Love Letter To A Near Stranger


You walk like an old greyhound: skinny legs, sturdy chest. Your arms hang like heavy branches, swaying only slightly. There is a lot of prettiness in this town, but it comes and goes. I do not. I stay. When I am here, I am all here. I would never tell you this, because the mere suggestion of loyalty scares some people. But I try to communicate it subtly, vaporously, when we’re in the same room as each other.

You walk by me and I try to assess our difference in height once and for all. You stoop slightly because you don’t like being so tall. It was good talking to you, you say, almost as a formality, forced, putting something in that bit of space and time for lack of any better way to fill it. But I am not so unsure of us now: I see that it is a seal, a reminder of what this was, a fleeting invitation to return.

You have pollen in your hair. I wish I could pluck it out for you. You could lean out the smudged window to my side of the world like a dog waiting to petted. The sun is so warm now, urging us into a happier frame of mind. We don’t need much convincing. We made it through the cold and to this point, two patient strangers, used to long, monochromatic winters. So what will we do with each other now?

Here is the weekend again. I must be the only person in this city who wishes it wouldn’t come so fast. You spend the weekend reading. I spend the weekend walking, waiting for caffeine to force a mental change in me. Getting tossed out of your life every Friday is like coming to the bottom of a slide. It should feel like the opposite: freedom, discovery, intellectual stimulation. But I’d rather split those with you.

Words come easily to us these days. The pressure is off, whatever that pressure was, wherever it came from. Your voice, so close to my ears, doesn’t wilt me quite like it did last week, in the storm, waiting for you to emerge from the shadows of rainclouds and tall buildings. You never did, and in my impatience I thought I would force myself to never cross paths with you again. But as soon as I saw your face again, I forgave you.

I do my own thing. I wonder what your “own thing” looks like. I would wear whatever that role is and you could wear mine. What would you think of it? Would you be disappointed by the damage I’ve done since you came into my life, the mess of papers and instruments waiting for me to finally get you out of me? But there is no “finally.” A muse keeps on giving, keeps on confounding. I wonder if your life is outwardly immaculate and inwardly a mess, like mine. I notice the salt stains on your hat and the sweat hanging above your brow. You’re a less straightforward combination. You don’t strain the way I do to maintain a facade of order and rhythm. You just are. And in your presence I just am: I feel normal.

I want to take you to my place, at the elbow of two fields where the water is protected from the wind. I want you to show me your place, wherever it is. Some swimming hole, some cold lake, some field. Will you ever truly be over her? I can see in your face and body that you’re still not — not completely. It was a slight, after all, the greatest slight possible. I’ve known that twisting pain, but I eventually learned that time and better versions of love could heal it. Your favorite album became a favorite album then. It’s dangerous to listen to it, but you still slink back to it every now and then. It’s a siren. You know you shouldn’t.

No: nothing will heal you, I realize now, except time, not even me. And nothing except time will turn a new friend into an old friend. New to each other, we have to keep a narrow rift between us for now. For now: how long must that last? If you had my phone number you could call me. If — a lot of things.

Practice makes perfect, even if the practice is motivated solely by you now: the subject of you, the presence of you, the combination. I need no motivation to discuss you with myself, to talk to this fictive specter of you, drawn from the real person orbiting around me every day. No: you are the planet and I’m a moon. This is your world. I want to take us to a place where neither person’s gravitational pull is more powerful than the other’s.

This is a lesson in building a grownup friendship from nothing. But what I really want is for my life to be a series of disconnected stories, with you the centerpiece of this latest. I mutter words like “forever” amongst all my thoughts of you, but I would be happy with one story.

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image – [Merra M., Flickr]