So often I’ve ridden alone.
Now, you are here beside me,
in the bus seat next to me.
We caught the bus early,
drinking coffee and eating donuts
in the parking lot with your parents.
Your mother chattering about
shipping your books,
offering tips on doing laundry.
Your father asking you
about which profs you’ll have,
“Simmons for hematology. No one else.
It all starts and ends in the blood.
Remember. The blood.”
Your mother looks at me
with the same arch glance
she’s had all summer.
She wants us to get married.
In their generation, we would have.
Going on as we have this summer.
Larking, lying, laughing, longing.
I’ve seen you, how your gaze follows the others.
I do love you.
For yourself, including
all of that.
You love me sincerely
I knew you did,
long before your proposal
after the country club dance.
Standing on the verandah,
tipsy on gin and tonics.
“Let’s just keep doing this,
can’t we? Always?”
I couldn’t answer.
I said you were drunk.
But you knew.
Now, as you doze beside me,
I look over at your profile,
the way your freckled nose bends,
just a little to the left.
I’ll miss it.
That and the way your sandy lashes slide low
over your gray eyes when you laugh.
I want you to become a doctor.
I want you to become who you are.
I want you to learn to love who you really love.
And not desperately, deniably, me.
But I also know that last night,
standing on the resort dock
one last time,
watching the heat lightning break across the lake
I almost said, “Yes, I will. I will. We will.”
Before I could, you gently put your sweater
across my bare shoulders,
and where there should have been a tremor of desire,
there was only your familiar, comforting smile.
So we ride to our separate futures now,
at least until Christmas.
We will get off at the airport.
You will get on your plane.
I will stand at the window,
long after your plane is gone.
Trying to understand love.