Ben does not question my reason for invitation until we are both seated comfortably at my kitchen table.
When he does, I find myself speechless. I simply don’t know how to phrase my thoughts to him, at least not these thoughts. I can’t exactly tell him of the hundreds of times I dialed his number and then hung up, I can’t exactly tell him point blank that I want him here because I want him with me for the rest of my life. It seems ridiculous to have invited him all of a sudden, in fact, ridiculous that I would call him out of nowhere. Except it doesn’t feel like nowhere to me, I think, not after the past tortorous weeks.
He stares at me expectantly, patient as he always is, and waits.
I swallow. “I just wanted to see you,” I finally force out.
“It’s always nice to see an old friend,” He says, the corners of his eyes crinkling. His eyes are azure blue, like cloudless sky on mid-summer’s day. How could I have walked away from those eyes? I ask myself.
“Always nice,” I echo, because I have nothing more of intelligence to say.
“I’m sorry, but have you got anything to drink?” He asks, and I resent the fact that he has to ask now, that everything is so unnatural and practiced and polite.
I point to the refridgerator numbly. “You know, I’m surprised you came,” I tell him as he moves. And glad, I add silently, so glad.
He opens my refridgerator with agile fingers, the grooves of which I know all too well. “I like to keep in touch,” He says, voice muffled as he looks through my stash of drinks. “Especially with people from college, you know? Those are the people who shape your lives.”
“The people you can’t forget,” I say, and it almost hurts.
“Exactly,” He agrees, and continues his perusal. As I get up from the table, I realize then that I’ve forgotten how much I love the sound of his voice, the low melody and rich tone. Then again, there are a lot of things I’ve forgotten.
“Ben,” I start, except my throat is so dry he doesn’t hear me.
“You always did understand that way I think,” He says, completely oblivious. He pokes his head above the door to grin at me, and my heart skips.
Suddenly, I want to hug him. And so as he stands up and turns with can in hand, my arms go around him almost devoid of will. The scratchy stubble which grazes my cheek tells me he has not shaved in days. I want to berate him for it, as I always have, but he is so close I can feel the warmth of his chest, and the words somehow die in my throat. He smells as he always does, of minty gum and spicy aftershave, a scent I’ve come to unconsciously associate with him. We stand like that for a moment, tucked into one another, neither moving, neither speaking.
“You okay?” He asks when I pull away.
“Yeah,” I say. “It’s just…I’ve missed you.” I want to tell him I love him, I want to tell him I need him, but for some reason I find myself frozen and limp, gazing at a face I long have not touched. “
There is a pause as he studies me. “You left me, remember?” He reminds me simply, without accusation, without anger.
I take his hand, gently. “Ben,” I begin, my voice barely a whisper.
And then I notice the simple gold band around his fourth finger.