See You When I See You

See You When I See You

I met him around 30 years ago. He was on the same bench where I was sitting, reading “The Catcher in the Rye” and eating a sandwich. I was crying because my favorite aunt died that morning. He handed me his handkerchief and half of his tuna salad sandwich. I hate tuna but I ate it because he was a nice guy and I didn’t want his efforts wasted.

“What’s it about?” I pointed at the book.

“Well, the book tells us how to determine phony people from the real ones. At least that’s what I think it’s about.”

“Oh ok. Anyway, I need to go but thanks for everything. See you when I see you.” I gave him a firm handshake.

We parted that day just knowing each other’s names. The next month I had to move out of the city because of a new job. I returned after 10 years because the company decided to replace me with the owner’s cousin. I went back with my husband and two daughters.

I stopped by the park for my morning walk and saw him again. He didn’t look older but he seemed leaner.  It was freezing that day. He was reading the same book and drinking coffee.

“Hey you! You really like that book, huh?” I said and sat beside him. He looked at me and smiled.

“We met years ago…” he said trying to recall. I told him I just moved back and dealing with what school to pick for my daughters. I told him my husband had a snoring problem. He talked about the biting weather and that his landlord is charging him too much. I don’t think he’s married.

“I have to go make lunch, see you when I see you!” I gave him a hug.

Two months after that, I found out about my husband’s affair and left him. My girls and I were devastated and moved to my mother’s place. We all dealt with the his absence. I got a new job and everything fell into place.

After ten years, I am back for a business trip.

Out of curiosity, I stopped by the park. I was not surprised to see him there.  Holding his rumpled copy of “The Catcher in the Rye”. But all his hair had turned gray and he was trying his best to remember me.

“You have to finish that book soon! The pages are about to turn into dust.” he laughed at this.

I told him about the divorce and that my daughters were giving me constant problems. He talked about a new coffee shop that just opened near his place but they won’t let him in after he dropped two of their mugs.

“I need to head back. Take care of yourself, ok? See you when I see you.” I hugged him longer this time and he hugged me back.

Today I am at the same park. Another 10 years have passed. I dropped off one of my daughters who is in college. He wasn’t there on the bench. My heart dropped. If you know the last line from his favorite book, that’s how I feel now.

“See you when I see you.” I muttered under my breath.

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