He sat at the diner counter with a coffee and newspaper in hand. The restaurant was best known for it’s Family Sunday Brunch. He had waffles, bacon, sweet potatoes and coffee with newspaper in hand.
He was a lone wolf in a place packed with families enjoying their meals after the Sunday service. He perused his paper as if he had no worry in the world.
Three tables from where he was seated sat a woman with three of her children. She had on a pink floral dress, white pearl earrings and red lipstick. Her hair was a polite afro. She had dyed her hair coffee brown. She was smiling, wiping her son’s mouth, and at the same time sharing the story of David with the other two. It was funny how he could tell her voice from the rest of the chatter in the restaurant.
She hadn’t changed much, he mused. If anything, the years had been good to her. He could remember how they used to talk of having children. How she swore she wouldn’t let her body grow fat simply because she was a mother. He remembered how aggressive she would get if she wanted something, he knew her determination is what had got her where she was.
He remembered her wedding day 11 years ago. He was in Australia. He had left her behind three years back to pursue his career. He had traveled the world. He had lived among the Tiwi people, brought in revolutionary medication and education to a few children. He remembered her last email a month to the wedding. She said she missed him, but she was moving on. He was a good guy, and he, he was never around.
He tried to call her on the day of the wedding. Sally, her elder sister, picked up the phone. She said it was not a good time, said he had seven years and he chose to run away, said what he was trying to do was selfish because he would never be there for her the way she needed him to be. He said he was sorry, said he knew his timing was wrong and selfish, but she needed to know, needed to know that all his achievements were nothing without her, that he loved her and he was giving up everything to come home to her. But Sally laughed, said he never changed, and that it would always be a cycle. She said that if he truly loved her sister, he would let her go. She then hung up and turned off the phone. With the click of the phone, he had lost the love of his life.
He lowered his newspaper and looked at her. She was happy, healthy and beautiful. Deep down he wondered if he could have ever been the man she wanted, or if his needs, his dreams and his passion would come first. He wondered if he’d be the family man who took her to church and still had time to buy her flowers and bring them to family brunch every Sunday.
She was happy. This was her life, he was her past.
He paid for his meal, folded his newspaper and walked towards the exit. He walked past her, past her life, and for a moment, they locked eyes.
He smiled at her like he used to, he smiled at her and with his eyes said he was happy she was happy.
She looked at him as if she had seen a ghost, as if she was the only one seeing a ghost. Only her eyes moved with him. She couldn’t leave, she said, she couldn’t go on a roller coaster ride with him, she was happy and she was home, and she wished him well.
It was the briefest conversation he had ever had with anyone, but it meant the world to him.
As he walked out the restaurant and the sun hit his eyes, he knew it was time for a fresh start.