I'm not quite sure how long we sat there across from each other. All I knew was that my butt was seriously starting to hurt and my brain was buzzing from trying hard not to return his gaze. I started to shift my position when it became clear that my bare skin had become stuck to the vinyl of the beat-up red booth. Wincing, I ripped my legs fast from the seat. "Just like ripping off a band-aid," Dad would say, "fast and all at once." And then we'd see who could do it the fastest. Giggling and squealing like the little girls we were.
"What is it?" he demanded softly, snapping me out of the wave of nostalgia.
"What are you talking about?"
"Your eyes--they changed. Like you were remembering something. Something that made you happy."
"It's impossible not to remember in this town." I replied. Everywhere I went something reminded me of her. Autumn was the worst with it's apple cider, mountainous leaf piles, and school starting. I remembered this one time--
"You're doing it again," he playfully warned me while tugging on at my hair, laughter in his eyes. But then suddenly his voice became softer and serious. "You know, it's okay to remember. They're part of who you are. Your past. She wouldn't want you to forget."
"It's just impossible to get on with my life when I'm constantly reminded of life before--before... it happened. Before, when there wasn't an after. Only tomorrow." As a rule, I generally didn't talk about what had happened. But on the rare occasion I did, I picked at my hangnails and avoided eye contact at all costs.
But the silence was too long, curiosity got the better of me and I looked up. I was expecting him to be looking at me with sympathy or pity, searching for the right words to "comfort" me. He knew me too well, though. He knew that's not what I needed, nor wanted. He just gravely, steadily gazed back at me. Saying nothing, but giving me exactly what I needed. He was simply there. And that was enough.