three quarters of the way back to different

One, two, three, with you. Something, silence, see. Stopped at the third and something like goodbye, farewell, adios, seen, all seen.

* * *

At night, that night, yes, it seemed to be a “that night,” that night I remember, the one when we walked along that first long side of the white brick and concrete shoebox-shaped five-storey with its steel-barred first floor windows in a city I’m unsure of. I say the first side because it’s where this whole little scene of ours began, though the story started years prior, and it ended, scene, that is, and story for the time being, just around two corners on long side three as if the short fourth would’ve made a too-complete loop back to a by then long gone “where we started,” someplace not altogether different but for us, after that night together, quite well impossible.

Under the blush of streetlights and a few still-glowing windows like scattered hints that the night wasn’t all and only ours, we walked, and as we walked you started to tell me about how you just needed to see, how there was “something” you felt, “something” you’d been trying to ignore or dismiss or look past but could no longer.

“Something, there’s just something, and it makes me sad that it’s so hard to say,” you said, and I listened to you search through feelings for something more than something, for words—right ones good ones pure ones new ones—like they might be way way down in the down bottom of a big box full of foam packing peanuts and what you came out with was nothing but handfuls—mouthfuls, edible, no less—of filler, sounding firmly unsure, resolute. Something, something, something. All muffled and crunchy and as good as weightless, while I secretly drew my own words all over you in the spaces in between rustles and crunches, drawing on and on as the moment drew out, listening to you search and trying not to watch my graffiti unfold too closely, lest I’d find myself unable to let you find what you were looking for.

So I stayed eye-averted and peripheral-sensed, silently secretly patiently painting on layers of this one this one this one, coating you as if with spray-on bronze like I believed it could make a die-cast mold of you in the moment, the you of the moment to show you later as a remember-that-time, but all the while knowing imaginary paint carried as little weight as foam and wanting more than anything for you to taste it anyway, straight from my lips.

* * *

We’d known each other for years—beautifully, perfectly strange and beautiful, clever, noticing, drifting you, strange and dreaming, drifting me, and I’d always felt you were in that .08% that understood the difference between different and better but still just human, surpassing and different and earth-bound superhuman, not towering, not pedestal-perched and exalted but plainly, easily, day-to-daily exceptional as much in flaws as in features, the difference between different and desired, knowing what uniqueness really means, uniqueness desired not because it’s different but because it fits, flaws and faults and features and all, unique to unique but not entirely unalike the rest, just different, still human but sometimes super and either anyway like to like and I always liked how you could always put me in place, my place, someplace like a good place, a place worth being put and far from noplace, just by existing being noticing watching, seeing, or even with a simple yes or no or look or laugh.

Speaking of places, we came from different ones, we did, like most people in most stories seem to, then came together by chance and shared a place for a while as young place-sharers and that’s where and when I learned your father was a whaler or a minister or something that made sense with the fact that he lived in Alaska or Arizona or Alabama or some A-a state while mine was a pilot which made sense with the fact that I said so. You had siblings—still have, far as I know—as do I, some immediate, some step and none of us was ever really concerned with the difference. 

And there we were again that night, finding ourselves milling and drifting around by pure chance years later at a soirée of sorts and I realize how imprecise that is but soirées are imprecise things full of imprecise people doing imprecise things with soirée-like imprecision and I’m an imprecise person but not like that, so I was glad to have you there with me to multiply my imprecision by yours and turn a night into a night of ours, different and familiar, without designs, without effort, without the need for a soirée of sorts to buffer us and reduce us to an alikeness we already possessed in spades. And I told you so. Right in the middle of it—well, off in a dark corner away from all the fun and fuss, because dark away corners were kind of our thing. Then we left together, vanished traceless and true to form without aim—or so I thought at the vanishing—and wandered out into the night and down along side one.

That’s how we got there, to the something-searching, and when we got to side two it got us with silence like we knew it, some kind of full-feeling, mouth-numbed silence, the art of the unsaid speaking through intuition and easy, muted impulse and I remember thinking as we hung our pedestrian left and rounded the corner that maybe it wasn’t so much a matter of wanting what we couldn’t have as wanting to be wanted by what we were afraid we knew couldn’t have us, afraid our desire to make those desires known would be thwarted by details and circumstances and foam peanuts and moments and their limitations. I suspected that’s what you were searching for, but I couldn’t be sure. Because while I’d always been sure about you, I was never quite sure what you’d do, and that’s precisely why I told you what I told you in that dark away corner.

Shorter was side two, shorter than side one by about half, and brighter too, out by the wide avenue and its lights, shorter and brighter but still dark and not a single soul around, far as I could tell, not even a passing car, far as I could or cared to tell and late as it was, nocturnal urbanity’s yellow-orange mantle around us, low, warm, and opaque. Maybe orange-yellow—I always felt the orange predominated but the words don’t roll as well so the other way round it is.

I say side two was silence like we knew it because we simultaneously wavelength-decided to put down the box and spraypaint and just walk and wait the space out while our dust settled down to shuffle and breath and I heard our footsteps and respiration distinct like heartbeats under a stethoscope, vitals turned way up and peripherals rolled volume-down to only a few key frequencies, knowing—hoping—you’d eventually find something more to say than “something” and my hand venturing on easy, muted impulse to the small of your lean back in the mean time, the then now time, the time to take a chance on touch time to see what might settle and you did, right into it, leaned your lean back right into my hand, too creature comforted to even blush and all I could do was ache for sights unseen and wish I could somehow shuffle along behind us and unfold scenes too long kept in secret drawers and back pockets and notice the creases and rough edges and how there was no line between us.

All along the second side, that’s how we walked, like quiet satellites in slow orbit, wall to my left and I to yours and the street to our right, slick and lustrous like a quick rain had passed while we’d been at our soirée of sorts, my follower self a half step behind. Or at least that’s how I remember it, and remembering it now makes me remember that time we went to a schoolday dance together as almost still kids once upon another epoch and I think you asked me and I wondered how I got so lucky to be the lucky chosen one to formally go to a formal sort of soirée for still almost kids with my strange and beautiful, drifting, informal friend, kind of like how you asked me to walk with you that night out of the sort of grown folks’ soirée, which is surely why I just remembered in the telling, and both times I wondered what informalities might befall us.

* * *

We stopped when we rounded corner two, dead in our tracks we did, just a few steps along the length of the third wall, long like the first and dark down at the far end, down where two side streets met and a streetlamp should’ve stood but didn’t and I remember thinking in a split distracted second that that was odd. And that’s where it happened—not down at the dark, streetlightless corner, I mean, but right there at ours, corner two, or just around.

I say we stopped, but you stopped us, you stopped walking and my hand on the small of your back took the hint and removed itself and I stopped too and you faced me, toward the building, and I faced you, out toward the side street off the avenue, toward the corner where the stoplights cycled for no one and I could hear them click, distinctly hear them click. Click. Yellow. Pause. Click. Red. Like church bells tolling out the hour, ringing between my ears, my stethoscope on tilt, and I swear I could feel the reverberations because something knocked my apparitionary follower self back into place, snapped into the present position immediate and full of there she is she’s looking right at us.

Something—it’s my turn now—something was different when you faced me. You were you, of course, but another kind of you, a new, somehow fuller all of you, like a completeness and weight had descended and melded with all the unsure airy searching and sure wonderment and clear memory and whole imperfect-perfect person. Right then and there I knew you’d found the words for your something, your pupils dilated like you were concentrating on long division and my selective perception all but dead to the world—a gorilla could’ve run by behind us and done a little gorilla dance and I wouldn’t have noticed a damn thing. Maybe one did.

Just around the corner, yes, but your face was where it really happened. It held the expression of a decision having been recently made right there behind it, firmly, with a clear trace like a smoky streak on concrete where a bottle rocket had just been launched. The way your eyes suffused me with utter, unfiltered discernment was unlike anything I’d ever seen from you before, but always suspected—or hoped for, to tell you the truth, hoped in that wishful sort of way I have of dreaming up life’s pleasures before they arrive so I can have a little taste of serendipity before it befalls, little preemptive operations of imaginary magnitude. You looked at me as if you might osmose my being and I was sure without a second or even first thought that I’d let you, fully affirmed, no rationals or analytics required, not even available.

And as I looked back into your looking I got the distinct sensation not only of completeness and weight but, looking more, that you’d become darker, more profound, everything about you—I don’t know how else to put it, darker and deeper and thick with being, a total eclipse of any and all persona, just person, just you, all earth-shadowed moon woman, nothing fearful, just sedately, ravishingly ominous. And as you looked at me like that for a time-immune moment I looked back in a way I’d always wanted to look but never felt I could without causing you some alarm, always eggshell walking afraid to sneeze and make you dash off into the underbrush, never to again be found, knowing my eyes would show all and speak it, assuming yours had not been ready to see, and most likely completely wrong on both fronts.

The light tolled, and, eyes locked, your voice again—I just have to see, and you said it slowly, nearly a whisper, as if the thought turned to words without your knowing it, the words coming to me without your hearing that you’d spoken. And you leaned in, reached with both hands to gently grasp my collar, and kissed me so sweetly and softly and with such purpose that I went deaf with you and I saw. I saw, eyes shut, but I saw.

You released my lips but not my collar, pulled away while still close-leaned, lips slightly parted, eyes astral and sublime, your face but inches from mine—do you remember what you said then?

Only _____ can get you out of this, you said. And you swayed into me again and this time kissed my cheek, reaching down and squeezing my hand as if to wake me, then stepped back a full half-step and told me you had to go. You told me you had to go and you turned and walked away down side three into the streetlightless night like it was waiting to swallow you up. And it did. And I just stood there. Stood there and swallowed hard like that phrase of yours was a poison frog in my throat. Stood there and let you be consumed by the night, hearing only those words, hearing Only _____ can get you out of this and thinking: what a thing to say, what a thing, wicked, like a wicked warning thing warning me against staying standing there letting you get swallowed while I choked on what I knew was true either way.

 


This is mostly sort of partly from a dream I had a couple months or so ago and I’m not sure I like the way it ends, not sure about any of it, so suggestions welcome.*

*Author’s note: Suggestions will not be honored.

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