another symptom

On the wall of the ladies room there is a picture, a long, soft-focus black and white photograph of a woman lying mostly naked on a bed in Seattle, only a few blocks away from where I live when I’m with you. I identify the city by inference, the lights of the tower, the three streaks of white light dotted in rows along the top of Queen Anne, washed out, pale, seen dimly through sheer curtains. There is no way to know when the picture was taken, what year, how recent, no clues, the bed is ordinary, the bedside lamp a timeless shape with a round bland shade, except that it was night. Instead it sits on the wall like a secret, knowledge of a moment, nudity, vulnerability, where I have never been, but have walked past, ignorant. Her face turned away, her luminous body partially draped with a thin white blanket, she could be anyone, somehow she could even be me. It seems for a moment like this recognition should feel like a message, that my bones should ring, that my blood should ache, and I should miss you, your city, your being, but instead I recall a memory, a terrible waking dream; how it would feel to walk by your apartment and no longer own a key, to arrive and understand that your home is my home no longer, a vibrant flash of possible self so hollow it shed time as irrelevant and moved backward, showing me a future I hoped I’ll never have to see.