How To Make Love Stay

In homage to the passage of the same title from Tom Rollins’ Still Life with Woodpecker.
Everton Vila
Everton Vila

I. Call love from the only working pay phone in Queens Central Booking. Call seven times in a row. Listen for your laugh at the end of love’s voicemail recording. Hide a smile at the memory of love recording the message years ago, in a different city. On the eighth attempt love will answer. You felt in your bones he would. Tell love that you are in trouble. That love’s was the only local number you knew by heart, and that you’re sorry for having to call collect. Hear yourself relaying the cliff notes of the situation in a measured and instructive monotone. Ask love to call your Mom. Love will stay.

II. When love is wrongly terminated for missing a shift at a shitty summer job, run to the restaurant. It’s a 5 minute sprint to the South End from your beloved and mutual apartment building, overlooking the Mass Pike. March right into the restaurant and up to the manager that fired love, the one who always wore hats. The one that, if she were an animal, would resemble an exotic Japanese bird mid-preen, or a stupid koi fish. Tell the manager that she’s a monster and walk out before she forms a retort. Find love sitting on a bench outside an Italian deli a block away. She is on the phone with her Grandmother. She is also pregnant and will be for three more weeks. Buy love a big tuna sandwich and a Diet Coke. Walk home together and take a long August afternoon nap in each other’s arms. Wake up with pillow creases on your faces. Wake with less collective innocence. Love will stay.

III. Take love on a 4th of July bicycle pub crawl through East Hampton with your cousin and ten of his friends. Love will be the only girl. It will be her maiden and only sojourn to the Hamptons. Do sake bombs together, with strangers. Tease love until she dares to peddle with no hands. End the night dancing on the patio of a distinguished private beach club that love has never heard of. One that neither of you could afford, were it not for your cousin’s girlfriend slipping you free drinks. Kiss love on the forehead as you watch fireworks exploding over the Peconic Bay. Love will stay.

IV. Find Love crying in the bathroom of your family’s beach house. Tell love the statue can be fixed. Tell her that your entire extended family, who is there, actually really likes her, and that your Grandmother is right, at least love knocked over the statue before the baby could. Tell love that everything will be okay and ask love if she wants some Hendrick’s. Love will stay.

V. Tell love your biggest scariest secret as you lay nose to nose. Worry that it will be the end of things. Wait for the fear and shame to be reflected from your eyes to hers. Watch as love doesn’t bat so much as an eyelash. Observe the wheels turning in love’s brain and register the look in her eyes when she realizes she can handle it. “That’s okay,” love will say. Love will stay.

VI. Find love on the corner of Franklin and Prospect, 24 hours after the phone call. Sprint out of the 24 hour laundromat when she calls from the cab driver’s phone. Hold love until she stops shaking. Just let your souls stoke for a moment, in sympathy, in solidarity, in simpatico. Give her the first hug, the first cigarette, the first real meal since getting into the country and out of Riker’s. Tell love she is safe now. You haven’t seen her in five months, haven’t spoken in two, haven’t made love with love in three years. Realize that she is the first and only person whose feelings transcend the physicalities of romance. Tell love she doesn’t actually look that bad. Record her frantic rants and retellings of the past 48 hours on your phone for over an hour. You’ll both be glad you did. Play the recording for her one day. It will be winter. You will be together, drinking red wine and You will both be a little older, wiser, richer. One of you will even have a dog by then. Laugh about how ridiculous, preposterous, downright abhorrent that situation was. Tell love she is strong. Kiss her on the forehead. Ask love if she wants to watch a movie, but continue to talk for another 3 hours. Love will stay. TC mark

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