I try to write the rules of the road, my principles to live by. I’m writing on a napkin at a bar down the street. It’s a sunny day and I look better than I did the last time I sat here. This brings me some satisfaction.
There’s someone just outside of frame. He’s been there for seven years. I know his face very well but can’t isolate any of its features— as if seeing him through saran wrap. This is what it takes to see him everywhere.
This afternoon I think he is at the bar, sitting on a stool with his hands in his pockets. He would order a Stella, but this man orders a whiskey. He is not at the bar. I look down at the napkin where I have scrawled, a life spent admiring the moon is not so bad. A life spent admiring the moon and thinking you can fish it from the sky is not so bad. A life spent on your tiptoes, trying to fish the moon from the sky is, in fact, very good.
He orders a second drink, a Stella. It is him. Sustained through discipline and delusion, he is good for me. I have to remember this. An idol cannot grow stale or boring or fat. It is spiritual, seeing him everywhere. It keeps hope alive, it keeps me young.
Now that the man is him, things inside me start to move. It’s important he thinks he sees me first. I flip the napkin over, a clean slate. Today, it is hard to keep things like him alive. In the past, you could not find people easily and sometimes they just disappeared. Today, we can connect in a million ways.
Silence is disquieting. Prevent it. Learn the siren song and sing it. Record it and play it back. Autotune it. Confuse yourself, where is it coming from? Over the bridge? Across the Atlantic? North, South, East, West—develop hunches, triangulate.
His hands are perfect. They would be impossible to forget, but they are thicker than I recall, slightly calloused.
I don’t know which is better; to be haunted by what is in heaven or what is on earth. Our ancestors were pious and beset by plagues. They looked at the sky with reverence and prayed to keep breathing. Now god is on mute and the only plague left is cancer, so children turn towards each other and ask, can you make me whole?
We cannot make each other whole, but everyone should try very hard to forget this.
It is sensible to have a light guide you through the dark. Follow it blindly, but don’t be afraid of detours. The detours will help sustain the light. Your craving will return, and it will be strengthened by what you’ve just had and all the ways it failed to satisfy you.
I straighten my skirt and look out the window, the sun is setting. I must move from this table, go to the bar and order a drink. I’m worried that on my way I will fall to my knees. He will turn, hearing the thud, and see me prostrate myself at the foot of his stool. There, on my knees, our eyes will meet, and a million things will happen at once. Not fireworks, but maybe bombs.
What’s fate's role? A necessary condition for grasping at figments.
It’s a balloon so big and lifelike I’ve forgotten it's filled with air. On weekends, I hold tight to the string and skip down the park where we once ate bagels. But one day he will pop, I will startle, and there will be a horrible hissing noise. His cheeks will become cavities then caves, and the growing indents will cause his eyes to flatten on either side of his face and his nose will push forward and his lips will suck into each other like a guppy and I will maintain that he looks handsome. Then, one of two things will happen; I’ll throw my head so far back people will worry and I’ll laugh and laugh and laugh or, I’ll press my lips to the hole and blow.
My boots are making too much noise on the paneled floor, and I’m worried he will turn before I have the chance to position myself coolly at the corner of the bar. I’ve imagined it so many ways that nothing is wrong and nothing is right.
The truth is that, if it is him, rolling his beer around on its edge, it will all have to end. I will have to start over. I realize this the moment my hands gasp the bar. Disappointment blurs my vision. To keep what could be is more important than knowing what would have been. I think this is right, but also I want to touch his hands.
Frantically, I dig in my purse for a twenty, but there are only wads of ones. I flick them onto the counter with shaking hands. Then I turn to leave without so much as a glance in his direction. It is him, and that's the problem.
Out I go, into the evening, into the world of want and wonder. I make it a block before it starts, slowly and softly, the song. Such a nice melody. I sing it all the way home, into my bed and under the covers and forever and ever and ever.