dear nick,
I know youāre reading this. Youāre a voyeur and so am I. Our relationship is primarily epistolary. A friend introduced us and you sent me letters back when I was away at school and you were still living in New York. I had to read between the lines. We swapped our life stories, told each other how we had just gotten dumped, talked about our recent crushes ö a girl you met at a movie premiere, a boy I saw at the neighborhood bar ö and I waited for your notes as if they were love letters, crafting my responses late at night, never content to only send a rough draft. But maybe the truth didnāt hold up to the words. When we finally met, I was just another college kid in smelly Pumas, a homemade haircut and sloppy lipstick. You went to jazz clubs every night and knew none of the books I loved.

My heart folded in on itself when you offered to take me out to dinner. We chose the restaurant and you told me how you thought I was funny, funny haha, never funny weird. I jiggled my foot under the table. Over drinks, you said I reminded me of you, that we must time-share the same thoughts. I got teary eyed. Over dessert, you told me about the girl you had just met at a party last week. The next time I got through to you, just three weeks later, your roommate told me that you had flown to London to be with her.

It takes someone special to make one do such a thing, to fly off at a momentās notice and not look back. Either pure anticipation or just that drunken, crazed knee jerk, being hooked on yourself and reeling with the possibilities. It reminded me of one of the worst things that anyone I have loved ever told me: ćI canāt love you. I can only admire your talent.ä Translation? Not beautiful enough, not longhaired enough, not girly enough. Not the girl to see across the room and make your palms sweat, make you sprout tunnel vision and run after her at all costs, throwing everything else aside.

On my birthday, three years afterwards, you wrote me a letter, sent over the ocean. How can I have let you go? Iām sorry. You asked me how I was, told me I didnāt have to write back if I didnāt want to. You were just saying hello. You had broken up with your girlfriend a long time ago. You came across my old letters and remembered that rush, back then, of falling for someone on paper.

Of course I wrote back.

You sent me a series of framed photographs. This is where I live. This is the street I take when I walk to work in the mornings. These are the things that I see and I want you to see them, too.

I read these things as rash. I know because I do them as well. I sent letters to those from who I crave a response. (This is one of them.) I take chances. I hop on trains and planes and buses, not knowing what is on the other side, not knowing how Iāll get home. The most important thing, I think, is the action itself. There is no one, really, but a reflection on the other side, and some things work better in theory. You work better in words. I let it sit, because this is the promise of how things turn out: the imagined is almost always better, or merely different, than the real thing.

Last week I received a change of address note telling me that you had returned to the city. You were living in my neighborhood. Two blocks away. Tonight I am sitting in my apartment alone, listening to tapes and typing in the dark even though I have typed all day and my wrists are giving out. I am smoking cigarettes one after another and you could be, too. If I walked two blocks north I could stand in front of your building and see the light on in your studio and throw pebbles up, or press the buzzer, announce my presence on the empty street outside next to the burnt down jazz club and the abandoned buildings and the closed drug store. I could let myself in. I could just say hello. We could talk all night, talk until it is so late that the rest of the lights on the streets have disappeared, and all that remains is a string of darkened windows up along the Lower East Side.


Wednesday, January 31, 2001


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