I met an old lover in a pizza parlor and I was glad to see him again. We talked about old days and sundries over a few beers and it was very pleasant. As we talked, I studied his face. It’s been many years since we had been together and he’s quite gray and a little wide in the forehead. Even his eyebrows have greyed. On the whole, he looked a bit unkempt and stubbly. He was still thin but his body was soft. If I did not have an overwhelmingly affectionate regard for him, I’d say he looked quite scruffy. But his smile was as sweet as ever and his laugh, familiar. His general demeanour has become more serious and somewhat somber. Even when I made some crack, he gave it some consideration before acknowledging it was a joke.
He has done well and is a well regarded author. I heard him speak the other day. He had a very pleasing style that sounds simultaneously authoritative and self-effacing with a gentle humour. I don’t remember him being so casually eloquent or quite so fluid and seamless in his word and phrase selection. When we talked about his recent accolades, he confessed to a sense of surrealism about it all. While we were talking, I felt a growing sense of almost relief that the things about him that had once attracted me were still fundamentally there. However, it did intensify my pervading feeling of ordinariness by comparison.
In the past few years, I’ve met a few of my exes. To me, they each seem to have left a mark on the world – “made it” in some fashion or other and not just in their own minds. And to a man, each one caused a deepening of a sense of mediocrity and a kind of failure in me. As though I alone failed to grasp at the chance that was extended our way. As if to say that it this sense of inadequacy I was trying to compensate for by dating them. To imply that in order for them to be outstanding, I had to provide the ordinary foil. Ugh.
Rationally, I realize that success comes in many formulas. Comparisons, though inevitable, rarely acknowledge the value of what you actually have and instead, discount and dismiss. I have much that is precious and treasured. My skills and expertise are in areas that seem so domestic and everyday. They give me a lot of satisfaction. But, I wish they were somehow more glamorous and unusual. I wish I didn’t hear a hint of patronage when hearing these listed. I wish I were envied and admired instead. I wish I didn’t feel so average.
We parted with a hug and a promise to meet in a while. Fleetingly, I thought about the last time we’d lain together weaving fantastical futures untethered by reality. It was uncomplicated. When I drove off, it was with a sense of heaviness that took me a few days to shake off.
Still unexceptional after all those years.