He was a blur of faces, shapes and identities, familiar and half forgotten. His hair, dirty blonde and long, like the shy drummer she met online years ago, whose friendship she lost when they tried to become something more. His eyes and nose like the older all-american boy she knew in college, who flushed his drugs down the dorm drain one day and found Jesus in Connecticut.
His way with words and music, driven but scattered, like the teacher she had an affair with, who threw himself into every creative pursuit, as if desperately trying to draw or compose or write or fuck something out of his soul, always failing to connect that art to other people.
The way he glided out of conversations and spaces, so solid and present one moment, then gone the next, like an old roommate she had a short-lived crush on, who left a tangible, painful void when he disappeared, suddenly feeling so necessary, as though gravity itself no longer worked without his presence.
His voice, calm and thoughtful, with a touch of amusement, a bit like her former boss whom she had always aspired to sound like, and saw through the facade it was for a deeper storm of playfulness and fire within.
She thought about the endless permutations of people crossing each others’ paths, their layers of familiarity and strangeness intersecting to connect for one brief moment or a lifetime. She’d met him before, or pieces of him, liking and loving and hating them, losing them, only to come across them again on another body, in another space and another time. Their kinship happened before and would happen again.
She didn’t know what the universe wanted, throwing her past back at her in this human shape of roads taken and lessons not learned. She tried to see past the pieces she knew but never fully understood, into this abstract of a man, a stranger with a life lived and his own stories to tell of women who came and went, leaving traces of themselves in everyone he would encounter since. But the pieces of others wouldn’t part, his soul hidden safely beneath and out of reach.
“Good,” she thought. “Good.”
This was for the best. She wasn’t one to romanticize the past, painting over anger and regrets with sentimental lies and a varnish of what-ifs.
She closed her eyes and shook it off, all of it, the recognition and the memories he’d brought, the magnetism and the temptation to fall in. She centered on the now, this moment of music and fog and 2 A.M. beers and friends nearby. She let the melody take her over and danced, laughing and spinning. And when she opened her eyes again, there he was, dancing like no man she’d ever met before.