In Which We Let In The Man From The Past

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Last Week

by LINDA EDDINGS

Let’s talk about this. You were outside my apartment on a bench, reading a book. You said you had to tell me something. Two years earlier you begged me to stay with you. You asked what you would do without me. So what have you been doing all that time?

The instant you realize you can’t depend on someone. You made eggs with lime. It wasn’t fully a lime. They crossed a lime with a kumquat. Do you know how angry that makes me, to think that I am eating some white guy’s idea of a fruit?

It reminds me that I saw you with a guy, first. Your boyfriend was a PhD student at Columbia, and you lied to him, too. I hate this idea that the only people left in my life are the ones desperate enough to stick around. Everyone in the world has more self-respect than I do, but everyone in the world has less self-control than I do.

This week New York is empty of residents. Even the tourists remain silent, quiescent. Old friends in town to see their families make half-hearted, awkward attempts at reunion. Seeing you outside my apartment, with a copy of Heart of a Dog in your lap, it didn’t feel like New York anymore.

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There is a difference in the way that people are educated. Some people see knowledge, information as an additive, something you put into it. Once you treat the most important thing in the universe as extraneous, the warning shot across the bow has taken place. Anything is disposable so everything is, and if desolation can be deposited, it could realistically be extracted, right? You are the Benjamin Button of loneliness.

While I waited for you, It Happened One Night was on television. Clark Gable cooks a hasty breakfast for Claudette Colbert: it’s one fried egg, a bacon-glazed donut, and black coffee. It looks like warm sewage and I honestly don’t know why he stayed with her after that.

I met up with an old friend, Kate. She was the author of Scenes From My Life In College. She was completely different then, and I find the disjunction heartening, almost real. I almost believe this new Kate is the real Kate. This Kate has a husband and a daughter, but I know that her family is simply an improvisation. She will return to being the person I knew, any minute now. This transition will occur on the drive from New York to Columbus. She can change a third, interim time. Maybe other people can always go back.

You invite yourself in. You were always so gentle I can’t begrudge you that. It was hard to keep you in a locked apartment and when you stayed it felt like such a gift. I had a boyfriend a few months ago. I thought it was going to work out – he said he wanted to meet my family at the holidays. You know how it goes, but I expect it at this point. I know it is my fault for believing the lie.

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I have all my resolutions ready for next year.

I don’t want to have that moment where I wish I knew then what I know now. I don’t want to waste all the time I did on him – writing letters so he would talk to me, love me again. It is always such a waste of time to hope someone will treat me better than he currently does. And when I realize the only thing I wanted was to be seen as a human being it is even more pathetic.

I bought gifts. I thought of the ways two people can be together. Wishes are immaterial; the only people who return were those I never think about. By not being considered, they become drawn to you. In my apartment, you wrapped yourself in a blanket. I asked where you had been, and you said you had been traveling, but you were starting a new job. This year – 2017 – you would be in New York. I felt like I was floating on air, and then I hated myself for being so hopeful. We talked about your accent. It has changed over the years, you know.

The rest is a straight line. High-hearted fucking; and thank God. The instant I thought I could never get warm, I was, and all over your right hand. Standing and sitting, rasping at the pyrotechnics. Love is so abandoned here, in these glacial days before the restart. Delimiting time in this way is juvenile, self-regarding and opaque. Afterwards, I just wanted you gone.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York.

Paintings by Ashlynn Browning.

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