Reprinted Without Permission
I am waiting to leave this city because there is not even a hair’s breadth that I can have all to myself. You are in the gap between me and the other side whenever I have my hand pressed up to mirrors in public bathrooms. You are in the spaces between ripples whenever I throw stones into the lake. I can never get them to skip the way you did. The lake does not spread itself out like blue silk for me like it did for you. The city is not begging me to put it on like a winter shawl like it begged you.
But this city is here with its arms wide open telling me that you are the fill for that emptiness.
I enter buildings and my eyes play connect the dots with all of the places I have seen you stand inside them. A permanent wall-hanging in the shape of your silhouette is the first and last thing I see in a room. You are always the stirring in the air and the restlessness in the soles of my shoes. I am waiting to leave this city because I cannot bear to be in it without you.
And if I could do it all over again, I would do it just a little less than perfect. I am ready to do it once more if I can leave the buttons of my cuffs undone and make a mess of everything by kissing you for the first time. I want to live the year we spent in this city together all over again. I want to relive all of those moments that are still alive here even after you have left.
I want it all back, M, and this time I want to make sure that I spend every single second of that year falling in love with you.
I never used to give my phone number out. At my first university party, a stranger asked me how he could reach me if he wanted to see me the next day. And I lied because I didn’t know what else to do. I gave him a mixed up smattering of numbers — a sequence like tossing a handful of dice and then reading the results back to the dealer. I don’t even know if he bothered to call the next day.
Now I hand out the digits as though I’m saying, “you can have a piece of me as long as it gets the job done.” Everyone who calls me wants a girl who can be out the door in fifteen minutes upon request. Reliable. Put together behind the rolling shutters of a factory that they haven’t had to look inside. Something they do not need to know the origin of. I come like pineapple in a can — already sliced for your convenience.
Nobody invites me to parties any longer because I am always the host. Always the greeter at the entrance with the directions to the washroom committed to memory for all of the hotels and restaurants and bars downtown. I am a good smiler. It gets the job done.
The place the arrow shoots off from.
Sometimes on bus rides too long to sleep through, I think about all of our lives swirling away like the headlights of cars going the opposite direction on the highway. The whole world seems to move to the rattling of our footsteps racing to pass the baton to the hand waiting in the next morning — hanging just off the edge of the bed. We are all going to explode in different directions like sailing solo javelins and forget that we were ever young together. I like to imagine that I am leaving a string of bread crumbs like the white stripes trailing behind us on the roads we have already passed over — a path to help us find our way back again.
Something about the way you talk of winter puts me at ease — puts to rest the cold sweat that has lingered in the roots of my hair all day. The way you dwell on the dryness of cracked skin and the bark of trees that have no leaves anymore reminds me of a time before I knew the cold. A time where the closest I had ever felt to a different season was slipping my fingers underneath the carpet edges and dragging them along a length until my hands were chalky.
You speak about the greyness of February as though it is a drink you sip with a scarf around your neck. Everyone else walks around heavy like the sunlessness of the sky has poured cement into their boots. The clouds are not what is weighing me down. I have been carrying an ice pick in my pocket. You do not need any such tool. You carve your name into the transparent stillness of winter whenever you speak its name.
In my dreams you are a musician and I dress up to see the orchestra. A terminal illness. Dal segno, dal segno, and nobody to call coda. The same victory roll hair, and the same tangles in it by the end of the night.
I am waiting for the next morning. We will wake up and you will sing while I am combing my hair. Your perfect solo a memory to look back on. But we are sleeping here in the pause between two things.
Yes. When the whole world says no. A trick you learned as a boy with too many bruises to count. I am ready to agree to everything if we can leave this room that always smells like flowers. I say it is beckoning a funeral. You say it is only one colour and nothing more.
I only ever see the world in one colour. You smeared the backs of my eyelids with a dandelion. Everything is golden now. A lie that pats my shoulder in a permanent way. A lie for me to keep hidden in a diamond cartridge when you are gone.
Make me a wound that you cannot kiss better.
I am ready to dip my hands into nighttime and gather the scattered pieces of you like stars. I thought you were a great white sheet torn into shreds of paper that came to rest in the clouds.
But the sky is mirror shards of you only pointing my own light back at me. You are dark matter to the rest of the universe when I am looking away.
I have carved out a place to keep you. I am a gutted fish with its mouth open and its eyes picked out.
I am waiting to choke on the black velvet rag that I call Jack.
On the day that I left, we did all of the same things that we used to do. You made something sweet for breakfast – French toast or pancakes, I can’t remember which. We ate off the same plate and left the dishes in the sink to wash later. I found us a good movie to watch, and we spent our afternoon sprawled on the sofa as always, mouthing the lines we already knew from having seen the film too many times. I watched for changes in your expression during your favourite scenes, and wish that I had found a way to commit your face to memory. We never felt the need to take any pictures together because photos are for people who plan to be apart and need something to look back on. Now I have only a hazy recollection of your features stored underneath my eyelids.
Later, you came across a list of riddles on some website and quizzed me until we were both dizzy enough to fall asleep on the rug in the living room. We slept until the sun was low in the sky, painting the wooden floor red-gold. I rose from the last time I would sleep next to you to find my arms and legs woven into yours. I let myself be jumbled up with you for a moment longer. Then I unwound myself from you and walked away.
I travelled down the hallway, out of your door, and up to the curb. I didn’t pause or turn to look back. I kept walking up the street, as the distance between us grew with every crack in the pavement that passed under my feet. I thought of you still lying on the living room floor like an indent I had left there. I felt the gap between us continue to widen as I walked further, and thought it may finally be big enough to contain everything I had ever felt for you.