“Hey Alyson, euhh, I had a book for you and I forgot to give it to you. Anyway, euhhh, it was about French poetry, could give it to you later. Bye, ciao.”
I hit replay, watching the shadows from the blades of the fan arc across the ceiling. Replay again; three times, or four.
“Hey Alyson — ”
I am acutely aware of my heartbeat, focusing on my lungs expanding and contracting
“ — forgot to give it to you. Anyway — ”
I can’t write about this, I can’t do it, every time I try to think about it I have to remind my lungs to keep taking in air. But I have to write about him, otherwise I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop listening to a dead man’s voicemail message.
You had a painting in your basement apartment, a handgun with pink and red hearts blossoming out of the tip. I saw it the first night you invited me in, mentally adding your taste in art to the ever growing list of things I liked about you. I could be selfish with your heart at that point, tallying how we would and would not fit together.
How is it possible? I have your book of French poetry, your hamsa necklace, a voicemail with a teasing “Ciao” at the end. How are you gone if I still have all of these things, your things? I just do not understand. I can still see you in my mind, towering over me, shaking rain droplets out of your black curls in the teahouse. You would spend entire days swimming in Lake Michigan, and walk miles across our city, and take hours to teach me French. That man couldn’t be toppled by anything, let alone a heart attack at 35.
It’s too easy to remember your voice, your Moroccan accent, the way you would say “Alyson,” as if it would have to be written in cursive because the affection in your voice couldn’t contain any sharp edges. Those moments — the afternoon you smelled like cigarettes and we walked through the butterfly display, the market where you promised you’d teach me to like stuffed olives, pasta night when you had to reenact those outrageous stories — are on an endless loop in my mind.
As if by constantly circling through them I can somehow carve out a space for you here once more.
But you are gone and I cannot change that. I keep having these urges to break things, to pound my fists against desktops and windows, to fracture this life that somehow doesn’t contain you anymore, and then put the pieces carefully back together in a mosaic, the multi-colored shards that make up our lives overlapping once more.
You were a better, more beautiful person than I. Yet you’ve suddenly, unexpectedly disappeared from this existence, which scares me more than I’d like to admit. You see, humans forget things all the time: plans, birthdays, names.
I want you to rest in peace, but I also wish you could rest in passion, in beauty, in kindness, and in that certain “je ne sais quois,” just as you were in life.
Ciao, mon ami.