There’s a pit, an empty spot where we used to put all the perfect things we’d find; we thought they’d be there forever, as shiny as the day we discovered them. A soft exhalation in a quiet laugh and the half-closed eyes that accompanied it; a cell phone ringing in a museum and the delight in the misdemeanor of it, the air of conspiracy. How could anyone wish to give that up for anything else, give up the absolute truth contained in a whisper? The lightness, the humor and playfulness, my voice in his ear and his in mine, all of it dead now, chiseled into my mind like words in stone, but these things once issued their immediate commands. And then, the agony of his withdrawal, the agony of his agony, the awful certainty that he would carry on as usual, sleep next to a woman with her back turned to him each night and wake up with the alarm each morning, day after day, like acting in the same one-man play, performing again and again and calling that life, how is it he doesn’t die from the sheer repetition of it, how is it that some part of him doesn’t announce its blatant refusal? An ear that refuses to hear; an arm that refuses to move until its case is heard, a heart that ceases to beat.
And you? Is the pain of leaving any less? What is it one feels when one feels love? An echo in the mind, the heart, something both deeply familiar and disconcertingly foreign. And just as I feel a cold nothing in the face of cruelty, but break down at acts of kindness, an unexpected gesture of tenderness opens a valve in you, releases a high-pitched trill in your nerves, the frequency of your own pain. Your knees buckle; you grope for a cigarette. I think of nights I woke to go to the bathroom and had to grip myself to keep from shaking. We live as though trapped, frozen in the blind space behind a mirror, waiting for a glance of recognition to climb out and breathe again.
Me: I think A. wants to see me.
Mother: (In bed, opens her eyes) Really?
Me: I may have to go.
Me: She’s worth it, you know.
Me: Yeah? What if I left you for Christmas?
Me: Nah, I won’t leave you for Christmas. I want my presents. Maybe New Year.