Dinner with Friend

We both waited for minute after paying for our meals – waited, I guess, for one or the other of us to say “Alright” or “I should head out” or “Okay let’s go,” so that we could leave.

So that we could put on our jackets and grab our umbrellas from the third, empty chair where they had been drip drying during dinner.

So I could go to the restroom to quickly wash my hands.

So that he could say goodbye to his ex-coworker who had spotted him from another table and waved.

So that I could hold the inner swinging door open for him.

So that he could then pull the heavy outer door open for me.

So we could walk out from under the tavern’s awning, shake our umbrellas, push them open, raise them above our heads – because it was still raining.

So we could stand there and briefly pretend we don’t know which way our respective cars are parked, pretend we don’t know we parked on opposite ends of the street (choosing to unremember, for this little skit, that we actually met outside the tavern on the way in, each watching the other approach from the contrary direction).

So we could stand far enough out on the street corner not to obstruct the passersby as we exchange goodbyes.

So I or he could say:

“Well it was good seeing you man,”

So that, then, he or I could say:

“Yeah definitely, let’s do this again soon. I don’t know why but I always forget you live so close,” even though both of us know neither of us would have forgotten that, but we laugh anyway at what we’ve said, at this little joke.

So we can then throw out farewells.

So that I or he could say:

“Later dude,”

So that, then, he or I could say:

“Yeah take care, talk soon!” as we struggle out of the last awkward gravity of parting, not knowing if we should hug or shake hands or wave.

So that we could settle on none of these things.

So that we could turn and walk, in opposite directions, back to our cars, underneath the old halogen streetlights, bright as poison, through the deep puddles in the crooked sidewalk and pockmarked street, soaking our good shoes that we wore, wetting the cuffs of our good jeans.

So that I could look up from underneath my umbrella’s brim, pretending to an epiphany, feigning a light heart and a free mind, but feeling, really, only relieved that nothing was resolved, and that neither one of us remarked upon the ways in which we saw the slow death of boredom and frustration overtaking the other’s face.

So that he could put his free hand in his pocket, and half-express to himself a wish that he had taken the time to mention that, for some reason, he couldn’t get this phrase out of his head: “Countries will trade birds in spring and fall,” wishing that it would have been easier to mention this, and remiss but also glad that we didn’t talk about the phrase, or aesthetics, or the architecture of a sentence, because he is tired.

So that we could go home undifferent, unaltered, unalloyed by anything outside of what we had to begin with, and be the same two cowards again tomorrow that we were tonight during dinner and after, as we walked steadily towards our cars, already forgiven by the rain’s long fingers.

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