Finally, a break in the clouds. After so many days of rain, after so much darkness, light.
The heart lifts. The head tilts skyward.
I meet my friend in the parking lot of the restaurant but when I find her, she is talking on the phone. She waves her hand at me, but keeps talking. She gestures that we walk. I follow her from the parking lot down the block. She walks slowly so I hover behind her, not knowing whether there is a plan. It is early, the sky still light. The air is cool. She is laughing. “I just don’t think that’s what she would do. I mean - she might, but it seems unlikely.”
“OK. Sounds great,” is what I hear her say. “OK. OK.”
She hangs up, tucks her phone in her purse. “That was him.”
“My love,” she says. The man she has loved for decades, but has never told him. They worked together, years ago, maintained contact through his marriage, his children. Through her many ill-fated loves.
“He wanted my advice on a story he’s working on. For a film treatment.” She reaches back into her bag, pulls out a tube of lip gloss, slicks it across her mouth.
We keep walking.
She turns to face me, brings her hand up to her heart, pats it. “Oh, I just love him so much.”
The street is so quiet. There is no one out, even though it is early, even though it is still so light.
“Look,” she says, pointing. “That red door, with the sky behind it like that - it looks like a Hopper painting.”
I nod. “It does.”
The restaurant is crowded and loud and there’s no space at the bar, so we go back to my house where I mix drinks, put some cheeses and meats on a cutting board. A little bowl of dried fruit. I find some candles, light them. We sit on cheap folding chairs at the dining room table. The chairs we bought seven years ago when we moved in to this house: “They will just be temporary,” we said. “Until we decide what we really want.”
Seven years later, and I hardly even see them anymore. The way you no longer really see the things that are closest to you.
“So I think maybe we are just friends,” she says. She is talking about a man she has been spending time with for months now. “I flirt with him. I touch his arm. I lean on him when we are at shows. He lets me. He doesn’t pull away.”
“But there’s no spark?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “But maybe there could be.”
“I’m not sure it works that way,” I say.
“I would try,” she says. “I think I would try.”
Here is a line I have stuck in my head. From “After My Own Heart,” by Dean Young.
I want to think of you busy,
maybe washing parsley
and I am completely forgotten.
I miss my father. It is strange to say it, since I hardly knew him, hardly remember him. But I think it’s possible to miss someone you don’t really know. To miss, perhaps, the knowing of them. To long for that knowing.
I want to say that there are stories he told me that shaped me. I want to say that he built things for me with his hands. I want to say that his hands lifted me up, as as child, to the window, so that I could see birds perched on tree branches. “Look,” he would say, “can you see them?”
I want to say, “Daddy, look. I am still your little girl.” I want to say, “Daddy, look at the woman I have come to be.”
Look at me. Here I am. Can you see me?
One day after school, he took me to get french fries and we drove up to the window and ordered the fries with extra salt and handfuls of ketchup packets. We sat in the parking lot, with the windows closed. I put my sneakered feet up on the dashboard. He tucked a paper napkin into the front of my shirt and then another one into his own. Our fingers were covered with salt and grease.
“Your mother would not approve,” he said finally, when we were done. But this, I already knew.
I always search for your face
even when I look straight out
at the fog over the sea
and the fog over the sea
becomes my face.
In the counseling, during the divorce, when I talked and wept sitting upright in a chair where so many other people had wept before me, and so many more would weep after me, the doctor once said, through my weeping: “Perhaps you fear intimacy.”
It was all I could do to keep from lunging at his throat.
Tell me about intimacy, I might say now. Tell me how not to fear it. Tell me how to plumb the depths of my own unknowable heart - to take what I find there, spread it out on a tray like a small, bitter feast.
to cut your own heart out but if you do,
maybe you’ll grow another.
Upstairs, my son is shouting to nothing in particular. Shouting, then quiet. Then I hear him racing down the stairs. He is coming for me. I hold him in my lap. I wrap him up in my arms. I kiss his forehead again and again as if the touch of my lips alone can erase the frustration that lies beneath. His mouth is upturned. His chin is quivering. Tell me what’s wrong, I whisper into his ear. Tell me all your troubles, so you can set them free.