Eula Is Here
Bob Mason stepped into the South County Country Store to grab a coffee. He liked the down home feel of the place, a combination grocery store and coffee shop with fresh fruit and vegetables from the local farms on prominent display.
The coffee-sitting area was deserted except for a lone woman sitting at a table by the window reading a book while nursing a cup of coffee. She was wearing jeans, a simple blouse, and a South County White Sox ball cap from the Serguci League.
Bob looked at her for a long moment trying to figure out where he knew her from and then it dawned on him that it was Eula Wagner from the old neighborhood. He momentarily debated whether or not he should pretend he hadn't seen her and walk out of the store, leaving the past where it was supposed to stay, but he was a nostalgic person and he couldn't resist the urge to say hello to his former high school classmate.
"Hello, Eula," he said as he approached her table.
Eula glanced up and gave him a quick nod. "Hello, Bob."
He was flattered that she recognized him so easily.
"It's really great to see you," Bob grinned, giving her an appreciative look.
"It's been a long time," she acknowledged.
"Is it okay if I sit?" he asked.
"Sure," she said easily, closing her book and placing it on the table.
"We just had our 30th Class reunion a few weeks ago," Bob told her. "I didn't see you."
"Oh, I haven't been to one of those things yet," Eula said, rolling her eyes.
"Why not?" Bob asked, taking a sip from his coffee.
"Is there a single person I actually want to remember?" She asked. "Anybody I actually have anything to say to?"
"Me," Bob smirked.
"Yes, of course, you," Eula deadpanned.
"You were popular," Bob reminded her.
"That was high school," she said. "My family moved away and I really haven't been back since."
"You live here now?" Bob asked.
"I inherited my grandmother's house down the road a few years ago," she explained. "My marriage was falling apart so it worked out well."
"Program Manager for a Human Services agency in Springdale," Eura reported. "You?"
"I'm an executive with the candle company," he replied. "I moved from Hillsboro into a condo at Valley View Manor a couple of years ago. Just down the road," he smiled.
She nodded with understanding. "Small world," she said sarcastically.
"Surely you have some heart-warming memories of high school," Bob said hopefully.
"It was thirty-years ago," Eula replied. "I moved on."
"Aren't you even curious?" Bob asked.
She looked at him with interest. "You were always the sentimental one."
"So, we've been living in the same town for a couple of years and this is the first time our paths crossed?" Bob said with amusement.
"I saw you getting gas at Paplawski's Garage once," Eula admitted. "And another time at Brunski's Farm Stand but I waited in the car until you left."
"Why?" Bob asked, trying not to feel hurt.
"To avoid this," she said.
"What's wrong with this?" Bob wanted to know.
"You don't find it depressing?" She asked. "Utterly pathetic, perhaps?"
"No," he said truthfully. "I think it's great!"
"And what are you expecting?" Eula asked. "A sentimental walk down memory lane?"
Bob let out a sigh and he shook his head in dismay. "Geez, what happened to you?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" She asked, clearly offended.
"You were much more enthusiastic and cheerful back in the day," Bob said.
"That was a long time ago," Eula reminded him.
"I'm puzzled," Bob admitted.
"It's just a mystery to me why you're so turned off about the past," he shrugged.
"Why do you feel the need to care?" Eula asked.
Bob couldn't help but grin. "Because you don't?"
Eula frowned. "Yes, of course."
"We had fun," Bob reminded her.
"We did," she agreed.
Bob had a sedate expression on his face while Eula's face had become neutral, neither accepting or rejecting of his comments.
"Maybe it's been too long," Bob sighed.
"Probably," Eula agreed.
"Why aren't you happy to see me again?" Bob pouted.
"I'm not unhappy to see you, Bob," Eula assured him. "Maybe I'm not even surprised. I just don't think it matters all that much in the large scheme of things."
"Well, I'm happy to see you," Bob said.
"I can't imagine why."
"Because you were always important to me," Bob said. "We shared something special together, don't you think?"
She shrugged. "It was a different life."
"You mean at our age it doesn't matter anymore?" Bob asked.
"Something like that," she sighed.
"All sorts of things come to mind seeing you again," Bob said. "It's like stepping into the way back machine."
"The way back machine only exists in photographs," Eula said.
"And in our minds' eye," Bob added.
"This is who we are now," Eula said, motioning her hand back and forth between them. "The people we once were are gone, lost to history."
"I didn't recognize you at first," Bob admitted. "But then it was easy to see it was you. You were always unique in your aura."
"You mean I didn't get fat?" She asked through a squinted eye. "Even though we're looking at the distinct reality of middle age?"
"You still have the same presence you had whenever you walked into a room," Bob said. "You look wonderful," he assured her.
"Why aren't you all married with children?" Eula wanted to know.
"I was," Bob said with a heavy sigh.
"So now you're worried about your receding hair line, your expanding waist line, and you're wondering if you'll ever get laid again," Eula remarked.
Bob tried not to look offended. "You finished your coffee," he observed.
"So didn't you," she remarked.
"You want a refill?" He asked hopefully.
"No," she decided. "I've had enough."
"So, what do we do now?' Bob asked.
"Are you done talking?" She asked.
"Are you done listening?"
"Touché," Eula answered.
"Do you still act?" Bob asked.
"God, no," she said, rolling her eyes. "Not since high school."
"I did some community theater for a while after but it didn't last," Bob said. "You were always the better actor."
"I got the better parts," Eula replied.
"We had fun though, didn't we?" Bob smiled.
"Yeah, we had fun," Eula agreed.
"We're not getting any younger, are we?" Bob realized.
"Aren't you struck by the utter predictability of it all?" Eula wanted to know. "About how things played out exactly the way they should have in a logical order?"
"I didn't predict that we would be middle aged divorcees when we saw each other again," Bob sighed.
"We deal with our problems that come and go in our lives," Eula said. "We can't escape the ups and downs of our existence."
"I suppose," Bob sighed.
"Do you want to see my house?" Eula asked suddenly, standing from her chair.
He was caught by surprise. "Er, yeah, sure," he said nervously, standing as well.
"Follow me," Eula replied, heading for the exit.