We never said the words. Not really, though perhaps they were oft implied before the changes. On my part I was a tongue-tied teenager back then too afraid of the words to give voice – too torn by the “What ifs” which may come should words find wings and too terrified by the darker what ifs imagined should they rise.

Seems silly now to still look back after all these years. Time is not a set of revolving doors which allow us to move one way and then the other on a whim. It is a cruel conveyor belt on which we all stand and which heads only in the one direction. Oft the conveyor belt seems to carry us too fast when we’d wish it to to go slower and too slow when we’d have it go faster.

Your conveyor belt carried you one way and mine went the other. Over time nations would rise and fall between us like the tides, seasons would move from happy to sad and back again and babies would be born, find voice and take first steps upon their own conveyor belts. I’d still occasionally catch myself wondering whether your memory of me was viewed through rose tinted glasses, faded through far foggier lenses or lost entire, scattered asunder across distant shores.

What if the words had been said and replied with words their equal? What if we’d been strong enough to not need the words – to just know? What if we’d waited? What if there was never a we but just a solitary “I” thinking fondly of you and only imagining that you felt the same? Over time many a what if have been dumped from on high upon the other, so many that I could not possibly tell you now which is the most likely.

If you saw me now you may not even recognise my face and I cannot guarantee that I would know yours. Lines have gradually grown across our faces, hairlines have retreated as if fleeing from those lines beneath and our eyes now carry far more of the world’s weights within them than we once knew. Given nothing else to go on I cling to the one picture I have of you – a now crumpled photo placed in a frame far too late and one thing I do know for certain is that you would not look that way now.

They say that regrets make a fool of us and if so then colour me a fool. For as words still sit tangled and tortured on my tongue and you lie who knows where, the “What ifs” are all that I have. Well, what if?

Copyright © 2015 Philip Craddock. All rights reserved.

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