“So you want him to worship you, but you want to be approachable?” asks my friend. He’s well-meaning but a little dense.
“I want him to see my innermost soul, which is divine.”
“And you want these things at the same time?”
“I’m capable of entertaining opposing factions.”
“You’re going to be unhappy.” My friend resigns himself to the space between the corner and the diner booth. Slurps the bottom of his sundae glass. Produces a perfectly tied cherry stem knot like Liberace bowing beside a piano. He’s unsatisfied until I applaud.
“You’re going to be unhappy,” he repeats. “And one of these days I won’t be here to save your dumb ass.”
“I’m the citadel, not the damsel.”
“You’re loveblind. And stupid. I have to go.” His watch is beeping. He swipes, picks up his phone. I make a face as he waves goodbye and slinks out the jingling door.
I don’t feel alone without him. A friend who can comfort even when only evidence remains. Not just the dimples in the vinyl bench, or the mound of whipped cream melting in his glass. Some people carry other proof of being.
I ride the W up into daylight. Clack-clack along the bridge. Now in the sun, we passengers from the subterranean world can see each other as god sees us, and we see there’s nothing new. Women twist on the bench between mens’ widespread knees.
At Queensboro, a girl sinks into the seat beside the doors. She too is twisted up like driftwood. A Mets cap over her eyes. The music in her headphones is soft. I strain to hear it. By Broadway, she’s gone, followed by a few of the widespread knees. But only she has left a wake.
I relax on the subway bench. Full slouch. Filling in the hollowness of this subway tube. I too have a presence, though it weaves and slivers and grows only to the size of its container, like koi.
The reflection across from me fixes her hair and hopes you’ve already found a table at the restaurant, knows you haven’t.
“You were running late. I didn’t want to take up the space.” Some people couldn’t if they tried.
You’re done apologizing, so we wait. Plates clatter. Servers describe Italian wines. Your hand plays with the hem of my sweater. We’re small enough to overlook in the chaos of the restaurant.
You walk beside me with your shoulders bent forward, like you’re in a perpetual dive inward. Perhaps there’s just more room in there for your magic worlds to swim. I’ve never coaxed much else from you.
I used to believe that quiet meant the most essential part of you had no words. That we had transcended language and could create what we wanted in the space cleared by silence. Build a house with many rooms, a thousand doors. Quiet doors without hinges.
But our bodies form one long shadow on the sidewalk. Out here, I might be walking alone.
When you leave, I feel a loss, but not because you’re gone. A piece of me follows you home to swim inside your chest. But you leave nothing but space.