“What If?”

It seems that as the weather is cooling down, people are looking for love and I’m getting swept up in the mix like a leaf in the wind. As I swirl around with the rest of the leaves looking for a companion, I have been crossing paths with people from my childhood. Perhaps we are reaching out because we’re hitting a point of insecurity in this growing-up business. In order to move forward we have to glance backwards over our shoulders, acknowledge what failed to come to fruition, and move on.

I met up with someone I grew up with the other day at his campus not far from where we grew up. It’s in another lovely little New England town, with rolling hills and crumbling old buildings. From certain vantage points you can see the city, but the hustle and bustle remains far away. We got hot drinks together and sat in silence for a while, before recalling irritating our teachers and my ridicious high school fashion choices. It was a blast from the past — mostly entertaining, a little cringeworthy, and romantic in the sense that we recalled the bad times as reasonably good, or at the very least a good story.

Eventually, we hit a patch of silence again. It was not an uncomfortable silence, for neither of us have ever been bothered by such things. I looked over at the man beside me, and tried to find traces of the boy I grew up with and cared for as a child. Before I could say anything, he decided to be the one to start saying things that were difficult to say. Like how he missed me when I had moved away. How he didn’t doubt that if I had stayed, we would have dated. How I was one of his biggest regrets and major “What Ifs”. How he remained fond of me after all these years, but knew that nothing would ever come of it.

Trying to change things that happened in the past is like taking an eraser to ink that has long dried. At best one can smear the edges a bit, but there is no way to alter what has already occurred. He and I went on to love other people, to get our hearts broken, and to see each other as more of a living memory than a second chance. We still have a chance to be friends or lovers as adults, but we cannot truly make up for lost time. The question that will linger in the air and remain on our lips will always be, “What If?”.

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