I waited for you at the rooftop cafe overlooking a park full of lovers, and children. Children of lovers, filling the spring air with screams. I was in a caffeinated tantrum, afraid to see you again.
I often think that what I write is too personal. Perhaps it needs to be because I want to scream in the air too. Because there’s truth. So much of it that it hurts. So much of it that it begs to be heard just as much as I do.
The last time I saw you was in that month for lovers. Red and saturated with the frustrations of being in and around with someone so that one looks a little less lonely on weekends. I don’t mind being alone at all. In fact, I prefer going to movies alone. But to be seen alone is a different thing altogether.
In an interview in this recent publication of The Paris Review, Mary Gaitskill talks about private people in public places, the ways people commit little gestures unbeknownst to strangers around them. She picks up on these minor details to make use of her own fiction.
You come in flushed, slinging your tote over your shoulder as it fidgets to be thrown back over the crook of your arm. Long time no see, you said in a single breath. Before you pull me into a hug, you look down at The Paris Review, the cover done by Peter Doig, wistful in its strokes to create that spring blush, the floats of pollen in the air, the very essence of being alive in daylight. What are you reading? You ask.
Have you fictionalized me? I asked him. Or I thought I asked him. What I actually asked was, Do you ever think about what I’m doing on a Tuesday evening? Some random morning?
No, frankly not, you said, with a smile. The smile is harmless, a buffer in niceties, but it hurts all the same.
Then spring dulled itself out, blocked out the sun with a swarm of pithy clouds. It wanted to hide something of me, but instead, hid itself altogether. Breeze turned to sharp winds. There was a bite to a brimming humidity in the air. Right then and there, I wanted to go home. But a part of my body wanted so much to stay, to make up for February, to make up for lost time.
In Feeney’s story, her troubling in-love-out-of-love characters do this, a man and a woman, or a boy or a girl, depending on where you’re at with love, and the bumbling awkwardness their bodies encounter with time spent together, unsure in a Sally-Rooney-kind-of-way in which direction to push their love towards. Towards romance? Towards friendship? Unsure, they bumble on. Just like I have.
I’m someone who wears my heart on my sleeve. Because there isn’t enough space in my chest to keep it there. I wake up with an anxiety that echoes throughout my whole body. This is my body alarm. There’s so much anxiety that I need to over-caffeinate with two cups of coffee by 6 AM to come into work at 8AM to form a nausea that can only be dealt with by another cup of coffee to reach an equilibrium of sanity. I know, I’m making up for something here, and it’s unhealthy, but it has become habitual, so much so, that it’s just easier to keep the heart outside, held in tact by the rolled up sleeves of my button-down shirts. It’s the uniform that holds up the illusion. The slack jaw, hidden fatigue. I say this to everyone, but I could fall in love with anyone. One look at the little gestures Gaitskills seeks out is a one-way ticket into my heart. I’ll obsess over it. Make it mine. Call it my own. You know, there are certain brands of hand creams I use that you use to make my hands as soft as yours, so that whenever I link my hands together, I’m a pathetic sob, but a representation of something meaningful, to myself.
We went to a boutique of one of our favorite designers. The space is shaped like our future dream home, together. The way the clothes are strung up, floating in ambient space that only speaks to a future fantasy. Are we there together? Are my eyes merely narrow windows? I keep these questions to myself. I think these questions will end up being answered somewhere in fiction.
And it’s always nice to see the different ways different writers go on with their processes. Look at Olga Tokarczuk, who requires a game of solitaire and a strong cup of tea. And this is all with different novels across five laptops. And if you’ve ever read any of her novels, it all makes sense! The process and product.
And with all this living, what is the end product? What becomes of it? An Instagram feed? A collection of vlog content played on 1.5 speed? To be done and over with? Is all of life turned into a single line? A mere metaphor? How am I mythologizing my own life? Is it worthy? At all?
I look at these stories and poems, place myself in them because life is unbearable at times. Like I go to dinner with you and it’s good and all but the other lovers you talk about, the ways they flock to you remind me of the spaces beside you, taken up by other company. Of course. Of course you’re not thinking of my Tuesday and Thursdays. What a silly thought! But I am left here, a think tank of thoughts in constant production, a sweatshop of tireless ruminations in mass-tackiness.
After dinner, it begins to drizzle. We shield each other, knowing full well we’ll be wet with laughter by the time we end up at the station. We’re laughing because the stories you tell are ones you can’t tell anyone else. No one gets it but you, you said. And you squeeze a love handle of mine and I guffaw an ugly cry out in the open streets for heads to turn.
And this little act, this private-public one, so much seen and recreated in Feeney’s story, a part of me believed I was in it for the long run. All this laughter, all this company, was fiction in the making. My life or yours, shared or without, all of it was some work of art.
By the end of all nights, I’m an old sap. I’ll bring up stories just to tell them again and again. Much like these quarterly publications, I’m a flurry of short stories and poems, interviews of the self, questions I ask myself, very little answers for myself, all to say that it’s spring and when one day of light marks the passing of time, I am here and there, wanting to be beside you and wanting to make something of this little life of mine.