We did the very things we never imagined we would do. And it's too late now, I've had a long look at you. Suddenly it felt as if I'd never had any other life at all: I woke up wearing a black crêpe dress, sangria lipstick, and a tooth-crunching headache, dark and sharp. But I remained a masterpiece of composure didn't I? Nothing ever ruffles you, you noticed and also how I was not beautiful, but calmness can have the same magnetic pull as beauty, can be so powerful that molecules and people realign themselves in a room to get a better view. There were times I couldn't even hear my own voice, it was hollow and infinitely far away. I didn't eat for two days. The doorbell rang and rang. I was busy reliving the moment where you and I ran up the library steps. Your navy shoes, the rain flecking our faces. I fell in love exactly how you'd arranged it. With my connivance, sure. But still. It was refreshing to find someone interested in me apart from my achievements or misfortunes, not always prying for more or trying to pick my life apart like a fish split in two and splayed open— those messy pin bones everywhere. You sat me down and told me the truth. Even if you don't like Poe, he invented the detective story. That was a long time ago. There was the evening you stopped me in the doorway to pick a thread off my sweater. Days later, I sat up suddenly in bed at the sound of your voice speaking clearly in my head. Come a little closer. When I knocked, the door had opened quicker than I'd expected; I was staring out at the street thinking of something else. You stopped me in the doorway to pick a thread off my sweater. And how spectacular to be reflected in your eyes. I couldn't understand what you were saying, I was too busy turning your words over in my mouth, those delicious syllables. I heard you say: come in Then the amber-colored everything, like the afterglow of a dream. Your Cézannes and owls and playing cards, the closeness of your face in the dark. There was a certain disorientation of being the wrong girl, with the wrong man, in the wrong apartment. But what can you do when someone tells you: come in and reaches for your hip. And their eyes can see inside of you. And they know you've got the blues. What song is this? I asked to have something to say. My loyalties were all over the place. My hands, everywhere. And even then, despite everything, it still came as a shock to me. The next day, you used the words think and love as I moved my breakfast around the plate. Do you even know what love is? What it looks like? What it tastes like? How it shimmers for a second before it turns to ash and moves right through you like a ghost in the room. How it tastes like two takeout boxes, the clinking of glass, another red mouth full of teeth. Weeks can go by like that, and it gets harder and harder not to be hungry. You said I hate to keep harping on this, but you really must eat something. Yes, I know. My parents said Intelligence isn't everything, Julia. Yes, I know. Yes, I know. I like fried eggs! I like jam and toast! I can eat four slices! I can eat the whole loaf! I was speaking in a very loud voice, everyone pretending not to hear. Really, my wolfish ego eats everything in sight, devouring affection and paperbacks, demanding loyalty and silence and caffeine. But the body is weak, turns off like a light switch; that's what I did. Meaning: the sculpture will emerge, but only when we stand still and are patient. You could feel my loneliness. Black tea, that's the ticket, you knew. Three sugar cubes, an ample slug of cream. You told me things would get better, and they did. Anyway, that was a long time ago. Last Sunday morning, I woke up late and climbed from a heavy, complicated dream. Nothing left but a ringing in my ears. Someone who looked like you put ground glass in my food because I had no discipline. I am telling you this dream for a reason. Look at me, I'm talking to you. I can still see inside you, too: all that art and regret adding up, mixed together, slowly frothing over. Heartbreak is my great secret, too. Don't you know— almost everybody's got one. Don't you know, that I never stopped loving you so much it ached inside me and almost felt like sadness but a certain heaviness can take over— it prompts a gentle goodbye at the gate, a parting glimpse, fingers tangled then no longer touching, It is the death haiku, accompanied by a gorgeous piano elegy. It doesn't really have a name. Anyway, that was a long time ago. All I am trying to say is Hello, old love. I am still waiting for you. You've always been a planet without an atmosphere. What I mean is that you're smart. People like you. They tie themselves in knots for you. I did. A long time ago. Although it was unlike me, I itched to reach for your hand and when we were alone, I took it. Remember? How sensational to be holding your hand, to wake up next to you in the morning. You took me to the mountains. Taught me the difference between ebonized wood and true ebony. Swept the hair off my face, gently. By September, everyone noticed my appetite had improved. You'd be surprised what small, everyday things can lift us out of despair.
Photo Credit: Lee Price Studio © 2009
After The Goldfinch by Donna Tart