A woman I didn’t see anymore invited me to an art opening. She had drifted away after the man I loved broke up with me, but here we were, face to face. She was pretty. She was always pretty. She said, “I feel dead. My agent sent my book to I don’t know how many editors, and they all said it wasn’t personal enough. Why did I write a memoir when I hate that shit?”
I remembered her stories of growing up in a trailer park. I thought she was making them up. There were no parents, and you couldn’t see the place. Was there a garden around the trailer or weeds and gravel? She gripped my wrists and said, “I can only be honest in fiction.” Her nails were bitten down. I looked at my fingers, long and slender. I thought I would be good at directing traffic.
She straightened up and said, “You just missed seeing ____,” naming the man I had loved. Her eyelashes were thick as caterpillars. The man’s name swung in the air on a hinge. Poppies were in a vase. Everything looked made of paper.
On the walls were twelve canvases, painted by her husband, all versions of famous 16th Century Dutch portraits, and they all looked like him with his coppery beard and ruddy complexion. The gallery was near the river. My friend was wearing a silk suit, starched and billowy as a sail. She narrowed her eyes and said, “We’ve become friends. He wrote an essay for Lew’s catalogue.” I stared at her. She tilted her head back and said, “You’re still hung up on him, huh, after all this time?”
I was wearing something I’d picked up off the floor. Isn’t that always how these things go? I said, “Has it been a long time? What is time?” In all honesty, it had been a couple of years. I said, “It went by like that,” and I snapped my fingers close to her nose, which jerked left, as if she were smelling adventure on the other side of the room. She said, “He was over for dinner last night.” I saw her loft. I saw yellow tomatoes in a blue bowl on a gray counter. I saw him on the couch, his arms stretched across the back, a finger tickling her shoulder while her husband made a Bernaise sauce. He must have known.
She sighed and said, “He can’t connect. He’s one of those people.” I touched the soft spot on the inside of her elbow and said, “I don’t want to hear.” She smiled as if I had given her something. I had. I had introduced them.
I took the stairs to the street. Outside it smelled of high tide. The man was waiting, leaning against a tree. He looked beautiful. He always looked beautiful with his sad, lean face and sweep of thick hair. It was nice to see him again, everything else aside. A pigeon stared up, waiting for something to happen. Gray clouds churned over the river, and our eyes met. The moment broke into frames I would have liked to describe to him, walking the length of the city, as if we had all the time in the world. I was sorry we had not stayed together long enough for me to get sick of him.
I snapped his picture with my phone. In the image he looks surprised, his hand moving up to grab something. He watched me walk away, and then he turned. I wondered where the surge of energy I felt would go. I was sorry I didn’t have a rock.