Holding on

Your absence had a way about it. It reached from its distance to tear at my lungs, clawing until for fight of breath I would weakly gasp those words. I. Miss. You.
You were an artist. Painting yourself bit by broken bit into the scene before erasing yourself from the narrative- always leaving empty holes in different places of my heart you’d decide to only for a time settle.
But my sisters had too loved artists. And I remember watching as they got sucked into the canvass of lies and guilt and the shame traced by he that was far too gone for far too long but too had a grip on their lungs.
And then I knew that about you there was nothing new. It was you that was weak, from my lifeblood you drew your identity. Holding on to what you didn’t think you wanted but afraid of what you would be if you didn’t.
Do you not know who you are?

Advertisements

Typewriters

You made typewriters sound like music to my untrained ears.

The rusty key-tops as they banged unceremoniously against the lever of the decades-old machines, the triumphant sliding of the carriage release as the girl in the yellow shoes humble-smugly let the rest of us know that she was done with her lines. The dark pink paper folder which the instructor insisted we all have clutched against my chest as I walked out of the second floor room to see you- in your white shirt, and blue jeans and smile at my hair telling me it looked…different, but nice.
My hair; short black braids cut sharply, strictly, almost religiously at the jawline. The practical, near-domestic look which stood out of place in a sea of Brazilian hair weaves cascading down the graceful backs of the beautiful girls in their patent leather pumps.
You made a joke about typewriters, and I laughed. You’d been from your French class, and I resisted the urge to spout out all the French words I knew because I had been pronouncing hors d’oeuvre and chef-d’oeuvre wrongly my entire life, mixing them up as I went along, and butchering sentences even Google Translate couldn’t figure out.
And so I only smiled, and you held my hand and guided me through the current of people as we poured out of the building; you with your white shirt and me with my strict hair. We talked about music, about art, about life. Your observations fresh, un-ironic, and original, my nodding and taking in every single word. You looked at me with such a concentration that I thought you feared that the memory of my face would disappear once you looked away.
And so we bred our habit; you’d wait for me, always, and I for you. And we would walk, me to my typewriting, you to your French, and when it was over we would walk back, and sit under the ‘Congolese’ tree- reveling in the revelations we’d make to each other that we’d never let anyone else know.
Everything was musical; the wind was a song, the footsteps a march, the tap-tap-tap of the key-tops a melody from the libretto of the type-wheel producing a symphony with each line I wrote.
And then, one odd afternoon as the trees played a suite, you were there, under the Congolese tree, five feet away in reality, but on the music you had gone five pages in;- page five system three right at the point where the key switches to D-Minor. With you, a beautiful girl with long flowing Brazilian hair, and patent leather shoes, a girl I could never- even if I tried all the hair, skin, weight and height treatments in the world- be.
I looked at you, and you at me…no, you looked through me. The girl looked up and smiled, in her eyes I saw the music which I’d been hearing echo through her too. She smiled kindly, I knew her, she was a friend. And I smiled back.
Maybe I should have screamed in coloratura pitch, and stomped my feet. Maybe I should have marched across that green grass and ripped the tree from its roots. Maybe I should have burst out in aria at your betrayal, calling to me an audience of onlookers, and grabbing the patent leather shoes girl so we could walk away together in triumphant solidarity.
But they would have never come, she would have never listened because what could I, me with the domestic hair, possibly have to do with you- o most popular one on campus? And so I only smiled.
The typewriters still sounded like music. A requiem for a time once spent in your glorious light, a dirge for the identical girls in long Brazilian hair and patent leather shoes whose hearts you broke, and a capriccio for the girl in the domestic hair.

Karaoke

We liked to play this game, you and I, where the first one that guessed what the other was thinking won. I was quick at jumping to half-baked conclusions to what was going through your mind- ‘half-baked, but true!’ I would argue. And you would smile, that distant, stoic smile that hid behind it a million secrets I knew I knew, or I thought I knew, or you’d said I already knew. You watched quietly, with an unsure certainty when at last you would say what was in the back of my mind and my throat, that which despite my adamant denial was almost always true.
And so on that night, when I looked at you in the darkness, as we listened to the horrible karaoke singing above us, I was sure that you knew already what I wanted to say, what I wanted you to say out loud for me. But you kept your mouth shut, as the wind blew lazily around us, and the Theology student bolted past us with the karaoke machine which he’d stolen from the room above. As noises of confusion and anger flew past our heads, and cries for the Theology student’s head rang across the quad. You stood there, your eyes fixed on a point just above my head- it’s so easy to look above my head. You opened your mouth to speak and just as my heart rose in expectation that you had finally figured it all out-
Goodbye.
Those words- or is it just one word. The ‘good’ and the ‘bye’ brought together because the pain of separation which ripped many apart only causes them to cling closer to one another and-
And so that night, I sang. It was scratchy and echo-ey and the Theology student had been brought to his justice and the crowd was silent. I half hoped they would break into sympathetic ovation for my pathetic rendition of a song written before my time and way ahead of my time to understand. But I doubt they were listening; everyone sings that song at Karaoke nights and they were all just waiting their turn at the beer scented microphone.
Their turn to sing too their sorrows, their loves and their drunken stupor away. About the one they had loved for three years, about the one they hoped would stay, about the one who had said, Goodbye.