late night tales

In a café.

I search the faces of people on the morning train and think of you. The train buzzes and squeals and stops but my mind pays no attention. I imagine your moods to be reflective of the weather in the city where I am. Cheerful for sunny, quiet for overcast. But of course, not everyone’s moods work the way mine do but maybe yours do. When I step off the train onto the platform, your essence of being floats next to me until I lose you in the crowds.

Sometimes when I am ordering my coffee at the corner shop words roll off my tongue, my mind trails away and I think of that afternoon when you handed me a paper cup of flat white. Our fingers touched briefly and never again after that. A warm smile played on your face and I sensed it was an expression reserved for me only. Nothing sinister or incriminating; just a feeling and you not hiding it. Later on, when we were saying goodbye, I was reluctant to step into your hug because I was afraid everything would spill out on the pavement. Maybe I thought I would melt at your touch. My effort was quick and half-assed and I know you noticed. But the truth is, I didn’t want to say goodbye. Not when I never know for how long. Not when the time between leap years is forever and there isn’t enough time in the world to make up for lost time. And yet. When it comes to you, time seems meaningless. My feelings refuse to age. Don’t you ever wish it would lie?

When I think of you, my breath gets caught somewhere between my molars and my lungs. Each time I have to brace myself for whatever is going to come next in my head because it often feels like a brisk downward spiral. I lose track of what’s real. There’s a little thump when I reach the bottom my fantasies. Like standing up too fast and hitting my head on the counter top. I feel dizzy and disoriented. Something always comes back to me — a flashback, like a boomerang.

The way you said to me once: you are a daydreamer, aren’t you? It sounded like an accusation and I was hurt by the implication that it was a wrong thing to be. I wanted to scream at you. Grab you by the shoulders and shake you hard. One of us has to be! Much later I realized it was one of my qualities that you adored. Because without it, without the childish idealism, without the monopoly of imagination over my life — the words would never flow. You were scared of my sentences and the meaning behind them but you still awaited them impatiently. I guess you cannot help it any less than I can help writing it all down. You saw the writer in me before I even realized I had the ambition. You loved me before I loved myself. You were gone before I could get used to the idea of you being mine. You split my life into before and after.

Years and cities later, I replay those moments in my head. They’ve become a point in the timeline of my life about which I can say: this is how I started. From this, I’ve become who I am and it’s you there at the beginning. I wish I could offer you a lighter trophy to carry but I’ve run out of words. A trophy or a life sentence. Tomayto, tomahto.

The sky above Prague is swollen with rain that never comes. The year’s end seems to linger suspended mid-air. My days are a safe net of routine and monotony. I read more now to drown the inner noise (it’s The Goldfinch this week and holy shit, what a book!). I often think of a book I’d like to recommend you, ask you to read aloud to me. With my head in your lap on a Sunday afternoon, drifting away at the feeling of your hand in my hair. But I no longer think that you’ll ring the proverbial doorbell downstairs or offer any more coffee. The next time I see you, we won’t have to go back to the way life is lived now. Because when I forgave myself, I forgave us both.