Riding my bike south on the crowded trail, I avoid the darting children and dogs. The sun sparkles on the ocean, the breeze blows my hair away from my face, and I breathe in the spring air. He comes into view, standing, straddling his bike, leaning on the handlebars. Even with sunglasses I recognize his familiar squint as he rates today’s surf; a surfer always checking the waves. I pull up alongside him and without getting off my bike I lean in, put my arms around his neck and kiss his cheek. He feels and smells the same, baby soft and soapy clean. I am happy that some things never change. . . .but I am thoughtful and aware of how things must change when lovers become friends.
It’s been almost two years since he moved out, two years since he decided that he could not be the person he wanted to be if he continued to live with me. I knew he needed to go, but for different reasons. We had work to do and we needed to do it separately, on our own. I didn’t want to face that God damn loneliness, that achy awful, missing someone feeling, but he showed me how.
We struggled in the beginning, hurt feelings and misunderstandings got in the way of a new kind of us. Space, time and our separate trials and tribulations reshaped our relationship, and without talking about it specifically, we defined new boundaries. Sometimes I struggle with drawing those lines in the sand. I continue to buy him presents for his birthday and Christmas. His childlike love for gifts, and an appreciation that reveals genuine gratitude, makes giving to him a pleasure that brings me joy, pure and simple.
Riding toward the pier I tell him I am starving and I am happy to hear he is hungry too. We try a couple restaurants, but with spring break and March Madness we can’t find a place with a view. By default we end up at our old familiar spot. We sit at the bar and are welcomed by a favorite bartender who is both happy and surprised to see us. Small talk leads us to catching up on family news. We laugh a little about the cast of characters that color our lives, and talk a bit about ourselves, my writing, his snowboarding.
Between the words, I look at him. I think about how casually I would hold his hand or kiss him mid-sentence. Sitting back on my bar stool, as he leans on the bar, with my eyes I follow the curve of his spine, and I remember running my hand from the nape of his neck to the small of his back. I only go there in my mind. I respect the boundaries because he respects me, helping me to navigate the new space I have in his life. Kind and gentle, he listens more than he speaks, a trait that I admire.
Riding back, we stop at his street first. He tells me he is going to watch the surf a bit, and I linger a minute to watch with him, another hug, another kiss and a promise to not let too much time pass before we meet again. I go ahead alone and wonder about that funny space between intimacy and friendship. I am comfortable there now, acknowledging the way in which my mind works to keep me within the boundaries while my heart reminds me of a love worth preserving.
When I get to my street I stop and look out at the Pacific Ocean one more time. I think for a moment about the future, where will we be a year from now? It won’t always be this way. I stop myself, and remember to appreciate today, a lovely bike ride, on a beautiful day, and time spent with a good friend.
When I get home I text him and thank him for treating me. Then I ask, Is it weird that we see each other now and then? He responds, I don’t think so. And then I write . . . That’s all that matters. Xo