and then there was him
you sort of loved him before you knew him in that uncomplicated way you can love someone you've never spoken to. you would sit nearly next to him in class, legs folded beneath you in that ancient room, trying not to stare at his sneakers or his pants or the way his glasses sometimes threatened to slip down the bridge of his slightly-too-big-for-his-face nose. you would listen to his stories, to his poems, to his sardonic, suburban words and you would sigh inwardly for days and days and days wondering how a boy with so many words inside of him could say so little.

you would see him at lunch. at dinner. you would be with your friends and he would be with his friends and you'd smile hello over the salad bar sometimes but you would look away and he would look away and that was how you left it.

and then. suddenly. you were friends. you were friends because of her. because of convenience. because you couldn't not be friends any longer. you would talk. for hours. first whispered conversations on the perimeters of quiet classrooms. then long, beer-soaked conversations night after night at first with friends. then alone. he made you smile so hard you could feel it in your stomach. all you had to do was look at him and you would grin this grin that would not stop.

you wanted to kiss him for months. but you didn't. and then he kissed you. and it was so wonderful you thought you might die. you spent one whole day together in the rain drinking wine on back porches and drinking other people's beer in other people's living rooms and she was there lip synching to 'mr. big' but it didn't really matter because there were these chairs that you never left and all of these things you had to say because you were leaving and he was staying.

so you said them. and then you kissed. and then you left. and he stayed.

you still talk. in fact, you talk more now than you did then. you know him now. you really know him. you know everything there is to know about him. you are so comfortable with him it keeps you awake sometimes. but you still love him. quietly. without much fanfare.

the last time you saw him, he called out of nowhere and said he was in the city with his friends. that you should come meet them. that you should come hang out. so you did. they were tall and sweater clad and kept telling you stories about him, quiet in the sixth grade. about him, in braces at his bar mitzvah. about him, sad in high school.

the last time you saw him you sat together and laughed and drank and smiled and it was almost like no time at all had passed. you grinned your grin and he played with your hair and you tried very hard not to sigh audibly.

the last time you saw him, he said, in between cigarettes and sodas and pints, that if things were different, if he wasn't, you know, with her he'd be with you. "if things were different, if i weren't, you know, with her...i'd be with you," he said and you let yourself believe him even though it hurt your scotch taped heart.

the last time you saw him, he and the boys in the sweaters walked you to the subway. you smiled bravely up at him from beneath your absurdly pink hat and he laughed at you and asked you if you were drunk and you said yes but you weren't drunk so much as you were sad. he said goodbye and you said goodbye and now, when you talk, it's a little strained. sort of uncomfortable. you are always very careful. polite.

you miss the easiness of this summer. of conversations not grown cumbersome. you miss him.


Monday, January 29, 2001


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