I revel in my solitariness and silence, but my habituation to your presence these past months and your exquisite conversation have spoiled me. In your extended absence, I feel deserted. And so I turn to language, as I have always done. Now that you are gone, I can read my books all night long, instead of discussing them with you over beer or coffee until the early morning hours. But now that you are gone, I find you everywhere. I walk into a bookshop and take pictures of titles I’d like to share with you. I pick up a French novel, scan a few pages, and think, He’d probably like this book. I feel the urge to purchase it for you to read before you go backpacking from Paris to Provence.
As I lose myself in the stacks and shelves, things I want to tell you come to mind. In your absence, I fill the pages of my journal; I write as though you and I were having one of our talks. When I have exhausted all words and you still have not returned, I know I must begin alienating myself from your traces.
The movie we’d wanted to catch and missed is still showing at the cinema in the mall I went to. I did not go to see it.
I believe that reading a novel about a fated love affair is almost as good as having one—maybe even better, because then there is no dramashit to have to clean up after.
Today I started reading about two nerds falling in love in the course of a week, and what follows when the one flies to another country, while the other stays. When the characters explored each other’s quarters (hers in an attic and his in a basement), I thought about the books stacked high on the floor of your studio apartment, the mess of blankets and pillows on the woven buri mat where you sleep, the mug of cold black coffee and the crumpled pack of cigarettes beside it, your closet covered with the polaroids you took of your travels, the diagrammed sentences and pictograms drawn with chalk on your concrete walls. Your room is a library, lecture hall, and den. Your mind can roam the world without your body going out the door.
I hope that in love you loosen like champagne streaming out of an emerald bottle to spill on my clean sheets.
For supper I went to a Japanese fastfood restaurant and ordered a bowl of miso ramen, which I did not like and could not finish. I remembered the last dinner we had several weeks ago, before you and I got too busy, before you took leave of the city. At the tail end of a long holiday, downtown seemed quieter than usual, the air warm and still. We stumbled upon the izakaya while looking for a Thai fusion bistro that didn’t want to be found. Hungry and tired from a day of walking, the sight of agedashi tofu and vegetable teppanyaki for me portended nirvana. Equally excellent were the plate of gyoza that we shared, and your bowl of beef ramen that we did not. I remembered the look of abiding satisfaction on your face as you chewed the hand-pulled noodles and sipped the shoyu broth and saved the egg and the funny-looking narutomaki for last.
Now that my Facebook account is out of use, I don’t feel the compulsion to check your page everyday for signs of life. I don’t have to debate with myself about whether or not I should talk to you when a green dot pops by your name in the chat box. It is such a relief not to have to worry if I am crossing a line when I let you know without a doubt that I care.
I will talk to you when I need to. I will let you find me when you will. And if you don’t, well. I choose to let go of all expectation and let events unfold in the open, until they are clear and I can confidently parse their reality. I shall not be one to dine on dreams, shit fiction, and take it for truth. No, not any more.
If I tell you what I think I feel, we shall drift away from each other, into silence, into our own books, where the plots are varied and unpredictable, and therefore interesting, where the pacing is measured and the language precise, and we tolerate no stale metaphors.
This I know: between the unintended brush and the slow exhalation, in the space of a moment paused, before sundown turns to nightfall, only the casual is admissible, only the careless safe.
In my maps of our personal spaces, I mark our boundaries with double lines and draw crosses on no-man’s land. Though I would welcome you into my district, I fear that if I encroach on yours, you would run and disappear into terra incognita.
Don’t worry. I will never tell you, Come back from your wandering soon; walk barefoot on deserted asphalt roads with me again and let’s watch the dawn gently roll over the city.