But first, sit down, let’s have a drink. You must be tired from looking for me. I am not easy to find, they say, being one of a kind and all. And yet you find me, every single time. Whether I am wed to one man or loving another; whether I move to the city by the sea or hide up in the mountains where the mist becomes my breath: my entire being hoping the fog, the hated cold and the river sounds hide me completely. Through all of these wondrous escapes, you find me.
Do I leave a trail like Hansel? One that’s not just bread crumbs. What are my telltale signs? My famed belief in ESP or the fact that I send you a postcard from wherever I go, but without a return address and from at least two towns away? Is that how you find me?
You like my postcards, you said once. You liked my uneven, irregular, pretending-to-be old fashioned handwriting. It is old fashioned, you finally said, because I write in cursive. And you find that strange, that something so intrinsic about me is old fashioned. Did you miss, genius, that I send postcards? When was the last time you received one from someone other than me? I am old fashioned; I believe in loving forever, no matter how many times it takes to reach that forever, I love each of those people for the rest of my life, and theirs. Sometimes, even after because they’re so much more dearer when they are dead. I believe in thank-you notes and paying a visit to ill friends and relatives. I believe in carrying flowers to someone’s home if I am going there the first time. I believe in apologising if I’ve rudely interrupted someone. As I should now. I am sorry, you came all this way to tell me something, as always. What was it?
How do I know you’ve come all this way? Your shoes are clean, your fingernails freshly clipped and the first thing you reached for when I offered you a drink is beer. If you had just come past two neighborhoods your shoes would wear the film of dust of a short walk and you wouldn’t have bothered with your finger nails because they wouldn’t have been dirty in the first place. Ah, you still smile at my basic Holmesian deductions, I see. You know, I could make these silly assumptions all my life, sitting across the table, making a complete, but, you’ll agree, pretty ass of myself just to see you smile the way you do. I can barely ever tell what that smile is like. All I know is it is the smile I expect to see every few years when I know I’ve forgotten about you and you have forgotten about me.
But I digress. And hijack your time. Why are you here?
“To hear you talk,” you say? Well, your timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I’ve been married three years now and I’ve had a lot of time to gather enough that I could talk to you about. Where do I begin, though? Shall I tell you the mundane, the everyday and inevitable? Like this little life growing in my body, swelling my body in ways I don’t recognise. Let me tell you about that. Have you been around a pregnant woman since you left the last time, or ever, for that matter? They’re far from anything remotely maternal, I tell you. Or maybe the way they are is what maternal is about? Growling, restless, demanding and ready hide at the smallest hint of danger. Or being called fat. We are happy most of the time, but boy, you’ve got to be inside our heads to know how much it takes to enjoy this without consistently reminding yourself that there’s no going back. The baby’s got to pop.
Oh you didn’t notice? Here, let me show you. Place your palm right there and see if the little one will be friends with you. It needs to be — I don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, so “it” it shall be. I’d like it to be friends with you, after all you’re probably going to appear at its fourth birthday and I am not going to be able to explain who you are. “Friend” would mean she’d leave you alone, and if I said my heart, she’d want to know why it was walking outside of my chest. That’s an idea, huh? Why are you walking around outside my chest and disappearing for years together? Aren’t you supposed to be right here, pumping blood into my life, helping me choose the crib and losing yourself to the darling blanket? Well, never mind the sentimentality. Feel the baby, feel how I want to hide you when I want to protect you from the world, tight and secure in my womb, not breathing yet living, safe and warm and liquid. That’s what I want for you when I want to save you.
So, hear me talk. You’re leaner this time, but you’ve always been thin. No, sinewy and yet trim, whipcord slim, not thing. No obvious muscles and yet unbounded strength when dragging me across the road to cross it or lifting boxes into the truck the time I left town because you said you needed space. And the telltale signs of your smoking have disappeared. I guess I should be happy for you that you’ve given up, except I am not. I liked stepping out with you for a cigarette. To watch the distance at which your feet were placed, to wave the smoke away from me as if it offended me, even as I blew my tobacco clouds at you. I hope you knew it’s just that I didn’t like my hair and clothes to smell of smoke. I am a lady, you know, and old fashioned at that. All this cooking for yourself is making you look taller than your tall. I have to really reach up, and look at the sun if I have to find the rich bark of your eyes. They’re still the same, those eyes. Always promising, always lying, always full of love for me. And that is why I open my door for you every time you come. Your promises are like a drink of good whisky. I take my time over it, the flavours, the smoke, the colour, the gentle swirl of words that is water. And I get sufficiently drunk, the first of it going to between my legs, to my core, warming me up from there to the very tips of my toes and fingers. When I wake up in the morning, though, I am hungover, and your whisky promises are replaced by wooly-headed lies that you speak. A gentle, groggy untrue reminder of last night’s grand plan-making.
But when you leave, and you always leave, in a day or two; or even a week, you always leave me with love in your eyes. And that takes me through the next few years, I pack that in my baggage when I pack to hide, to run, taking out tiny bits of it like precious, expensive chocolate that I am greedy for, an avarice of the soul but only eat bit by excruciating bit so it lasts me till… I don’t know when. Because I never know when you’ll turn up at my door, freshly clipped nails, clean shoes and a heart full of dross that you collected looking for me, just as we have almost forgotten about each other.