This time I whisper it, at about the violin’s volume: “I love you.” No one hears, no one sees, but the tree falls in the forest just the same.
– David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks, page 192.
I’m scribbling in that book. Marginalia in black ink. The pages are almost as pale as my skin. The words that spit from my pen are tiny, nearly incomprehensible, bumped from the motion of planes, trains, automobiles, streetcars, and an actual boat. They are call-backs, snippets and snatches, and awful jokes. “Like that time in the hotel lobby the tourists thought I was a prostitute.” My lines tilt. The words jog, my long-hand atrophied and atrocious. But this is how we will read the story together. Written time-travel. I only write to share.
We sing together. The words are slightly unfamiliar, so we play the song again, the better to affix it to our tongues. I am better at the lyrics, he is better with the sounds.
Claire takes my arm and we move forward, a cascade of notes and torch song lyrics. She and I have missed the second half of our flight from San Francisco to Vancouver, but it’s going to be alright. We missed it because of true love and chocolate and it will make a good story. We will be fine, we still have care on the line. Hers is driving down to Seattle to get us, mine is sharing music on-line and going to pick us up from a train station and offer us shelter. Their arms and our mouths. Their grace and our soft thanks. We are so grateful for how rich our lives have suddenly become. I am so grateful I cry.
My life has never been as rich as this. I have never traveled as much as I have this year. I have never felt so cherished or so rewarded. I have climbed ruins. I have walked into a warm sea. I have been to the tops of mountains and pulled with two hands from the depths of despair. He said, “come”, and he fetched me, for I was fetching, and I felt loved and I was loved and I loved him and I love him still and his eyes haunt me the way the clouds came over Chicago, the way good art can make me ache, the way it was glorious to be a passenger as my ex-boyfriend screamed us across the ridges of L.A. at twice the speed limit in the middle of the day.
“I love you,” I said. “I admire you and I like you and I appreciate you, too. All of these things are separate and each needs to be said.”
(The sunset is also beautiful, the moon also outstanding, but those are apparent and do not need to be mentioned.)
He is so pretty to my eyes that it seems absurd. I trace his face with my fingertips like I am a cartographer trying to memorize his topography with my nervous system, embed him like a program I can replay at will. The line of his side to his hip while he stands in a kitchen, his back to me, his smooth muscles sliding under clothes that I would remove. I want to taste him, I want to keep his skin on my tongue, I want to know the texture of every whorl of his fingers in my lonely mouth. I want to feel him shudder, I want him to take my face in his hands as if I were porcelain and kiss me so softly I might shatter. I want, I want, I want.
How he looks at me. I am greedy. I cannot get enough.
The annotations I am writing are mostly sweet and/or silly, but each tiny desecration is founded on affection. Even when the writing borders on the divine and all I can do is leave a mark next to a line in quiet, pure appreciation. When all I can do is put a tick next to a particular note. “Look at this, this is what I would read out loud to you, were we in bed together, were we in the same place and had enough time for books.” A lot of things are underlined.
It is autumn. I feel the dried leaves of the photos I am sent. I hear the crackling swish of what it used to be like to walk through such things, the sharp scent of winter under the softer air. There is a blurred shoe in the picture, blue jeans, and it is exactly right. It is what I need.
The ceiling over his bed is decorated with plastic glow-in-the-dark stars that I bought from a dollar store. I spun a story of partners and physics, the harmony of two lovers who came together in such fine frequency that their flesh reorganized, and placed stars on the ceiling. “And this is my hand and this is your hand and my:body and your:body became our:body and the atoms danced together in forever:true. It is like they are dreaming. It is like they are the same. No longer a man and a woman, but the same.” Sometimes he takes other people to his bed, and I hurt when he does, but the sweet, artificial sky above it remains mine anyway.
I fall asleep with the book under my pillow and I wake up sobbing like my heart has been torn out so hard it has taken my voice, like I am a child who has just discovered death. I had dreamed about when my white cat died and I clawed her body out from the grave my mother put her in. How dark the dirt was on her fur and guts. I want teleportation. I want time-travel. That feeling of want, that quivering feeling of fury, large enough that by all rights it should have warped the world.
He has attached a linen tarpaulin over his truck, to better offer privacy to the make-shift bed I requested that he make in the back. It’s a two-hour layover, long enough for us to curl up together and bathe our hearts in each other’s regard. It has been over a month we have been apart and sometimes it has been hard. Our hearts are wet and warm and slippery. We talk softly and he tells me what he has learned in my absence. Last time the new word was “love”. This time the lesson is commitment. I ask him if he wants to make us all official-like. He says yes and asks what the fine print on the back of the boyfriend card entails. I will have to get back to him. I cannot yet read the writing on that wall, but even though he has hurt me before, I am sure he will do fine.
We sing together. American music. Bruce Springsteen, half of an album I have never heard through. It is like being wrapped in a blanket of safety, a black blanket pulled from the trunk of his car on a date we had once in Seattle, half our history ago, the city spread out sparkling in front of us, the expression on his face in the shop when I insisted he help pick out our foolish ice-cream. His ultra-organized “Have you even met me?” at odds with “All of this is new.” He is an artifact of his culture, parallel yet almost completely foreign to mine; of guns, bullets, and punk rock. It used to be that I did not want to care for him. Now we are apart, I would go blind for him. Now we apart, I am furious.
I stand with my bare feet on warm, dark earth. The water is a blue I have never seen in person, so clear it fractures light into rainbows as it moves. The stars at night shine brighter than our own sun. I hold a plastic mask in one hand and the straps to a jangling, industrial body-harness in the other. I am an angel of change. Somewhere close, a mountain discreetly explodes. I take pictures no one may ever see. The flowers that sprout from my skin are tropical, my heart is a greenhouse. I am actively looking for more laws to break. And the drums keep beating. They have been beating for months. The drums are huge, the light-show spectacular, and his body is pressed against mine in the crowd. We are hiding in plain sight. I do not have even a skerrick of doubt left. I am a valkyrie. I moan with relief, as he does. My forgiveness is larger than the sky.
I am so grateful. I am so grateful, again, that I cry.