Monday, May 30, 2011
Of Past Crushes and Swimming Pools
It's a calm Saturday night and our friends Kayla and Matt have invited Sandy and I to join them at their place for dinner. As we count down the numbers along their street I'm struck by how surreal this moment is.
It was seemingly forever ago that I first met Kayla. I was a young man with his whole life ahead of him, she was a few years younger and, as a friend of my brother's, off-limits. This was never established verbally but rather self-imposed, because although there was nothing beyond friendship between them I secretly hoped there would be. Hoping against the attraction I felt towards her.
Time passed and we lost touch, I eventually met and married Sandy.
I vividly recall my reaction when I turned and saw her standing before me once more at my brother's wedding last Fall. Later that night my sister in her inebriated glory would announce in front of Kayla, her husband and my wife the crush I used to have on this girl. A crush that until then had been neatly folded and kept in a little box, tucked away in some dusty corner in the mist of time for almost twenty-five years. K was completely unaware. Months later we would discuss it briefly, then never again. Not much needs to be spoken, that was then and this is now.
Visiting Kayla and Matt is like stepping into a different world, so far removed from the surroundings in which I recall seeing her as a girl on the cusp of her adult years. The house is beautiful. The property is beautiful. The cars are beautiful. Later on in the evening she confesses an extreme uneasiness and guilt over it all. She comes from a modest upbringing and seemingly will never be completely comfortable with the life they have built together and worked so hard for. I casually tease her about how pretentious she seems and she's all over me for it, mortified at the thought of being seen as flamboyant.
"Really? You think so?"
"No Kayla, I'm kidding," I grin. She is by nature humble, always has been.
Her son and mother show up briefly for dinner and I smile as I watch them all interact. I never envisioned this girl I knew as a teenager having children of her own. Soon the four of us are alone again, joking and singing "Munumuna" by the Muppets and trying our hand at hoola-hoops in the foyer. We're all unsuccessful except for Kayla, whose belly-dancing experience I feel gives her an unfair advantage. Her smile recalls memories of days half a lifetime ago.
After a meal of barbequed chicken, vegetables and bumble-crumble pie with French vanilla ice cream we all adjourn outside and sit around the fire pit. Kayla announces she's going into the pool and returns in her swimsuit, Sandy and Matt elect to stay by the fire and chat so I get changed and join her in the water. It's heated to 85 degrees and is very inviting, wonderful. We race each other to the end, splash like kids and see how long we can sit on the bottom of the deep end. Steam rises off the pool in the cool night air as we keep afloat and talk about everything we can think of. Our spouses continue their chat, sitting beneath oversized umbrellas to keep off a light drizzle that has begun to fall. The faint din of their conversation carries on the breeze above our heads. Kayla points out how much the raindrops look like diamonds as they dance and shimmer on the still surface of the pool, I can't help but agree.
"Bet you didn't think a year ago you'd be doing this," she smiles.
Do I regret not ever expressing how I felt towards her in my earlier years? No, not at all. 'We' weren't in the cards, I never would have given her what she wanted, a family. Because I never wanted this for myself. This is one of those things in life that become evident years later, things that bring you one step closer to what you are meant for. In this case, my relationship with Sandy. Matt's good for K, I watch them together and honestly believe she couldn't have done any better. It warms my heart to see her happy.
Some feelings in life dissipate, gradually evaporating so that others may take their place, others are sculpted and shaped like clay with experience and time. These emotions change on their own or will be moulded by our heart into something more easily held . What I originally felt for Kayla has mellowed from attraction to affection, and it's not lost on me as we talk how rare it is to rekindle a friendship after so much time has passed.
I gaze over at Matt and Sandy, enveloped in darkness except for her face, framed with the umbrella and the fire's glow. How I love that girl. And it occurs to me that sometimes, just maybe, we really can have it all.
*names have been changed