Words by Emilia O. // Photography by Amee Kim
He saw her. She still had black hair, cut just above her shoulders, “to frame my face” she always said. She still had the same ivory skin he always complimented her on when she looked into her bedroom mirror. He would stand behind her, running his hands through his thick hair and stalling time by playing with his stiff collar before train B4 arrived under their apartment. Their home smelt of vanilla and chai tea — much like her hair. There was always a lingering hint of Chinese food, though, her favorite when she got hungry late into the night. He tried to catch a whiff of her favorite perfume when she took off her coat and swung it around the back of her chair. He wondered where she bought that coat — it was nothing she had owned when she was with him, nothing she would have thought about wearing back then.
Maybe it was a gift, like the one she quietly slid under his pillow one night. He opened it the next morning to find a messy letter and a plane ticket to his parents home. She knew he missed them. And there was that one night when he cried hysterically into her arms onto that chilly bathroom floor when his mom told him goodnight over the phone. A simple “goodnight, sweetheart” broke him. Just as it did the evening when she she rang the door to his tiny apartment across the city and handed him a box of his clothes. They still smelled of his shaving cream and chai tea, no matter how many quarters he spent at that laundry mat. “Goodnight,” she said. He never realized how soft and small her voice was until that night. He never knew how much it would tear him apart at two in the morning when all he had to talk to was the night sky.
But, there she was, sitting just across the cafe from him. She had her legs crossed over each other, the heel of her left shoe kissing the ground beneath them, and he remembered her left foot was almost half an inch smaller than her right. He realized they were once again breathing each other’s air. He wondered if she knew he was filling her lungs, just before she pressed her lips onto her coffee cup. And her lips — he missed her lips. Not only against his, but he missed them when they parted late in the afternoon and she couldn’t hold her laughter back. He missed how crinkled her eyes would get after he said something he never thought could be so hilarious.
And he sat at the table, sitting uneasily in a now too hard of a chair for him and too stuffy of a room. He watched every man who came in, none sitting down at her table. How stupid of them, he thought. However, soon she left, looking anxious in her big eyes but just as beautiful as ever. He poured more cream into his cold coffee, before it started to turn it the color of their silky bed sheets they once shared.
He never knew that she saw him, too. She also poured too much creamer in her coffee that day. It reminded her of the outsides of his dark brown eyes. Those also tore her apart early in the morning and she wept to the bruised sky above around the same time he did most nights. But he never knew. He never knew.