I still sit on the board of my ex fiance’s nonprofit.
Last night, we had a quarterly meeting.
I was purposely late, if I’m being truthful. Although, I’m still not sure why, bouncing around my bedroom aimlessly before finally dragging myself out the door.
When I pulled up, I called him from the car. Which house is it? I asked. Hold on, he said. And he motioned me in from the front door.
Walking in, we stood there in the hallway. Hey, he smiled, his long hair tucked up. Hi, I said. You need a haircut, I thought. And when was the last time you washed that jacket?
Mostly, how familiar you still feel to me.
He took my coat. Thanks for coming, he said. And he used a tone that I knew meant he rehearsed this entry before it happened.
I nodded. Of course.
You look different, he paused.
New hair, I motioned.
No, I see that. But, it’s not that. I don’t know what exactly. You just look fresh. Young. Glowing.
Thanks, I said. I’m taking care of myself. Who knew water decreases wrinkles? I quipped.
We had the meeting, sitting across one another, out fingers grazing over the other as we dipped our hands into popcorn. I gave my skills and input where appropriate. We went over the financials and initiatives with the rest of the board. I quietly beamed. Watching his life’s work grow and succeed seems to be a blessing I really get to enjoy now that we’re not together.
A couple hours in, we caught eyes – and held it. And I smiled. He smiled, too. What else is there to do?
We plan to send an email to the donor list, he said at some point. Everyone who has donated in the past couple years, he paused. Minus one family of course.
He looked at me. And I knew what he meant.
The board stiffened as well.
You can remove my parents, yes, I said.
His co-founder grinned. And the person to his left snorted.
Later, as we wrapped, and I was pulling my green coat over my shoulders, he mentioned he was late.
Massage, he said. Been needing one. The farm kills my back.
I said nothing, which in itself said something.
What? He said, cinching the word in his tone.
I shook my head. Nothing.
It’s not with her.
Doesn’t matter if it is, I said.
We chatted for a few minutes longer, next to each other, but with different people.
And in the middle of my conversation, he abruptly ended his and turned for the door. Gotta go, he motioned, waving goodbye. Bye everyone. Thanks for tonight.
I whipped around to watch him leave, and waved quietly, surprised by the quickness of it all.
And still ruminating on that, when a few minutes later, I walked out the front door too, waving goodnight to his co-founder.
I turned toward the street, and noticed his car in front of mine, the exhaust pumping smoke into the night.
I smiled. You, I thought.
He met me out at my car for a hug.
Thanks, I whispered.
You really look great, Linds. I can’t explain it – you just look bright. Calm. God damn, you feel strong. He took my shoulders in his hands.
Yoga, I said.
Who even are you?
I grinned. Does it piss you off?
For sure, he smirked. But who was I to think I could ever change you? You’re on your journey.
You didn’t change me, you left me with foundation, I said. And that’s something I’ll hold onto forever.
We hugged again, standing there in the street. Thrive little girl, he said – as he turned to get into the truck we bought together in 2017. Thrive on. You’re a determined lady; I’ll admire that always.
And you, I said.
I know, he smiled. I know, Linds.
On my drive home, I thought about the years we spent together. And the inadequacy I felt so deeply, so often. When you have an eating disorder for 8 years, it leaves you feeling so very skill-less and without purpose. Like the world around you has facts and stats and you’re dumbfounded by how much information humans can retain.
Wait, you don’t wanna know the calorie count of 7 almonds?
The emptiness of those years still knows just where I live.
When we met, I was on the cusp of this feeling – circling around it like the ring on a coffee cup. And my ex is a person with many skills. And much knowledge. A memory so potent I wonder how he ever turns off.
Falling asleep, last night, a final thought before I drift:
How lucky I have been – how privileged – to have been with someone, who shook my shoulders with his life. And helped ignite a flame inside of me – that will forever keep me humbled and learning.
I will love him forever.
And how proud I am, now, in this moment, to be a woman with a flame, flickering in its growth.