“We can talk about it in person,” I said.
“I hate when you say that.” she said, “Because we never do. LOL.”
“You are the Michael Jordan of LOL,” I said.
“And you are the Michael Phelps of avoiding a subject,” she said.
In the end, every relationship is really just a bunch of lines of dialogue. Some are good. Some are terrible. It all depends on how they’re arranged.
Words alone are important, but their composition, order, and spatial location are just as critical. Without longitude and latitude, without the right location for the words, you are lost. She mapped a sentence better than Fra Mauro mapped the Old World. Anyone who disagrees can meet me outside—for a lesson on prose poetry and Camaldolese monks.
More than just a geographic coordinate, words need a place. Every sentence needs a structure. You need something within which to hold the words. Otherwise all you have is just words lying around an apartment at room temperature. That usually isn’t good enough—almost anything can spoil without the proper receptacle. Do you know how sick that can make you?
She said words, but it was what she wouldn’t say that worried me the most. And then she said that, too. I didn’t have a clean container. Now her words are turning. Now it’s her words, instead of her, behind the bathroom mirror. Now I’m mixing metaphors. But they go so great with these cocktails.
“Who buys actual cherries?” she said.
“In a partner, you get to pick two—you can’t have all three things,” she said.
“I was wrong, when I said people come through and you should believe in stuff,” she said.
“I don’t think you appreciate my English enough,” she said.
She was wrong. I liked her Polish, but I only know a few Polish words. What I really appreciated was her English. I listened to her words. I listened to the ones she said, I listened to the ones she wrote, I listened to the ones she thought I didn’t hear, and I listened to the ones she didn’t say—even when they made me worry.
I also listened to her inexplicable shirts. I listened to her circumfluent hair. I listened to her shoes, and shoes, and shoes. I listened to her, twenty-four, in New York City. I should have said something, but I didn’t have the right words.
What happens if you know it won’t work? And then you do it anyway. And then it doesn’t work? What happens if you throw yourself out a ground floor window?
The answer is nothing. What’s nothing times nothing times nothing? How is nothing so excruciating? It does not even exist.
A sweet nothing is just nothing covered in sugar. But it was not nothing. When something isn’t everything that doesn’t mean it isn’t anything. What happens if you miss her already?
The last thing she said was “okay.” I know because I was listening. I was always listening. In the end, every relationship is really just a bunch of lines of dialogue. In the end, every word is about love or the absence of love.
She doesn’t know this, but I learned a new word in Polish.
“Przepraszam,” I said.
Or I would say, if she was listening.