Present Tense
written: 9:48 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 03, 2010

She remembers what it was like when he was a familiar stranger. Before they were due to meet again, she felt a nonchalant curiosity to see how he'd turned out after all those years, if he was still the ineffable poker-faced boy with the bird nest atop his head that she remembered.

He saw her again wearing a white sleeveless dress scattered with wild prints all over. She looked visibly tanner; visibly thinner; visibly hotter.


When they started meeting by themselves they talked about their exes. My ex smoked like a chimney, she said, and I went home with the stench of cigarette smoke all over my clothes, in my hair.

He said, My ex liked branded goods. We didn't have much to talk about.


He's familiar now, no longer strange. When she looks at his face, close-up, his nose almost touching hers, she's taken aback by the current of emotions that sweeps over her. Once she fought the undertow, afraid of being sucked uncontrollably into the unknowable expansiveness of the ocean. The last time she tried to stay afloat she nearly drowned. Even her advanced swimming ability couldn't save her.

But when he holds her close to him after a protracted argument, wanting her for all that she is, wanting her flawed heart, she knows that this time, it's different.

And so she stops struggling, and let herself get swept away by the undertow, trusting that he'd be there to help her stay afloat.


My ex, she told him, never once told me he loved me.

She wonders if those words would change. She wonders if she'd one day be saying something different to someone else - someone new. My ex had no interest in Europe. My ex was always late. My ex didn't like the things that I like, and liked the things that I didn't like.

But why only the bad things? What about the good things? My ex never bought me a card; he drew me all of them. My ex did things that he didn't want to do because I wanted to do them, and he was happy making me happy. My ex was the best boyfriend ever.

She looks at his sleeping form next to her - buried under his comforter, his eyes shut, looking peaceful like a newborn baby. She knows that she loves this boy - that there is no one else, no ghost from the past, premonition from the future; just the present, the here and the now.

And so she can only say: My ex and I broke up so that we could pave the way to you - to you and me.

She turns off the light, slips under the comforter and snakes her arm around his waist, and they fall asleep, side by side.

before sunrise // before sunset

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