My maternal grandma’s palms are so calloused that when she’s cooking on firewood, and one glowing ember strays from the flame, she picks it up and puts it back in the fire. Sometimes she even squeezes a red hot coal between her knotted fingers - as if to feel for its temperature! I tried that stunt one day and the resulting burn was too painful to describe, yet I hadn’t even raised the coal yet.
That’s the kind of unexpected shock that jolts me whenever I run into The Ex. Long absences convince me that I am truly over her, until I trick myself that I have forgotten. But a single chance meeting resurrects swarms of butterflies in my stomach. Her inscrutable expressions upon spotting me don’t give anything away.
Usually when we meet it’s around five pm; I’m rushing to the soccer pitch and she’s walking from work. It’s plenty awkward. The eyes are the window to the soul, but staring contests are not my forte. In the spirit of stoicism, much goes unsaid. Every sort of uncertainty breeds in the nuanced tones of voice, to say nothing of undetected residues of resentment over ancient grievances. The dialogues are nothing to write home about - perfunctory greetings immediately succeeded by relieved goodbyes.
When we part I go my way unsettled, with my thoughts profoundly disturbed. I wish I could effortlessly pick up my hot embers too.