(The first part in a series of parts that I hope to continue.)
It felt strange seeing her at the airport on that first day. She was both vague and familiar, a living memory that had was gone but now present, as we walked together to the taxi stop. Maybe it was because I had become used to seeing her set against the landscape of South San Francisco on arrival days. Maybe it was because my own memories of Hong Kong were crowding their way forward.
But I knew that more simply, it was because we were no longer the same people. Heart ache and isolation had made us tough. By the time that we had softened again, we had learned how to live with knowing the things we did and how we had each hurt each other. Peaceful reconciliation always changes you for the better if you’re able to reach that.
The months between April and January were significant. First, my body changed. I put in long hours at the gym and rebuilt myself. The shoulders grew along with the arms. They became firm and leaner. 25 pound barbells became 30. 110 pounds on the chest press became 150. Every next weight was a milestone and even then, I promised myself to be better than the last one. In the beginning I was driven by my insecurities and self-loathing. I blamed myself for most things and this was a way to compensate.
Not only did my body change but so did outlook and attitude. Gone was the version of myself that stepped off the flight in Taipei and Beijing. I felt ashamed and embarrassed of that person: his in-decisiveness, his envy of others, and most of all, his self-pity. I wanted to get as far away from this as I could. Better to suffer silently and bear with it when bad luck occurs. There’s nothing you can’t work through. I adopted this attitude. Sometimes it made me harsh in how I responded to others but it was more of a response to myself and I liked it this way.
Maybe she would like me more this time now that I liked myself more.
The first day is always an adjustment period. She said it herself, “Each time I see you, it’s as if I’m meeting a completely different person.” Its true. No matter what I tell myself months ahead of time, I don’t know who I am either during the first few hours that she’s next to me. Only she does. And now she’s not here, I have to answer these questions again. She shifts me in so many ways; so much of how I am is bound up in who she thinks I am. The thought makes me a little uneasy. I’ll have to come back to this later.
What is true is that I’m happy for arrival days and I know that for the next few days, whatever troubles we’ve had would become light as if they had not occurred at all.
I remember her tired face at the arrivals gate. She had hug eye bags under he eyes and wore a long shirt patterned in a quilt of colors, mostly blue and orange, and leggings. With her hair curled now, she was more attractive than when I last saw her, even when compared to the photos that I had fantasized to many times in the time apart. Seeing her standing at the edge of the crowd gathered in front of the gate, I laughed under my breath, how foolish was I to think of not coming at all. It’s always like this. We struggle weeks and months on end, but every time, answers are so easy when they can be gotten in this way, in the flesh, in person.