New York City
Who was I in the winter of 1998:
Sleepless night. Tossing, turning, fumbling under the covers. It's cold. My mind races. I'm overwhelmed by the possibilities ahead of me. Oh, the possibilities—so many and so cruel they are! You enter my thoughts without knocking, as usual, and now a question lingers on in my mind: Have you ever believed in me?
Staring at the ceiling, at the dark whiteness of this ceiling. The clock on my nightstand blinks a red 3:45 am. Have you ever believed in me? the question returns to me. Have you ever thought I could do this writing thing, this putting-together-words, this-telling-stories, this-crafting-verses, this-expressing-things-felt thing that I do? I wonder, darkness still surrounding my wakefulness.
I hear noises. Something (a bug? a mouse?) seems to crawl under my bed.
I have written you 30 letters since you left three years ago. Mailed none. Isn't that silly? Well, I have been busy. I'm sure you have been busy too. Who has time to read these days, anyway? Isn't that what you used to tell me, Rene? I know I am grossly misrepresenting your words. But I'm a novelist. Nothing I do could be farther away from objectivity.
A car alarm goes off on the street. What an impatient sound!
Do you remember that night when we rented a car and traveled up to Vermont? It snowed. You kissed me as flames crackled in the fireplace. We brought wine and bread. The grapes were sweet. We held hands, peeked through the windowsill, our images reflected on the glass. We had a blanket, our cheeks red, our insides burning. I remember our bodies intertwined, our lips meeting and parting. Oh, Vermont!
The car alarm stops. I sigh.
Did you know that I bought new pillows? How could you really? They are very comfortable—goose feathers, I gather. The saleswoman tells me they will last forever. I wonder if anyone really believes that anything can last forever. Nothing does. Not promises. Not the look in your eyes when you said you loved me for the first time. Not the bright summer mornings by the newsstand. Not even memories.
I stand still next to your absence. I think I understood why you left—sometimes I feel embarrassed by how ordinary, how petite-bourgeois our affair really was—and yet I miss you, I instinctively miss you. It's late for anything, I know: reconciliation, therapy, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, my dilettantish efforts at writing love letters, nothing can really mend this failed experiment.
The phone rings. Who can it possibly be at this ungodly hour?
The answering machine picks up. A woman's voice: “A friend of mine showed me this poem he wrote sometime ago after breaking up with his long-time girlfriend. It made me think of us. Here it is:
After all this,
Of which nothing
Cockled in myriad
The talk of
The core of you
By what matter
Sometimes, Jay, I still think of you.”
If you only knew, I said to myself in the dark as the answering machine beeped silent.
If you only knew...