I was sitting outside the coffee shop. It was the first day of Spring, The sunlight sang softly to me. I listened as I sat there, but it did nothing to cheer me. I smoked cigarettes, which seemed to distract me for a time, and drank coffee and watched the people busy themselves up and down the street, in and out of shops, into cars, into lives, loves, losses, and for the first time in a long while I did not consider them Zombie People. I only thought of myself as such. I was the undead. A walking ghost, living on the smoke and disaster I consumed day after day, year after year. I let the tear stay on the edge of my nose. I wanted to keep it in the corner of my eye. I liked the way it felt.
The text had come an hour before. It said, Are you at home? And I replied, fencing message after message, back, to, fro, parry, thrust, I tumbled into dim hope until eventually here I sat outside the coffee shop. On the table in front of me was a card. I had written a message in it, but the words were wrong. I had sprayed some cologne on it. But I had sprayed too much and now my table smelled of desperation. So I smoked another cigarette. I ordered another coffee.
I saw her before she saw me, though perhaps I did not. Sometimes when you see someone, you look away and play at taking care of your surroundings, watching carefully for cars, or staring thoughtfully into the window of a shop, as though you are very seriously considering a purchase. But I am not sure if she saw me first, or if my eyes were drawn toward her as she crossed the road unaware. She wore a summer dress in defiance, as though singing at winter's funeral. Her hair was down. She carried a book. And smiled her half smile as she graciously decided to recognise me. When she sat opposite me, I felt proud, but I also felt shame. Shame at the smell of cologne. Shame at the words in the card. Shame that I had lost everything that had once made Me me. I was left only with shame. Shame feels like emptiness.
I handed her the card. I bought you this, I said. And she read the message and told me it was beautiful and we ordered more coffees and smoked more cigarettes and I knew she was here to tell me how much she loved him, and how I should fade, fade, fade away and goodbye always seems to happen when the sun is in my eyes, so that I feel helpless and blind and unable to make out exactly who is who, it's all shadows and blinks and depth and stomach. The sun was shining on me now. I knew she was here to say goodbye. I was just killing time until she did. But it was coming real slow. I was almost out of cigarettes when she said,
I made a mistake. Being with him. I know that now.
You want to go to your house?
The sun shifted. I could make out her face. She slipped the card I gave her into the pages of her book as she smiled. Can you pay for my coffee?
I left a twenty. We started to walk back toward my house. She held my hand. It felt the worst word of all. It felt Nice. We talked as though we had stayed together. But happier. Small things. Flowers. The way the light looked over the park. Music we had bought while we were apart. And dangerous conversation was navigated slow and carefully. Occasionally a sentence would drift into silence.
I opened the door to my house. She walked in. As though everything was. And I let myself believe.
Do you have anything to eat? She fell on the couch. It was a comfortable couch. Her dress fell open and her legs were tangled awkwardly and she was beautiful. I could not understand her. Once I was strong. Now I was lost. I looked through the fridge. I knew he cooked her meals. I knew I was not as great. I felt not as great at anything. In the fridge was a six pack of beer and a slice of cheese. I'll ride up the shop, I said. Make yourself at home. She already had. She reached for her phone as I left the room. I wheeled the bike out the front door and I rode hard and fast, I rode dangerous, I rode as though nothing mattered save the burning muscles in my leg, the wind that tore water from my eyes and Her. Those things mattered but nothing else. I bought a fresh baguette, some brie, some dips, some olives, some wine. I rode home as though in Paris, though Paris was months away yet. I rode home with food in the basket of the bike and I let myself believe. She had come home. Made a mistake. I rode the bike home slowly. I smiled a lot. I passed a Real Estate sign which read, You can be happy here. Everything had righted itself.
We laughed and told stories as we ate. We moved into my bedroom. She played me songs on the guitar and asked me to dance. I danced. She laughed. I was nervous and happy and afraid. She slowly showed more skin. I was hypnotised. I was always hypnotised.
Will you give me a massage? She did not wait for the answer, but removed her dress and threw herself on my bed. She lay face down. My eyes and hands traced her spine, her sides, the skin, the Devil, the Woman, my Once, and his hands had, and she had kissed him, and here she was, and I silently screamed as I touched her, listening to her pigeon coo breaths and my hands were lower and she opened her legs slightly and I kissed her above the bottom and ran my hands up and down her legs and I was intoxicated by sadness and lust and everything was so familiar. Even the - Stop. I can't. But this time it didn't matter. this night I slept beside her. She had made a mistake. She had come Home.
I opened my eyes from time to time in the night and watched her sleep. Eventually I slept too. I had not slept for nine days. Since I had found out where she was. Now I slept.
In the morning we walked together to a cafe. We did not hold hands, but we talked. I showed her the Real Estate sign: You can be happy here. She smiled and leaned her head against me. I felt happy. We ate croissants and cheese, and drank red wine though is was barely 11am. We felt very French. We were sophisticated. I told her we were two halves of a broken star. She cried. She told me she loved me more than she loved her own mother. I cried.
Her phone made a groan. I did not want her to look at it.
Her eyes would not meet mine as she told me she had to go and talk to Him.
My head fell forward.
I was silent as I paid the bill.
Out on the street a child let go of a balloon and it drifted across the road.
It was the first day of Spring.
I have not seen her since.