There was snow. That was the most startling bit, though I didn't realize at the moment. It was like movie snow – the soft fluffy flakes that are procured through use of potato flakes, quite unlike the real, wimpy snow that falls haphazardly and melts the instant it touches anything solid. A very majestic feel was in the air. Perhaps not so much majestic, but it certainly had a magical air to it, the kind that felt surreal and beautiful. In fact, the scene itself was so beautiful. My mind couldn't help but procure the memory of Chloe, the day I let her talk to you and she made you promise not to say anything to me about it. "She'd really love it if you kissed her in the snow," she had said, and for the briefest moment, I wondered, in this scantily cloaked winter wonderland, if you would. Kiss me in the snow, I mean. I stepped outside and you followed me in a small herd of people and suddenly, as if waiting for some unknown cue, down came the snow, floating gracefully and falling. A few flakes tucked themselves against my hair and instead of melting, sat there happily, like on a television, the way I used to imagine I looked in the snow.
Somehow, the magical feeling remained even when the first snow ball hit my back. I'm not sure if I cried out or laughed, but I know I whirled around and you had that innocent shrug, coking your left shoulder higher than the right, eyes glancing up in the same direction with that "I-Know-I've-Been-Caught-Being-Naughty" innocent smile that children wear when someone catches them right after the act. And of course I didn't get upset. Bending down, I scooped up my own ball of snow and tossed it at you. It didn't hit you that time. Suddenly we, all of us out there, were throwing snow, laughing, and jumping on each other. Cries came out as we were hit and battle calls were yelled.
And it was during that moment that the first pang hit me – the pang of missing you and us. All the fantasies I'd created during our time together were rushing back to me, especially the ones that involved the snow. But I'm great at acting now, thanks to you, and I was able to pretend and cover it up. I masked my anguish with a smile and a great aim, finally landing a perfectly round snowball to the side of your head. You whirled around and looked at me, not really blankly, perhaps shocked and I imitated your innocent shrug. Before I knew what you were doing, though, you were running at me. With a cry, I turned, laughing, and began to run, but we all know that you can't run in the snow and a few feet away, I hit an icy patch. It didn't matter – you'd already caught up with me and when you grabbed onto me and I fell, you came down with me.
I was laughing and it took me a brief second to realize that you'd toppled atop me and suddenly our bodies were pressed together, like back then, in your bedroom, all those many nights ago, and I couldn't help but wonder, again, if you were going to kiss me. It was silly for me to have wondered, because it was you who came to my house late that night to deliver that awful message and who sat with me and held me while I cried, even though you no longer had that obligation. "Let's remain friends," you told me in earnest. "I still care about you. Just… in a different way." And then I sobbed and you held me and played with my hair in a way that only made the hollow ache worse.
But friends we remained. I see you everywhere, still, and I don't always feel so numb about it. And there are those days that we hang out, or you come over to my room and we sit and listen to music and sing, like we used to. We just don't hold hands or cuddle or kiss anymore. I try not to miss it, too, because I can survive without hand holding and cuddling and kissing. After all, I did before and I'm still alive now. However, it still feels strange to see you and not be twined with you or curled up to you. Still, I deal, because I'm strong and I don't need you. At least, that's what I tell myself every night.
Yet, here were and you were on top of me and our faces were hardly inches apart, your spearmint scented breath mingling with my panting and I couldn't help but wonder – couldn't help but hope – you were about to kiss me.
But then you pulled back, laughed and rolled off me and the moment was broken and I swatted at you with my numb, red hands. With you, I laughed and then scooped a handful of snow and opened my hand to let it fall on your face. Sputtering, you sat up and in a swift instant had me flipped and pushed back into the snow, laughing.
I jumped up after you, but another snow ball whizzed by me and I whirled to face my attacker, reentering a war that wound up lasting us a good hour, before we were all soaked, with red faces and runny noses and trudged back into the diner for hash browns, hot chocolate, and a palette of cheesy fries.
You slid into the booth after me. Keeping up with appearances? And I smiled and acted nonchalant about it, batting my lashes at your friend across from me, the one who always had his arms around me and was tickling me whenever you turned away. I didn't really like him like that and you wouldn't have minded, I don't think, but it was fun and he still filled me with a weak substitute for that warm, fuzzy filling that you used to fill me with. But at that moment, I was willing to get my fix wherever I could, even if it was frivolous, meaningless flirting with your best friend. Because I knew you wouldn't mind and he wouldn't move and it was all a harmless joke that always made me feel a smidge better than I did when I was around you. You only served to remind me that I wasn't good enough.
"We aren't right for each other," you'd told me as you explained to me just why you were breaking up. And though I think you meant it – that we were still amazing together and that you still care for me and that we still had something special, we just didn't match the way you'd imagined we did, I still couldn't help but feel rejected and below par, as if I could have changed one thing to be right for you. That was three months ago and I still missed you. I still hoped that you would change your mind and show up at my door, admitting you were wrong and telling me how much you'd missed me (it, of course, wouldn't compare to how much I'd missed you) and I'd jump into your arms and we'd kiss. Maybe it'd be raining, just for dramatic effect. You always told me I was dramatic in a cute kind of way.
There I sat, giggling at a cheesy pick-up line your friend was jokingly using on me, coyly flirting back and you were making looks of mock horror and suddenly, your arms were around me, pulling me to your chest and you were declaring "My ex-girlfriend! You can't flirt with her!" in a manner that I knew was full of jest. What you didn't realize, at least I hope you hadn't, was the way I stopped breathing when you did this and it took me a few seconds to recover enough to shake free and flip my hair at you.
"Well, he's awfully cute," I teased and you scrunched your face in play anger.
"My friend. My ex-girlfriend. They don't mix."
I hated the way you referred to me as "ex-girlfriend." Couldn't you have just said "my friend"? Or even, you know, not mentioned it? It stung and tasted acidic and so very bitter. But I wouldn't let you see this, because my game was to never let you know.
"If my public wants it…"
"I will eat your hashbrowns."
"You wouldn't dare!"
"I'll drink your hot chocolate, too!"
"Oh NO! Anything but the chocolate!"
"You can't hog her," your friend interjected, interrupting our silly banter.
I batted my lashes.
You pretended to seethe.
I don't remember much of the conversation that followed. We spoke politics (and I made a point to rile you up, now that we weren't dating anymore, I was free to provoke you all I desired) which transitioned to a discussion of the bible and religion and our table declared ourselves the Lost Wanderers of the Agnostic Age, which made little sense, but what else does? Somehow this lead to a discussion of music (I think you mentioned that one Christian-punk band which reminded me of that one rock band you wanted to see in concert) and before I knew it, the snow was falling again, our hot chocolate refilled for the third time and half of the group was clearing the booths around us and taking off.
Eventually, you and I were one of the remaining five, and I knew I'd better get out before anything became too awkward.
I excused myself but you shook your head and simply stated that no, you were not moving and that I had to wait. It took me five minutes of insisting before you relented and I can't figure that out. Did you not want me to leave? Were you just trying to be stupid and childish and not move because I wanted so? Perhaps you were merely trying to joke with me?
It confused me and made me feel sick with longing and nostalgia, because lonely nights later, I still missed you, even if we weren't right for each other. You still felt right. The hole you left was still filled by the missing piece you ran off with, if only for those brief moments.
We walked to the door together, you just a bit behind me, and I adjusted my scarf before walking outside, which did me no good, because as we stepped back into the growing snow, you gave a tug on my scarf that upset the nice, intricate wrapping I had done in concentration on not concentrating on you. And when I turned to you, I noted how the signs of our snow war had begun to be covered by the heavily falling snow. Soon, no sign would remain and the area would be smoothed over by fresh snow, our memories blanketed, the way you preferred them.
"You okay?" you ask, in that tone you used to use when telling me good-bye – the remorseful tone that read longing and promised to miss. And I shivered. I'm sure you thought it was the cold as you tipped your head the slightest, watching me with your ever persistent eyes.
"Of course." My reply was voiced in a false cheer that sounded nothing like me, but I flashed you a brilliant smile to cover.
"Let me know if anything… ever bothers you, okay?"
And before I had chance to reply, you were pulling me into a hug, holding me against you for a long time, as the snow swirled around us. I felt as though I was in a snow globe, one of those cute little ones that had thick snow and glitter swirling around. The hug was probably no more than a minute. Two was a push.
And you pulled away a little, but still held me at my shoulders.
And our faces were only inches away, again. Like in the snow.
And again, like in the snow, I couldn't help but wonder. Are you going to kiss me?
I wanted you to kiss me.
I knew better.
But I wanted you to tell me you were wrong and that you needed me and missed me and apologize for being so stupid and for going these three months, pretending everything was okay. And I knew I was silly for thinking such things and for not getting over you and the tears brimmed and I had to pull away.
"Yeah," I promised in a lie. "I'll tell you when I need help."
Friendship with you is the hardest thing I've ever encountered and I'm still working at it. Sometimes, it feels impossible. As if you and I will forever have these moments and my heart will keep racing and hoping and my mind will continue having these silly thoughts.
But as I walked away that night, I paused to bend down, pick up a scoop of snow, and turn to you. Through blurry eyes, I spotted you, about to walk back into the diner, and the snow ball hit you in the back.
And I knew that eventually, things are going to be okay.