They flicker into your life for a moment and illuminate a distant, extremely insecure version of yourself. A more fashionable, yet broke, sort of wanderer with a taste for rebellion. A former life you'd never have chosen had you known what you know now about love and respect, kindness and mercy.
They rekindle dusty emotions. Memories of spontaneity, lust, and lowered inhibitions tainted with loneliness, regret, ignorance or even shame.
Sometimes they leave you feeling grateful things turned out the way they did. Even if at the time it felt as if the world was falling apart.
Often they leave you wondering where you'd be if you had stayed on that path. Who would you have become?
Sometimes you are left with a strange taste in your mouth. What do un-spoken apologies taste like? How about the regret for constant selfishness? What flavor is the sincerity of the hope that they've found someone who loves them the way you never could?
The fire that once raged is long gone. And while there are sparks of fond memories, suddenly the well-stoked fire burning at home seems more precious than ever. And you realize that where you are is exactly where you want to be.
And as quick as it was lit, the flame is abruptly snuffed out, with a word of goodbye and a few well wishes. A half-hearted promise to keep in touch.
And as I turn to leave I say a silent prayer, thanking God for the light and love of my life. And for old flames who stand as a reminder of just how far I've come.