I didn’t tell you she wrote me a letter. About ten years ago now, about three years after we last saw each other. I was with someone else then too. We’re talking way before Mel and the engagement and everything. I binned the letter. Thought I was happy with then-girlfriend. That didn’t take long to turn to shit too though and I cursed the fact I binned it. That was always my problem. Too quick to chuck out the old and get on with the new.
So I’m there, heading down the escalator with Mel and I see her heading the other way. She looks the same. Strawberry blond hair fastened up in some kooky braid. A summer dress that manages to seem innocent and sexy at the same time,. One of those floral prints she always carried off so well. I can’t see her feet but imagine she is wearing the same canvas boots with the hefty tread she always wore at Uni. I see her and I don’t know what the fuck to do.
The escalator shuffles me down and her up and I see her see me. She smiles. I smile. Can’t help myself. I don’t look at Mel but through her hand I feel her tense up. The escalators carry us closer, nearing the moment when we will be level for a second then pass and continue on our ways. She looks down at her feet, that shy way she always had, the same way she looked just before our first kiss in a dingy night club too many years ago now.
We are at the crossing point on the escalators. Time enough for her to say, ‘Hello stranger.’ Time enough for me to jump the central barrier, join her on the up escalator, head out with her into the London summer and find out just what the fuck went wrong fifteen years ago and if we can still fix it.
But I don’t. I mumble hello, shrug my shoulders at her and the escalator as if to say, what an awkward situation to meet in, traveling on moving metal steps that, like time, simpleywon’t stop to allow two people to properly acknowledge the past they share. I kid myself that she gets all that from the movement of my arms, the look in my eyes. And we are carried past each other again.
‘Who was that?’ Mel asks.
‘No-one. Old friend from Uni,’ I say.
‘Old friend or old girlfriend?’
‘Does it matter?’
I squeeze Mel’s hand. Trace my fingers over the engagement ring I gave her. She smiles. We follow the signs for Circle Line. I look back only once before we turn the corner, peering up at the escalators. I see no sign of floral print anywhere and once again move on.