Sometimes it’s in dreams and sometimes in the moments just before I sleep.
Maybe they are daydreams or wishes or premonitions or visions of an alternate universe. Or memories of less interesting people into which you’ve been placed.
I remember things that have never happened. Snippets in media res with no explanation. There you are and there I am. You slip on the Spanish Steps or flick a cigarette into my driveway or argue with a bartender at the racetrack.
I see you in the kitchen, for instance. You sing along with the radio when you cook. The house smells like rosemary and bare oak. You don’t sing for me, but you sing for my benefit. We’re in a slow hurry to be somewhere, and when I laugh at you singing not for me but for me, still, I close my eyes and shake my head so that when you look out from under your eyebrows and smile, I don’t see it; I hear it. You sing louder.
When the waitress brings the drinks, you lean into the shade of the umbrella, elbows on the table, and curl one wrist to reach your straw. You stab it into the ice for emphasis in lieu of volume or affect. I lean back and weave my fingers together across my stomach until you ask a rhetorical question of incredible coincidence, fully intended to upend me. I shoot forward in my chair, eyes wide, slapping my palm down hard on table. People look. Your eyebrows jump. You stifle a laugh and insist that you’re serious. Your face falls straight. THIS is serious. Am I? You lean back into the blazing sun.
Somewhere on the gray Atlantic coast, I want to sit down. I keep saying so. You can’t stop moving. Now that you’re 300 inexplicable feet up the beach, I give up. My calves burn; the beach is all the same. I sit down in the damp sand and wait. I can barely hear what you’re shouting to me against the wind as you raise your arm and point out at the ocean, but your laughter fires and carries like grapeshot, peppering everything under the gathering storm.
After a late dinner, I can’t look you in the face. You carry on in your bright voice, leaning back, stretching, talking and smiling, offering jokes over an empty plate. Suddenly, you stop, squint, and turn your head to look at me with one eye. I look over your left shoulder; there is nothing there. You lean towards me, and for a split second, I wonder if I’m naked. I look down. No. I am dressed, and appropriately. Your voice falls to an ooze. I look, and you catch me. You wink, and I die of exposure.
Sometimes, you just show up. I’m leaving Byerly’s with two bags–chips and sandwiches in one, Coke, water, and a magazine in the other. The doors spit me out into the baking air, and just as my foot hits the asphalt, you call me by name. You run to me and take the bag from my right hand. You slip your left arm around my waist. As we walk, I never think to ask you what you’re doing there or why you never said you were coming.
Sometimes, I show up. You are in the park, sitting in a group of people. You are expecting me, but you don’t say anything right away. I kneel in the grass behind you, and I can only see the back of your head and the slope of your neck to your shoulder where it disappears into a white t-shirt. You smell like soap and new plastic. You turn to kiss me on the cheek (“Mwah!” you go) and apologize. You have to leave. When you stand, only your head breaks out of the shade. Tomorrow! you say.
Sometimes we are in a hallway. We lean against opposing walls and chat. Maybe we’re waiting for something. You test the depths of your pockets with your fists, making yourself small under the fluorescent lights. You gesture with your chin when you talk, and I push off the wall with my head to fall back again. Over and over. We agree that we’re tired, and it’s time to go. As we walk, you wrap your hand around the back of my neck.