Walk slowly. All you can ever come to is yourself. (Middle Eastern proverb, at least according to the Reader’s Digest magazine you read it in, back when you were in middle school)
Three decades after you both graduated from that high school in the foothills, you feel a tap on your shoulder and turn to behold him, smiling, having recognized you in line. You’re back, from a thousand and more miles, to that place that you still call home, while he never left.
?? and !! and ?? and !!
And the whole time you’re smiling at each other and small-talking, a whole other conversation is taking place deep inside: that night you slow-danced together at the bar, when the drinking age in upstate New York was 18 and that’s how old you were, that summer after senior year, year of cut-offs and baby doll shirts you made by cutting up thrift-store nightgowns.
Dreamweaver on the radio. Roller skates around and around the gym on Saturday nights. Fribbles and blue cheese salads during your break at Friendly Ice Cream. Boys who pressed coins into the chocolate fudge in their sundae glasses for a tip, printed their phone numbers on paper napkins. The red Datsun pick-up that shifted like butter, that you drove up and down Glass Factory Road, Route 12, Route 274.
Sun-drenched days and long nights of crickets and mosquitoes and goodbye parties.
You were leaving soon and you would never return again for longer than a week. College for you, a carpenter’s toolbelt for him.
Now you get out your old yearbook and flip through its pages. Feathered bangs. Turtlenecks. Serious eyes, composed smiles. Walk slowly. All you can ever come to is yourself. Decades later, you would still choose the same quote, still put it beneath that photo of you standing by that tree.