"Look," he said, pointing over my shoulder at the TV mounted on the wall. "The Pope just died."
I turned to look at the TV to find the news scrolling across the bottom of the screen.
"Would you look at that," I said, turning back to face him. "Now, we're bonded by history; whenever anyone asks you where you were when the Pope died, you'll think of me."
He laughed and looked into the neck of his LaBatt Blue bottle, swirling the remains of his drink in the bottom.
"That's true," he said helplessly. "I'll be able to say 'When the Pope died, I was contemplating breaking off my engagement.'"
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. His wedding date, now seven weeks away, normally sat parked awkwardly between us - As big and obvious as a Buick, but still a subject best left unaddressed and tiptoed around. Today, it was all we could think of.
"How did you do it," he asked me sincerely. "How did you break up with David?"
I thought back to the series of conversations that lead to my terminated engagement back in 2001. On April 26th, we decided to call off our June 3rd wedding.
"I didn't do it." I told him. "He got scared. He told me he wasn't sure he was ready to get married, and I agreed." I stirred my alcoholic coffee with the small straw in the mug. "It was a mutual decision, for the most part. But I'll tell you this: If he wouldn't have said anything, I'd be married right now."
He looked around the restaurant. "It's just so hard. How do you know...How do you make that kind of decision?" He wasn't asking me for the answers, he was asking himself out loud.
"I don't know." I said, unable to look at him and unsure of what to say. "You don't, I guess. Sometimes it's just easier to let life carry you than to slam on the brakes and make that choice."
Our eyes met. "Exactly," he mumbled.
"I understand. I really do."
We had chosen a seat right next to the window, overlooking a lake. The same seat, in fact, we had chosen four years ago. And the last time we were there, I was the one with the wedding date looming. I stared out at the half-frozen lake, huge pellets of rain slamming into thin ice, wondering if it would always be like this: Would we always be unavailable to one another?
"So I have to ask you," I said, "why are you here?" I opened my arms to encompass the restaurant, the area chosen in the interest of discretion, me.
"Because I can't say goodbye to you."
There it was. The one thing we were both sure of: The inability to let each other go.
"I keep hoping every time we meet," he continued, "that whatever this is - this connection or whatever you want to call it - between us, will go away. But it never does."
I knew exactly what he meant. I knew, sitting there, that he wouldn't call off his engagement. I had no delusions that he would go home and tell his fiancée that he wasn't ready for his impending matrimony. But I also knew that a gold band on his finger wouldn't keep us from talking; it may not even keep us from meeting. There's just something about him that I can't pull away from. The way I feel utterly confident in his presence, yet still as giddy as a schoolgirl. Around him, I feel smart and beautiful and completely understood. I may never understand why we didn't really date, but I've never questioned his intentions or the way he feels for me.
"Well, the Pope died, and Northeast Pennsylvania my wash away in a flood...God's trying to tell us something," I said.
"Oh sure, on the one day we actually meet up, it looks like the world might be ending, and you think it's a sign we should be together."
"I didn't say what God's trying to tell us, I just said He's trying to tell us something. Besides, the world's not ending, silly. I haven't seen a single locust, much less a plague of them."