Pink flip-flops on pale feet, frizzy hair on a waif in denim shorts and stripey tank top. Not well fitted - a casual presence. Leaning on the rail, on the long descent down Lavender. Large paper cup in hand and nibbling at the straw. Dunkin Donuts, it said, the cup. We wait in line to buy tickets from a robot. Someone ahead take a long time. I ask, "will this machine take a fifty dollar note?" "No," she says - French? Short enough perhaps to be fourteen - pitch of voice corroborates. Not yet legal. Maybe legal. She sends me to the ticket counter, where I buy a reusable card. She asks if I'm okay, then moves through the turnstyles. At that time, I wished I had the energy to talk to her, but underslept, rushing for a meeting, I just watched her examining signboards, and I made efforts to stay out of her way. A memory from the last holiday I took from work.
Aged well, probably in her mid-fifties. Baby's got back, in a fitted dress, with just enough heel to make it clear that she knows where to place her feet without looking. An athlete, perhaps, eyebags dry... a sign of too many strange nights past, with wrinkles indicating that a pensive smile is often to be found there. Crows feet, perhaps. Pastel coloured facepaint. The slightest blush. She knows she's watched, and a firm smile with stern eyes graces an ardent passenger, riding the sight of this beautiful woman. Just another regular customer.
My love, first in the first world, what have you been doing? Is it freeing, your study of opportunity in the walled garden? Do you find the men intriguing, or mostly just oppressive? You spoke of a mediocre oppression, which we both know to be common among facades. We know you will not receive these messages, and so I know that these can only reach you through minds other than your own.
My love, second in the first world, we both know how you are doing. Is it opportune, that freedom in the walls? Are your prisoners contained, and more importantly, are you now unguarded? How many men have you taken? How many women? You spoke of an untenable perseverance for great fortune. Does it befall you in a timely manner? We know that you, or someone like you, still receives these messages. But you never send word home. The last I remember, was that you enjoy these readings.
My love, first in the third world, have you found peace at work? Does it still fall upon you from timezones far away? When will go home, and be with your lover for all futures conceivable? You were so happy together.
Nothing triggers theatricality, like a woman who turns up at your desk during a meeting, wearing the dress you took off her back the night before. You don't want to look at her, but she's smiling at you. And you know she doesn't care - it's already been discussed. But polity requires that you stand up, and deliver a greeting. Put a hand on her shoulder and give her a tour of the goods. Talk about her mother. Sell her some cake. Return to the meeting. And again, she comes by; stand up again. Another farewell. The two dozenth goodbye in as many years. And that has to last a year. Maybe two. Or three. Textbook smalltalk. Ho hum.
We spent too much time in that car. Heading into the darkness on mountains. Climbing hills over the city near sunset. Dodging stupid Malaysian weather. Driving you home. Driving you away, from home. It could have been better, indoors. We never had enough, of the great indoors. We drove to bus-stops, to lakes, to parks, to cafes, to nowhere. Our world was filled with beauty, and order, and insight. We were the Vogels. In the dark, dodging cops, who tapped at the window and opened the doors, who drove past silently in their blue lights. Peering through glass, thunder, and moonlight. Overlooking cities, overlooking the sea. We strode through streets of rubble, built by our forefathers, anguished by our peers. We held each other, for tears. We were always sad, in the best of ways. We always prepared.
You considered buying my time. The offer was lousy, and I found better. Stylish and unpretty, was how I remembered our brief solicitation. Our worlds then collided, in our town - tinier than the space inside you, reserved for me. I left another. I staked you out. I warmed us up, and we went out, and you came over, and our courtship began. You drove by and picked me up, by a street sign, reading. On the same street we met, you spoke of submission, and I took over. We walked for miles together. We swam. We rode bicycles. We flew over islands and seas. We let each other in. But you couldn't grasp me, and soon you hated us. I would clean and put you to bed, carry your bags on strange streets, and tie your shoelaces in faraway places. Your resolution was unyielding. After years, a fleeting friendship, an itinerant romance, I helped you pack. Leaving. Kissing, we folded into our finale. And over a year later, slightly drunk, you would smile at me, just one last time. But I knew you would never stay. As you no longer smiled when you saw me.
Why, you asked, did I speak to you directly? I found half your face, on Twitter. The other half was shrouded in shadows, perhaps by your hair, an unforgettable thing. Nearly two years later, you found it in you to tease me. And when I teased you, you responded to "kitty." But only if it would be a cute kitty, you said. And then we did coffee. And perhaps I was too forward, or too backward. You would entertain me alone once more, and that time perhaps I was preoccupied with work - but I remember how you greeted me. We met with others. You brought a friend, to my office. You never met me thereafter. I always wish we spoke extensively. Maybe one day, you'll try again.
You were an angel in a quaint dress. Sometimes giggly, sometimes sad. We studied our tastes. You were going much farther than I, and I was too intense. Bitter, you said. I suppose my work is often either feckless, or bitter. But you were sorrow and light, joy and simplicity combined. My favourite time, was the moment when we stood closely, and you spoke of futility. Maybe we knew wildly different futilities. I've been chasing your thoughts. I've missed working beside you. When, are you coming to see me?
Three months have passed since I last heard your voice other than as a memory. Nearly a year since the lady before. In my mind, your voices are all clear - I can pen symphonies in those spaces, but I prefer lovers. Perhaps, that is why I don't depart from those whom I feel for dearly. But all people experience these asymmetries. Clearly you have chosen (or naturally come to) forget the equivalences of me. Knowing this, I write to you every day. A soldier or sailor or astronaut, casting fragments out into the abyss. So after a relatively peaceful day, I wonder. If you think of me as a distraction to be held at bay. Or as a noise you do not parse. Or as a secret longing. But these are ordinary meanderings of isolated minds. I wonder where where yours has been. It does not matter to me that you may have nearly forgotten me. The final messages I received said only that you do not hate past lovers, that they stop writing after a fortnight, and that you always enjoy reading what they say. If you wonder where this resilience comes from, it is a simple matter - you must remember that I was raised on a life of prayer. And you, my ladies, are the world to me. There is no one else to turn to, but goddesses that once availed.
I first heard of you as a colour. Searches turned up a pretty face, and a thoughtful disposition. That is all you have ever been to me. A friend of friends, a mark on a screen, and we are customarily social. Your hips are broad, your smile contagious. Your bare feet, bent over, frustrated, slurred speech ravaging the world. I have been moved by lesser beauties.
"Oh, have you been here the whole time?"
"I don't recognise you anymore."
"I must look so common, now."
"You just want me to miss you."
"Get in line."
"Three years in, I still don't see the end."