“You’re just not using enough,” She says in the same rough way she says most things to me. Years ago, I would snapped back with something rougher, but years ago she would never have taken the can to help, as she does this morning.
After I close my eyes, she unloads the can into my hair, pressurized ammo that chills my scalp. Between long blasts, she runs her fingers through my hair, working the product in. “You gotta really get in there,” she says, after one last spray.
I open my eyes and catch my breath. “So?” I ask. “How does it look?”
She shrugs. “Better,” she says. I don’t believe her. But we’ve spent enough time lingering in her best friend’s white, bright kitchen. I have a train to catch.
We eat omelets fat with feta cheese and bacon and onions and peppers in the diner of our shared childhood. They’ve torn down the façade outside to update it, but indoors is still the same. Turquoise vinyl banquettes, mirrors arching around the edges of the ceiling, neon signs sputtering above the bar. It’s all nostalgia, alive and breathing.
“They’ll change this next,” Kate says, knowing what I’m thinking.
The next time we’re both home together—neither of us knows when that will be or if we’ll be getting along still—this place will be gone. Places move on without you, is one of the first lessons I learned as an adult.
We leave, tipping generously. Every waitress reminds me of our mother, and I leave my guilt behind in 5s and 10s.
There’s dirt under my fingernails, yesterday’s deodorant still in my armpits. Mica from beach sand glitters my feet. Yesterday, we drove to Hammonasset and spent the afternoon standing ankle-deep in the calm Atlantic. We talked the way we both have always wanted to talk, we laughed easily and shared ourselves with each other. I’m grateful that sometimes people don’t move on without you. That they pause and look back and wait for you to catch up.
I sip cold brew on the Metronorth after Kate drops me at the station. The train hurries. I watch through the window as the green slips away, watch as concrete and metal replaces it, watch as the city builds itself, mile after mile after mile. It’s a subtle shift, one that builds so gradually you’ll miss it, if you aren’t looking for it.