For years, a photograph had been tucked away underneath a pile of pictures that archived my college experience light years before chronicling your every move via digital cameras and iPhones became the norm. I’d randomly taken it with a guy I’d seen in passing on campus during a seemingly wild night on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I’d flipped past it a million, and though I didn’t know the guy, I’d kept it because it was a great picture of me in the prime of my youth. I was happy, and he was handsome.
I hadn’t seen him, whoever he was, since the picture was taken almost 10 years ago, but during a weekend excursion with friends, we literally ran into each other. Upon first glance, I knew it was him: the boy in the picture. As evident from those pictures stacked in old shoe boxes in my closet, I’m big on memories and nostalgia. To meet him randomly at a concert, there had to be a story here.
The years had been kind to him, and he expressed the same feelings about me. The boyish face in that photograph was replaced with chiseled features and more facial hair. His eyes were the same though—deep and hypnotic. We were no longer college kids, but adults living very different lives in different places. After a brief conversation, we exchanged numbers, which led to accepting a brunch invitation the next day. After a long night of partying, my plan was to call and cancel, but the image of us in that picture made me go.
On the patio of a small breakfast cafe, we admitted that we never really knew each other in college, but tried to catch up on each other’s lives over French toast and fruit anyway. We enjoyed each other’s company so much, that I contemplated skipping another engagement that I’d committed to attending, and that’s so unlike me.
I rarely get giddy over anything, but I looked forward to talking to the boy in the picture again even though we lived hours apart. We spoke again days later by phone, but after that, nothing. As it turned out, he’d just entered a relationship after our meeting. I had this unshakable feeling that our story wasn’t over, but I gracefully bowed out.
A few weeks later when I was still thinking about him, he called. “I’ve been thinking about you…a lot,” he said with a hint of guilt.
We began to talk, and I sent him the old picture of us. He marveled over it, saying what I thought privately: we looked like a happy couple. Perhaps, we both saw a potential love story in that, and it excited us. We continued to keep in touch even though he was involved. We told ourselves “we’re only talking, right?”
Those sporadic conversations turned into constant communication. He became a part of my day, and I, his, from early morning calls to midday check-ins to make sure I wasn’t on the verge of a mental breakdown at work to goodnight text messages. He made it clear that he was with his significant other, even though she, too, lived hundreds of miles away. I accepted it. To me, it was a game of sorts to see how much of him I could acquire. Was it right? No, but I rationalized our relationship by thinking any day he would call me and end communication because of his commitment to his girlfriend. I was fully prepared for the blow, and in some ways I secretly hoped he would to end these immoral shenanigans…