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One Day
Robin Black
In another life, he might have been my love.

One Day William James
In another life, he might have been my love.
This is the thought I have each time I ring up his purchase and he offers me some cash.
In another life, he might have been my love.
In this life, I already have a love. A husband. A man to whom – and with whom - I make love. He is good and strong and his name is Jim. He has brown hair and he has brown eyes. And he isn’t dull or bad tempered or humorless or anything at all that would ever lead me to wander. He forgives me what I cannot be – religious, fastidious, thin. He forgives me all that and loves me with a quiet - but not a weak - love. He would die for me, I know. And I for him. I love him too. That much.
Still. In another life I could have loved this other man. I understood that the moment my gaze first drifted onto him, browsing through the shelves of books - in the section marked Philosophy, that first day. Pulling down this volume and then that, searching seemingly for something. Something specific, I was sure.

In another life it could have been for me – I could interrupt him and I could be what he has been looking for. I would be. And I could offer to his gaze the kind of smile that means so, so much more than anything like a regular, every day smile. A smile that transcends humor, transcends mirth - transcends those muted messages with joy.

I smile at Jim whom I do love – I smile several times each day - and there is a wonderful joy to that. I know joy, with Jim. Joy with Jim is the warm release that spreads through me, relieving anxieties that may or may not yet have been entirely felt. Joy with Jim is standing together hand in hand atop the years we have weathered and the ones we have delighted in. The births, the deaths - the meals out and movies seen. Joy with Jim is the ever thickening volume of parchment thin pages - our shared memories. Ours alone. The fact that when my fingertips touch his back, I feel the thousands, thousands, thousands of other times that I have touched him there. My own fingerprints upon him, the patina of our love. Joy with Jim is the absolute certainty I feel about loving him.

Still. In another life I could have loved this man who wanders through the Philosophy section once or twice a week. The man who always buys something - though to me the purchases look last minute, hasty, and not like what he came in here to find. One day Nietzsche. One day William James. One day Aristotle. It makes no sense to me – except to believe that he cannot locate what he wants.
He pushes the book across the counter and he gazes, seeking still, exactly as he hunted through the books. But I am severe with him. I am unfriendly to this man. I do not smile at him. The face he finds is unwelcoming, impatient and remote. I will not smile at him - because that expression is for another life. The smile I would give this man whose secret I have guessed. This man whose love I could be - would be - in that other life.

© Robin Black

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