I saw you there, on that warm day of June, standing in the doorway of the kitchen store. You were not an apparition of my long and distant past, but neither were you truly yourself that afternoon. You wore another face in place of your own. Just like you appeared to me all those years ago, a convincing disguise, clothed not as the man you were, but as the person you wanted others to believe you could have been. Twenty five years flew by like five flipping minutes, and there you were again, another town, another face, an older face this time.
You looked right at me on that flaming hot day, the heat making you sweat. Or was it the sight of me standing there looking back at you, that made your cheeks burn pink with embarrassment?
I knew in an instant it was you. Just because your hair was a different colour and your clothes had changed, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t know you. I’d know you anywhere. You can’t change your eyes, I saw them instantly identify mine.
And if by any chance it wasn’t you, if I somehow saw you reflected within another man, why would a total stranger, someone I’d never met, look at me with surprise all over his face…. if I had not been her, the one he used to know? You swiftly turned, walked as far away from me as you could, to hide that face of yours, hoping I wouldn’t acknowledge your presence. You don’t miss much do you? Well, there’s something you should know…. I never miss anything.
I’ve known who you really are for twenty years. Saw your face in a magazine…. music man, or perhaps I should say…. magician. Of course the name under your picture was a different one to the name you had all those years ago. You didn’t tell me your real name, or ever mention you were quite nifty fingered on the ebony and ivory, or that you could play an entire symphony or sonata straight out of that beautiful mind.
Your old record collection we played; you forgot to show me the albums that were yours…. the ones with your face on the cover. Stunning musical arrangements that came from your own nimble hands, all hiding in the grooves of vinyl, just waiting to be spun on the record deck. But my ears never got to hear that music, because for some reason you didn’t want me to know the real man.
I’ve always loved the sound of the piano, and even at nineteen I was into classical as much as pop. I wonder what our conversations would have been full of, if you had known that? Instead, we just chatted about trivialities of life, danced and laughed to cheap and cheerful hits of the 60′s and 70′s. A few short weeks later, you were gone. Vanished, like you had been nothing but a young girls fantasy.
Five years on, the features of your face still etched into my mind, suddenly appeared on the page of a magazine. There you were…. your big dark eyes looking back at me. Bet you didn’t think the girl would grow up to be sharp eyed, and flicking at speed through a boring magazine one day, would notice your face. That she’d realise the musician in the tiny picture and the memory of a face she used to know, were the same man. This girl loves a mystery, but mysteries must be solved.
Like I said, I don’t miss anything. It’s all that Scooby Doo I watched as a child, lounging on the sofa in my pyjamas on holiday mornings, eating Weetabix from a bowl on my lap, trying not to spill it. Always loved the way they uncovered the masked villain at the end of the show. Taught me a lot about life, that little cartoon. And I’ve kind of done that, watching those You Tube videos of you and your talent, unmasked the man I thought I’d known.
Perhaps it’s not so great, it might just be the way it shines bright from my computer screen. When I’m sitting there in my PJs with my feet snug in my comfy slippers, with my nowhere life waiting for a small change and a hot cup of tea in my hand trying not to pour it over me, watching you, like a wide eyed curious cat.
They do say, all that glitters is not gold. So maybe you are not the golden boy I could easily think you are. You have travelled the whole wide world, but inside, well…. you’re just a man, like any other. And that would be good. I’d be relieved to find you are ordinary, a regular man, the boy next door, as you appeared to me twenty-five years ago.
I could have walked right up to you in the kitchen store, and brightly said…. Hello! But I thought you’d deny you had ever known me, considering you were not yourself that day. I wasn’t going to give you the privilege of turning me into an idiot, someone who can’t remember who she remembers. Instead, I walked right behind where you stood, and stared at the back of your head. It was a whole thirty seconds at least, and you never once turned round. You knew I was there…. didn’t you?
Just before I changed my mind and words came out of my mouth, I left. Walked right past all those baking trays, frying pans and rolling pins, out the door as fast as I could, because anything else would have been foolish. I mean…. why would we want to rake up all those years…. to talk about what exactly? That we knew each other for six weeks. Did we? Not know in the real way, or even the Adam and Eve biblical way. So I walked, before I said something stupid and ruined the day.
Outside, on the pavement, the traffic roared, my eyes quickly scanned a shopping list for where to go next, thoughts rushed in, urging me to go back. It was a brilliant opportunity, to finally tidy up the mystery of you… wasn’t it? But the other half of me, the sensible half, wouldn’t agree. Said it wasn’t wise…. leave it…. leave the past.
I wonder if we’ll meet again, you know…. in a shop on a bright sunny day in June. Or maybe we’ll pass each other in the middle of the road, or find ourselves travelling in the same train. Got a feeling we probably will, in another moment when we least expect it. Life is like that, strange things happen. But if we do find each other eye to eye again, it won’t be me that made it happen, and probably not you either. It will just be one of those stupid little coincidences.
If it does, I wonder if you will you ever be who you really are, stand in front of my eyes as the man you could have been. Unafraid. Bold as brass. Dressed in your own skin, and tell me about your wonderful life. It would be great to meet the real you, have the courage to speak, to say, “Hello…. the girl hasn’t forgotten, it was a good little moment in time, all those years ago…. piano man!”
Picture: Jamille Queiroz (Unsplash)