, goodbye.” Mike said, “yeah man, later” and they walked away, no doubt telling each other how strange O’Brien had behaved. O'Brien felt clean as he drank some of the now cold coffee, he picked up his book and started reading. Breathe in, breathe out.