The Light We Lost (Page 19)
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ON THURSDAY MORNING I changed my outfit four times. First I had on a dress that was loose and flowing and made my body look shapeless. I thought maybe that would be a good way to keep things platonic. But then I looked in the mirror again. I hadn’t seen you in over a year, and didn’t want you to think I’d let myself go. So I put on something tight. But then thought maybe it looked like I was trying too hard. So I changed into a pair of summer pants and a tank top. But then remembered that you liked how I looked in skirts. So I put on a pencil skirt and a sleeveless silk blouse and peep-toe heels. It was an outfit that made me feel confident and successful and in charge. I wore something like it when I had to make presentations at the office. I flat-ironed my hair and spent extra time on my bangs.
I could barely concentrate at work all day. I was supposed to be reviewing the scripts for the newest episodes of It Takes a Galaxy and had to read one of them four times before I actually knew what was happening in the show.
After work, I walked slowly to Pazza Notte. I was a few minutes early and contemplated walking around the block, but went inside instead and got us two seats at the bar. You BlackBerry-messaged me to say you were running late, which was rare for you, so I ordered myself a glass of wine. I’d drunk about half of it by the time you got there, in a whirlwind of dimples and apologies.
“It’s good to see you, Luce,” you said, wrapping me in a hug.
I hugged you back just as hard, and realized that you smelled exactly the same. Scientists say that scent is one of the strongest memory triggers we have. I totally believe it. With my face against your shirt, I was catapulted back in time.
After we separated from our hug, you looked at me for a long moment. “Just drinking you in,” you said. “You look . . . great. I like the haircut.”
I could feel myself blush. “Thanks,” I said. “You too.” And you did. In the time you were away, you’d lost a little weight and the structure of your face became more pronounced. Your hair still sprung up in curls, but they were shorter and tighter. You were tan, and the hair on your forearms had gotten blonder.
I was so caught up in the fog of you that I can’t even remember what we talked about that night. Can you? I’m sure it was my show, your work, our families. I just remember feeling wholly and completely alive. Like every molecule of my body was awake and alert and excited. Any other feelings were pushed aside, smashed down because you were there, in front of me, smiling like I was the only person who existed in the world.
I didn’t want to cheat on Darren, and I don’t think I would have, but I did find myself slightly disappointed that you didn’t try. A kiss sliding from my cheek to my lips, a hand on my thigh. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if you had. Would it have changed anything? Would it have changed everything?
Darren texted once to say hello, and I realized that knowing I was out with you wasn’t easy for him. That he was probably home and worried. What’s ironic is that he shouldn’t have been worried then. It was later he should have worried—but by then I think that me sleeping with you was probably the furthest thing from his mind. He thought I was fully and completely his. But he’s never had all of me.
A few days after I saw you, I went shopping with Kate. She’d messaged me saying that she and Tom were going away—really away—together for the first time, for ten days to Spain—and she wanted to spruce up her wardrobe.
“What do you need?” I asked her, when I got to her apartment, the one I’d once shared with her. She and Tom weren’t living together. She’d told him that she wouldn’t live with anyone unless there was an engagement ring on her finger. I couldn’t help feeling defensive about you and me when she told me she’d said that. I’d known that had always been her plan, but I’d thought she’d change her mind when she met someone wonderful. And Tom truly was wonderful—calm and caring and generous. But she hadn’t.
Kate pulled a list up on her BlackBerry. “Two bathing suits, a cover-up, and a maxidress for our time in San Sebastián and Barcelona. And maybe a pair of wedge heels I can walk in for Madrid. And I wouldn’t mind a big straw hat. Don’t you think those are glamorous?”
I smiled at Kate. “I think you’d look like a movie star in one of those hats,” I told her. “Very, um, Greta Garbo?”
She looked at me out of the corner of her eye and then we both laughed.
“You don’t have any idea what Greta Garbo’s style was, do you?” she said, slinging her arm across my shoulder.
“None whatsoever,” I told her. “But isn’t she supposed to be glamorous?”
Kate sighed. “Very. But I think you mean Hedy Lamarr. She looked stunning in big, broad-brimmed hats.”
“Oh yes, absolutely Hedy Lamarr,” I said, wrapping my arm around Kate’s waist. “So where to? Are we taking on each challenge one by one, or department store?”
“Department store,” she said, without a moment’s hesitation. “I was thinking Bloomingdale’s is closest, and then we can get that yogurt for lunch.”
Bloomingdale’s, of course, made me think of you. I’d actually avoided the store for the last year-plus, which was pretty easy since I was living in Brooklyn. But I’d decided it was time to integrate Gabe-things back into my life, so I didn’t say anything except, “Love that yogurt.”
We got there and searched through the racks for bathing suits. Kate wanted ones that would go with the Hedy Lamarr hat she had yet to purchase, so we looked for vintage styles and conservative colors. With six or seven options, we headed into a dressing room.
I sat down on a chair with the bathing suits on my lap and told Kate—actually for the first time—that I’d seen you for a drink.
“How was that?” she asked, carefully.
“Weird,” I told her. “I love Darren, I really do, and don’t doubt that. But it feels so different than it does with Gabe. I can’t tell if I just love Darren less. Or love him differently . . . Does Tom make you feel more alive when you’re with him than you do without him?”
Kate looked at me very seriously, like she was contemplating the question and how best to respond. I love that about Kate. Her words have always been fully considered, even when we were kids.
“No,” she finally said. “I feel just as alive right now, here in this dressing room with you, as I do when I’m with Tom.”
I handed her one of the bathing suits.
“I feel more alive when I’m with Gabe than I do with anyone else on the planet,” I told her. “Not to take anything away from how much I love you,” I added.
“Or Darren?” she asked.
“It’s just . . . it’s different,” I said. “And I’m worried that it won’t be enough. That what I feel for Gabe is just so monumental that nothing else will ever be enough.”
Kate pulled the bathing suit up and stuck her arms through the straps. “What do you think?” she asked, looking at herself in the mirror.
“Honestly?” I answered.
“Always,” she said.
“Honestly, I think it cuts your butt in a funny place.”
She turned around and then twisted her head to look at her back in the mirror. “Oh wow. You’re right. How strange.”
Kate started pulling the bathing suit off and said, “I was talking to my sister about relationships earlier this year, and she said something interesting.”
Did you ever meet Kate’s sister? I must’ve told you about Liz, even if you hadn’t met her. She went to Brown and is pretty much the opposite of Kate in every way someone could be an opposite—she’s incredibly creative and artistic and moved to Paris after college to work for Vogue when Kate and I were sixteen. She’s had a string of romances with men and with women, and she remains, to this day, one of the most interesting people I know.
“What did Liz say?” I asked.
“She said that she thinks of every romance she’s in as if it’s a type of fire. That some relationships feel like a wildfire—they’re powerful and compelling and majestic and dangerous and have the capability to burn you before you even realize you’ve been consumed. And that some relationships feel like a hearth fire—they’re solid and stable and cozy and nourishing. She had other examples—a bonfire relationship, a sparkler—that one was for a one-night stand, I think—but the wildfire and the hearth fire are the two that I remember most.”
“Are you and Tom a hearth fire?” I asked.
Kate nodded. “I think so. And I think that’s what I want. Safety and stability and warmth.”
“I think Darren and I are a hearth fire,” I told her, ruminating on what she’d just said. “But Gabe and I were a wildfire.”
“Yeah, I think that’s true,” Kate said.
She had a bikini on. It was red-and-white polka-dot, with a high-waisted bottom. “Oh, that looks great on you,” I told her.
She checked herself out in the mirror. “I like it!” she said, nodding at her reflection. “One down, one to go.”