November 3, 2010

all hard feelings


I never thought for a second that you were ever going to really be gone. I didn't think it when you left three years ago, and I don't think it now that you're gone. Knowing you wasn't about latitude and longitude. I had long dispensed with the idea of you as some kind of kin by proximal measures. Proximal to disaster or combat or just a salient disconnect wider than the distance of ear to ear.

I didn't know you then all the way, and I may not know you any better now. But I don't feel that I have to-- I know other things. Things that kept me company when you couldn't stand to. Things I said to you when you wouldn't speak to me. When I felt less real than the way I felt about you. You may have been the worst person I knew. Or the best one that I don't.


My last attempt at sentimentality was showing up at your door at 1:30 in the AM, having braved the subway system. On Halloween night no less. A platform full of revelers making their way home or to the next party, make-up smeared and laughing louder than anything was even funny. I dodged the cardboard and the paper mache and the polyester, the latex. I tolerated an impostor mariachi band of white girls with painted on mustachios, singing in some sort of Spanglish that would've been offensive on any other night. Hell, it was still pretty offensive. But who cared enough to bitch about it?

"What is going on on your head?" is the first thing you said to me when I arrived. "Did you... dye it?"
"Does this feel like real hair?" I replied.
"No, it doesn't." You smirked. "But it's so cute!"
Something felt better about wearing a short purple bob to see you off. The cartoon me for the cartoon you, well tipsy after what I assume to be several gin cocktails. I was the lollipop after the doctor's exam. You smiled and you hiccuped. I washed a cup and filled it from the sink for you to drink.

I made nice with your roommates and your friends. Your things were barely in boxes. A gang of cardboard boxes is always an ominous sight. Stacked and threatening to take your life far away from here, to remove your worldly possessions to wherever you choose to follow them. I peered into your room with the mind that I won't ever come here again. It was always too cold in here anyway.
No one seemed all that unhappy or sad. Going away affairs aren't always lamentable I suppose. I didn't feel it either. Not until the party was stripped away and what was left was the blank anticipation of a trip in the morning. It wouldn't have surprised me if you didn't sleep all night.

You turned off all the lights, the obvious ones anyway, when the doors were shut and locked. And some obscure and probably portuguese jazz singer lazily crooned from your computer speakers. I never was familiar with any of the music you listened to. And you never liked any of the music I listened to. I think I like it that way but maybe I didn't before.

We do this every year. This standoff. We've been doing it since the day we met. I made it a point not to sit down and get comfortable. I waited for you to settle down before I put my jacket on. If you didn't have shoes on maybe you were less likely to follow.

"What are you doing?" you asked, with that look of genuine bemusement.
I put my right hand up in front of me in salute. "It's very late."
"Noo." It was a more of a sigh than a statement. "You don't have to go. You can stay."
"I know. But I do. Have to go, I mean," I said, careful to measure each word evenly.
"Can you stay? Please?"
"I can't."

I was surprised at the absence of ceremony and lack of reproach. This is a person I care about a lot, someone who has seen the best and most terrible parts of me that were beyond rational comprehension. Who I had forgiven and forgotten and remembered again. And I couldn't wait to leave. It's not like a revenge thing. I just don't like having a living breathing (and talking) reminder of why I came in the first place. Ask me a year ago and I gladly would've lapped up the familiar affection, no matter how uncertain the terms. Tonight, close to nothing could make me stay.

I wanted to be here to make sure you were really going. To see that I could stand it. To be certain that I was okay with you and we had finally reached a point of platitude. To send you off with some sort of white flag. No romance, no regret. I would tell you everything will be okay but I know better than to think you would actually believe me.
So it was only a little surprising to find that you were very unpleased with my travel plans. I stood in the threshold of your bedroom door as you found the space between my sweater and my jacket.

"It would really mean a lot to me if you stayed." This had an edge you did not anticipate. You didn't grit your teeth but you didn't have to.
"What for?"
"Well, I'm leaving in the morning."
"You'll be back," I said with a mirthless grin. I don't believe it was untrue, and there's no reason this needs to get heavy.

"Yeah but... I'm gonna miss you a lot, you know?"
"If I stay you would just miss me more."
"Don't be a brat," you retorted.  "And don't make me beg."
That last part is always said as an aside.

Your last efforts went straight through me. I felt your intention before you followed through with it, and disappeared into a stoic tolerance. The futile tint of beer. It tastes familiar but not because of you anymore. Just anyone who got too close before I could digest the sentiment the situation called for. I let you try anyway. I always let them try.

It's all bitter and none of it sweet. How many times I had called long ago, past choking on decorum and all modesty aside, for you to do the one thing you never would. For you to stay.
You left then and you're leaving now. The difference is that I've already accepted that you may have never really come back from the last time. Even if you weren't going anywhere, you would still be unreachable. It isn't anger I felt towards that particular. But maybe just a little bit cheated...

That I would be the one walking out the door now means little to me outside the periphery of irony. Irony isn't even a luxury worth a thing to me anymore.
The last thing you said was my name, low like a secret. I didn't look you in the eye. If you were about to tell me something very significant or precious, if you were going to tell me to get home safe, or if you were going to say one of the several things I had believed I wanted you to tell me for the longest time. I wasn't about to stick around to reconcile that expectation with whatever dared come out of your mouth now.

"I'm sorry," I apologized to the ground. "I can't."