I stood there for a minute, and I almost didn't make myself known to Taylor. It was odd--those feelings you have again that you think are lost to you--he always made me a bit nervous. I'm not sure if it was because all those years ago I "fancied" him, or perhaps it was just because it's been a long time since I have seen him at all. Back then, Taylor was working security at the theatre, but as I waited outside of the bathroom for my best friend's mother, I saw him ripping tickets and directing people to their movies. I felt a lump in my throat. Do I say something? Would it be strange?
I bravely made my way over and said "hey" in the most vague way possible. I've always been awkward, I suppose. Taylor looked at me and smiled and said "hey" back. It sounded like him. He just had a way about him--very quick but very genuine. He could multitask at a quick pace. The next five minutes or so were spent with his rapid conversation about movies I have seen, movies he wants to see and movies that aren't worth it. We made small talk. He asked about my brother; I asked about the church and his family. Everything seemed to be fine. My brother is thinner and taller, as are his. The church is fine--no enthusiasm there but no grave news. It was like time had just been standing still for us. At least, in that moment.
No matter how many steps I take, it only takes one encounter to remind me that in some ways, I'll always be where I was. I'll always be who I was. That's why I was nervous to see Taylor. He remembers who I was, and no amount of self-reflection and acceptance will prepare you for meeting the people who saw you at a different time in your life and only remember that you. There wasn't enough time at that ticket-ripping podium to truly catch up and see how things were.
"But yeah, I mean I don't know that I would go see it--thank you, theatre number eight to your right, please--but it might not be that bad. Theatre number eight to your right, thank you. I mean, I'm here, I might as well take advantage of being able to see it. Theatre 12 to your left, thank you. I wouldn't buy a ticket for it, like you said it's more of a Netflix flick, but if I can see it for free--theatre two to your right, please--because I work here, why not? If I'm out already, might as well go see something, I guess."
I was amazed by how quickly Taylor could respond to the long line of customers and still keep the conversation flowing with me. Even if, at that point, he was the one talking and I was just listening. Just like back then when he would help the youth leaders teach lessons and hang out with us in the middle of the week for an evening of whatever entertainment. Taylor was always focused and had his head on straight--at least, that's the him that I remember. Even if Taylor seemed at a loss for words--stumbling or stuttering at times--he always knew what he wanted to say. I admired that in so many ways.
My eyes kept running down to his hands as he swiftly ripped tickets. There was a long line ahead of him, so I tried not to detract his attention from his customers too much. Then I saw his tattoo--I had almost forgotten about it. I never knew if he had more than one, but this one was simple and I liked that. I never did know what characters they were, but they looked closely related to Chinese characters. They were small--no bigger than three-fourths of a dime's size--and wrapped around his wrist in a single line. Years of having it, and years of me examining it, have faded it so, but it's still clear. The age of it only adds to its uniqueness. Taylor never would tell anyone what it meant. "It's something personal," I remember him saying years ago. "I will tell you this, though--" we all looked at him intently, nosy kids that we were (and he only being a couple of years older than us). "It's Johnny Cash lyrics." My mind wandered wildly. If Taylor wouldn't tell us, that means they must be darker lyrics. Or perhaps positive, somehow, but stem from a darker time he's not ready to talk about.
I'd be lying if I said any part of me wanted to respect his privacy--I understood I had to, though. Curiosity almost always got the better of me. I wonder now if he has ever told his girlfriend the full story of that tattoo and what the characters stand for. I remember once wanting to be the one who Taylor told that to. Now it just seems silly--like a girlish crush. Perhaps because my mind is settled and not wandering as much as it did in those days. I have Trey and I have my own life.
In fact, I'm just as focused, too, on my own things. Like he was--like he is. And I'm slowly building up the courage to speak up, because I could be like him and teach somebody something one day. Hopefully something useful and inspiring.
My eyes moved away from his wrist long enough to take a quick glance at my own wrist. My permanent markings mean something to me just as uncomfortably deep. I just wasn't clever enough to encrypt mine.