In the past 2 weeks or so, I have had 3 encounters with my past. 3 people that had been waiting to re-enter my life for who knows how long, and finally Fate rung her bell and our paths crossed in the most unexpected ways.
Human encounter #1 was...a pleasant surprise. It was something I'd dreaded and at times actually properly feared, and despite being almost constantly reassured by family members and friends – real friends – I knew someday it would happen. We'd meet again, and things would be said. They would have to be. The way we left each other's lives was messy to say the least and, well, just unfinished. It left a deep and complex sadness in the pit of my stomach and a sour taste in the back of my throat. It led to me hysterically weeping on trains as they passed through that station; I would desperately scan the platform to see if by some sick twist of fate they would get on my train, and the peace that I'd worked so hard to achieve in their absence would be shattered in seconds when their eyes met mine.
Yes, I was afraid. Yes, I was unsettled. Yes.
So then when the moment, that somehow inevitable yet unexpected reunion, came about in the middle of the city one evening – when they reached for me and started the conversation that soon became riddled with timid enquiries and gentle compliments that were easily inserted but clearly heavy with sincerity...it wasn't what I thought it would be. It was nice. It was a relief. Of course, I was waiting throughout our chattering for those old feelings of hatred and rage and maybe even fear to stir inside me, for the memories of fights and screams that then subsided into outright ignoring and enormous silences, to fill me up and make me sick...but they didn't. I looked at this face, that I knew so well even after years away from it, not seeing it every morning in the kitchen or every afternoon in lectures as I once did, and I felt nothing but light and polite interest; like I would anyone else I hadn't seen since the days we spent together as students. But I also felt that much better in myself, not like a shadow of this person any more, not a supporting character. I felt cool and strong and even a little bit hot. And I felt them recognise that in me, and respect it.
I got on the tube afterwards and genuinely felt light and free and like I could just whoop with joy in this carriage crammed with strangers at 10:41pm.
Because I hadn't quite gauged the size of the storm cloud, nor the immense weight of it, that our sudden parting of ways after some dark exchanges had brought about. I almost looked up to see if the sky was any clearer above me. It certainly felt that way. Because I'd finally got my closure, and finally had questions answered that had been brewing within me for 2 years. So thank you, human #1. Thanks for reaching out. You know, I think if I'd seen you first I'd have instinctively scurried away, buried my feelings and burning questions, and then regretted it for more years.
Human encounter #2 was every bit as excellent as I wanted it to be – and knew it would be.
Human encounter #3 was the worst, but was exactly what I'd expected when I got over the initial shock at seeing their face again, in an unfamiliar environment – actually not unfamiliar at all, it was my environment, with my usual inhabitants who I've come to be so familiar with, it was just their presence that was alien and odd and unpleasant. I won't lie, my heart kicked into overdrive and my legs almost fell apart beneath me; my hands shook as I grabbed for my nearest friend to help me somehow, to save me from this hideous reminder that was staring me in the face – even though it hadn't seen me yet.
3 double whisky and gingers, drunk in quick succession and courtesy of the open bar, steeled me for any awkward conversations – they wrapped me in a fuzzy blurry blanket, tinged my cheeks pink and stretched my grin wider as I watched my friend and his wife take to the floor for their first dance to an obscure indie song.
I needn't have worried. In fact, I should have guessed. This would be an encounter if only in terms of seeing and then quietly and very deliberately not seeing. The averting of eyes and turning of backs; the division of the dance floor and careful scheduling of bar visits...it was the only way it could have gone. It was their usual tactic.
Because they are, and always were, a coward.
This in-person yet indirect encounter was still a relief. It was only when I realised that I was in the right, that I didn't need to hide behind a partner because I had a whole crew on my side (and I was definitely more of a legit guest at this party, not a plus one)...that I started to feel powerful and ecstatic and yeah, strong yet again.
And I will continue to be strong from now on. I won't be afraid of the past, of whatever comes back to me, be it in human form or just a forgotten story or even a place...I can handle it. I reckon I've got past the worst of it now. And I've smashed it every time so far.