I didn’t quite remember she was this beautiful. I watch her from far away, fascinated by her smile. It’s a shy, quiet smile, but warm, inviting. Anyone in that bar would want to talk to this girl, but she has no idea. She’s just smiling at her friend’s camera, expecting this night to be like any other. I, of course, now know that is not the case, but I am still happy she is smiling. I’m glad she doesn’t know what is coming, because the way she looks right now almost, almost gives me hope. She is frozen in that second, in that smile, but she is so beautiful and magic I can see her move. Sitting at the bar, sipping on her martini, repeatedly checking her red painted nails, breathing in the night and its possibilities. Without realizing, she is singing along to a song I have definitely heard before but the name of which I don’t remember. I look at her almost as if through a veil; she is untouchable, and it seems to me like she is a mirage, not real at all. She’s happy and young and beautiful and alive; it fills me with heartbreaking nostalgia.

Then I see him. I have been running from this for so long. I stopped going to my old favorite restaurant because I know he started taking girls there after we broke up; I blocked him on every possible social media, deleted all the pictures from my phone, haven’t listened to that song that we used to play in the car in moths and stopped talking to the friends we shared. Now, I stare at his face again. I shake: as irresistible as always. The charming smile, the piercing green eyes noticeable even in a dark bar, the way he looks at her. He looks almost like a stranger to me. Now I know all the things that make him smile and all the truths behind his eyes, but when I look at him, frozen in his perfect smile, I still see the stranger he is to her.

I know his birthday is October 28th, meaning he is a Scorpio, which he hates because it makes perfect sense, but he doesn’t want to believe in astrology. I know his mother’s name is Marie and she is a high school Math teacher, which was very helpful during his senior year because he was having serious trouble studying for the SATs. I know he was raised quite religious, and his second biggest fear is that his grandmother will find out he doesn’t believe in God. I know the worst day of his life was his father’s funeral, and the best was the day he graduated college. I know his first kiss was with his cousin’s best friend at a truth or dare game and his first time was with another cousin’s best friend during the summer before his senior year. I know his first girlfriend’s name was Jacqueline, and now she’s married and has twin girls and lives in Maine. I know he wanted to be an astronaut when he was six, an actor when he was sixteen and a writer until twenty-six. I know his number one bucket list item is to visit Machu Pichu. I know his fears and his dreams, his heart and his mind, his talent with words, every inch of his skin, but when I see the way he looks at her, it is so very easy to forget.

He is just a stranger with a lovely smile, talking to this pretty girl, and neither of them has absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next. She is staring into the camera, embarrassedly asking her friend behind it through a quiet look if she should flirt back, but he seems to not even notice there is anyone but the two of them there. He looks at right at her, piercing her with the green eyes and the smile he knows will work, because it always does, asking questions and making the jokes we all always laugh at. The smile on her face is the first one he ever caused, and they attract each other like magnets; her grin, so genuine, almost unavoidable, and his, so calculated, because he knows exactly what makes girls smile back.

He had been watching her for some time before actually coming up and asking her name. Her friend pointed at him with her head, but she didn’t believe that guy, so handsome he could get any of the girls in this bar, was in fact looking at her. But he was, and he was fascinated. There was just something about her that drew him in, something that made coming up to her and saying hi not a choice but simply the only thing he could possibly do. At least, that’s what he will tell her.

After her friend takes the picture and notices the way they are looking at each other, she informs them she is going to the bathroom as a mere excuse to leave them alone, smiling at each other. They are in perfect sync, talking and laughing almost as if it is choreographed. He says something, she laughs, he smiles, she notices, he licks his lips, she takes a sip, he takes a sip, she smiles back. They’re dancing with nothing but their eyes, and that is more than enough, because he is looking at her like she’s a piece of art or just pure magic, and who doesn’t want to be looked at like that?

I pretend I’m not jealous, every cell in my body hurting with the lack of his touch, every part of me missing the days when he looked at me like I was made of magic.

He finishes his drink – rum and soda, if I remember correctly, which of course I do – and ads more moves to their routine. A hand on her lower back, a tilt of the head, every time a little closer, a slight touch of her hand every few minutes. Her friend is already back from the bathroom, sitting alone on a table where they can’t see her, checking her emails and killing time.

And I just watch them dance. He buys another round, they sip, they laugh, they smile, each minute half an inch closer to each other. It’s dark and they are still frozen in their first smiles to each other, but if I close my eyes, I can so clearly see the way things unfold. They drink and talk as the world gets a little blurrier on the edges, but it doesn’t matter because all they are looking at are each other’s eyes.

When they finish the round, he gets up and asks her to dance. The bar is not particularly full and there aren’t many people dancing, but of course she says yes, because he is charming and sweet and there are no questions he could ever ask that she would not say yes to. He holds her hand and they move to the song that soon they will call theirs. They haven’t stopped smiling in almost an hour.

It kills me, how beautiful she is. The way her smile lights up the entire room, how her eyes are bright blue and there is an entrancing sparkle to them, how she dances with her eyes closed, singing along to the song even though she is not sure about the lyrics, how you can just tell from the way she moves that the man holding her hand has just started to light a fire in her heart. She is pure magic, disarming beauty, all I wish I saw when I looked in the mirror.

The songs ends and their bodies stop moving, closer to each other still holding hands. Their hearts are still beating fast, their souls are still dancing, and he leans in. That single moment before his lips touches hers lasts forever. Those three or four seconds that separate now and then, the moment before everything changes; this is it. Their hearts are beating faster than ever, a million thoughts are going through their heads, the world is blurry in the best kind of way, and they kiss. This is it.

They are still in perfect sync.

My eyes water, and I need to look away. This is too much.

I blink, letting the tears fall, and look everywhere but at her. I stare at the spot he would always sit on my old blue couch, at the TV and the movie I muted about seven minutes ago, at the glass of wine that is my fifth tonight, at the flower print on the box where I unexpectedly found this picture between old letters and telephone bills.

It seems like it was a lifetime away, that Tuesday night where after an hour of begging, Carol finally convinced me to go out with her. As long as I’m home by midnight, it’s what I told her. So I put on my favorite shirt, did my makeup in five minutes, got into that cab, sang along to a few songs, told her I would only have a drink or two and was almost ready to leave when I found piercing green eyes unbelievably staring right at me.

I tell myself to just throw that picture away. I blocked his number and all his accounts, stop seeing our mutual friends, haven’t worn that favorite shirt since he left and don’t turn the radio on in the car because I don’t want to risk crying in case a song that sparks some memories comes up. I should just throw the picture away, but I can’t. Because that unrecognizable girl is smiling, and there is a fire being lit in her heart. Because she is beautiful, and he finds her beautiful, and as much as I hate myself for it, I wish he would find me beautiful too.

If she could listen to me, would I tell her to run? To grab Carol’s hand and leave as fast as possible and never, ever come back? Or would I tell her to stay? To hold onto him and never let go? And what would she tell me? That she is sorry, so sorry, for letting him do this to her, to me, to us, or that it is worth it? That the way she is feeling right now, the way he is looking at her, makes it all worth it?

I’m not really sure.

My brain keeps sending directions for my hands to crumble the photo into a ball and throw it away, but my body stays completely still. All I can do is stare at them, the two strangers in that bar. Him, a stranger because the sweet, loving, fascinated guy in that picture is nothing like the man I got to know. Her, because I am bruised and broken in so many ways that that girl smiling is nothing but a dream of what once was or what I wish it could still be.

So I just look at her, with the ravishing blue eyes, the breathtaking smile, a fire in her heart, and for a second I let myself pretend I am her. I pretend she is what I see when I look in the mirror instead of a face that is only slightly familiar, who has clearly drank at least five glasses in the last two hours, whose smile is fake and almost always desperately melts into a crying face, whose eyes are an empty shade of blue, so empty it’s almost grey.

I don’t recognize her, but I also don’t recognize myself. I don’t understand how it is possible that I am, at the same time, neither and both. I don’t understand how they could be the same; she is so beautiful, so full of life and light, a fire of passion burning in her heart. As for me, I feel empty besides the glasses of wine, and my heart isn’t broken: it has turned to ashes.

I watch as she kisses him back, still in perfect sync. He smiles at her and she smiles back; he tells her smile is beautiful, and neither of them would believe he will one day be guilty of its violent murder.

I can’t move or barely even think, so all I do is look,

as if from far away,

at the girl I used to be

give her heart to the man

who made her


What feels like infinity

Just as we stop at the red light, a new song comes on. I don’t think I have ever heard it before, and I definitely don’t know what it’s called, but something about it makes me fall in love the moment it starts. I look at her. She’s singing along to the lyrics I don’t know, eyes closed, her hand hanging outside the window, feeling the tiny raindrops that fall from the sky – right now, I am pretty sure she is perfect.

Tonight is one of those rare nights when the weather decides to pull a prank on you, fooling you into thinking summer is here already. We are well into spring, but there are still final exams and graduation and official enrollment deposits between us and our last summer together. Still, tonight the rain is warm and the air is humid, and I can feel the beautiful yet heartbreaking nostalgia that is almost exclusive to summer nights. It’s ten thirty-seven at night and we just watched a terrible movie and ate very good one-dollar ice cream and I’m driving her home because tomorrow at seven we have a Biology test and we are over half an hour past her curfew, and right now everything feels as if it’s exactly where it belongs.

I should close the window, I know, because I will most definitely wake up with a cold tomorrow, but she looks so peaceful, so incredibly beautiful, feeling the warm raindrops like each of them matter, that tomorrow morning seems an entire lifetime away. Right now, all I really care about is her.

This is in fact the kind of moment poets write about: her closed eyes, her heart-shaped lips, how beautiful she is when she doesn’t know I’m looking; I try to take a mental picture, to memorize every single insignificant detail about her. The soft curls of her dark hair, the silver necklace with a heart pendant her father gave her for her sixteenth birthday, the tiny hands that are always at least a little cold, rings that don’t match at all, the chipped blue nail polish she always has on. I know these details will fade away one day, but right now I pretend I will always remember. I pretend that in ten or thirty or fifty years, I will close my eyes and be able to see her just as she is right now and to feel just as I do when I look at her: young, alive, stupidly in love, the biggest of cliches. And what a wonderful feeling it is.

When I look at her, when I close my own eyes and let myself feel my heartbeats and how every single one sounds like her name, I swear I can see it.

The two of us tomorrow, holding hands in the hallway on our way to lunch; right in this car in a couple of months, finally headed to the beach like we have been saying we would for months. Holding tears back and kissing in a slightly dramatic way, as we would, before she closes her car door and drives away to college. During Christmas break, going to the movies to watch whichever the newest terribly rated release is, getting cheap ice cream and thinking about how incredibly weird and amazing it is that nothing has changed. Next year, when I surprise her for her birthday if I can save the money for the plane ticket. At college graduation, me giving her flowers and a hug and maybe, maybe, a ring. At our high school reunion, when we see the people we promised we would stay friends with forever but of course didn’t and reassure them that yes, we have been together since then, we survived college, we are in fact part of that 1% that doesn’t get torn apart by long distance.

When I look at her, I can really see it. Her and me, forever.

It only lasts a second, of course. I know better.

In just a few months we will be in college hours away from each other; instead of a five-minute drive, I will be over three hours by plane away from her and all that means home to me. I will make new friends, find new movies to watch and a new favorite ice cream place – and so will she. Slowly, we will build brand new lives, and we will only take part in each other’s through a few texts a day and maybe phone calls twice a week.

In one year, we will probably be broken up. I’m sure that next summer, when we’re back home and see each other at a party in someone’s basement, we will smile our most genuine smiles across the room, and we will hug and catch up and just maybe share a drunken kiss.  I will ask about her life, listen to stories about bad parties and new friends, and I will tell her mine too; we will share a little bit of the lives that feel so astronomically distant from each other.

But slowly – so slowly we might not even notice –, just like that, each Thanksgiving, each Christmas break, each summer, our conversations will become shorter and the hugs will become a nice handshake.

In five years, I will be only a memory of when she first understood why they call it falling in love. Her favorite book will change into another and then another, and I will never know; she will stop wearing blue nail polish and change it to yellow or pink or purple, and I will never know. She will fight with her sister a hundred more times and never call me to complain about it, go to a concert from that band we love listening to and not send me any of the pictures she takes, listen to a random song on the radio that maybe reminds her of me and never tell me about it. She will meet someone that enjoys the same bad movies and the same good songs; whose hand fits better with hers, who also loves the way she sings along to songs without realizing it. She will meet so many people who love her, who hate her and who change her, live through so many bad days she will want to forget and good ones she will always remember, and through all of that life will mold her into a new version of herself, over and over again.

She will fall in love so many times, have so many happy memories and sad ones too, uncountable tears and delicious laughs, until she slowly turns into someone I would barely recognize.

The same, of course, will happen to me.

And one day, in twenty years or so, I will be back home for Thanksgiving, in the line at the supermarket buying the cranberries my mother always forgets, and I will hear my name. She will have shorter or longer hair, wear a different color nail polish and probably be as beautiful as she is right now, but I won’t be young and in love and cliché anymore, so I won’t think so. She will shake my hand and smile, and I will smile back. She will ask about my parents, about where I live and what I work with, and I will ask every question back; we will make polite conversation with genuine smiles and many questions the answers to which we don’t truly care about. She’ll introduce me to her husband, tall or short, a doctor or a writer, and I will shake hands with him, pay for my cranberries, say goodbye and move on with whatever life it is I will be living then. I will have another favorite book, my laugh will sound different and my smile will say something else. Just as to me she will be only a slightly faded memory of a first love, to her I will be a stranger whose eyes remind her of someone she used to know.

We won’t remember our first kiss, or our last kiss; we won’t remember most of the bad movies we watched or how we promised we would try every single ice cream flavor by the time spring is over; we won’t remember this faux summer night or the song she is singing along to right now.

But that doesn’t really matter. Because I am looking at her, she is feeling the rain falling on her hand, and even though we will most likely forget this moment and this feeling, it will always be here, and it will always have happened, no matter what. We are irrelevant and unimportant because the world is so much bigger than the two of us and what feels like infinity, but we are also in love and together and here, alive, right now.

The light turns back to green. She finally turns away from the window, opens her eyes and looks at me. Light brown eyes, with splashes of caramel and if you look very closely, green too. Click. She tells me to look at the road, and I finally do, because as much as I want to look at her, as much as I’m young and in love and cliché and stupid and probably wouldn’t mind staring at her forever or at least for a few more minutes, she needs to be home in around minus forty minutes, and her dad is probably already mad.

The song ends a few seconds before I park in front of her house. It seemed long for a song but regardless very short as a measurement of time for anything else, because I wish it was still playing and we could just keep driving and driving around, with nowhere in particular to go.

She smiles at me, and I smile back. She leans in for a kiss, and I kiss her back; we never stop smiling. She whispers something about her father killing her over curfew, which is code for I really have to go, but she still doesn’t move. We sit there in my car, staring at her house and the few stars on the dark sky, the radio off because silence is better than any song that would try and fail to be as good as the one that just ended.

I smile at her again. I know everything is temporary, and relationships are doomed to end in either a break up or someone eventually dying, and the time will come when I will cry about this girl, and one day I will be old and senile and forget her name, and the world is so much bigger than the two of us, but I’m still happy and I’m still smiling at her and she’s still smiling back. We are here, and right now tomorrow seems like a bed time story neither of us is really sure it’s even true.

We are here, completely aware of the fact that we are nothing but foolish teenagers who haven’t lived much yet, stupidly in love and unbelievably cliché, and we don’t really care. Yes, we are aware that in a minute or two she will go back inside her house, and we have a Biology test in the morning and soon the final exams will be over, graduation will be memories in a photo album, final enrollment deposits will be paid and bags will be packed. We know the inevitable truth that tomorrow will in fact come, as will next month, next season and next year, but that doesn’t ruin the way we feel right now; it isn’t a blemish, a bug in the system or a reason to drive away; it is simply the necessary component to the very best things in life, so that the universal law that says nothing can ever be perfect remains unbroken.

But tonight, with the silence and the rain, we almost manage to break it.

The Beautiful Irony of Being Here

English version: The Beautiful Irony of Being Here

Dinner was Chinese takeout, as it religiously had been every Tuesday for too long to remember exactly. He picked it up after work, a little late because of traffic, and heat it in the microwave while I set up the table – the everyday china, nothing fancy like our wedding’s; that was only for special occasions. I sat on my chair, the first one to the right, my spot since we first moved in, straightened my fork and knife and waited for him to sit in front of me, as he had every night for the last twenty-one years. It was then, that Tuesday that looked like every other Tuesday of our more than slightly uneventful life, when he decided to tell me he loved someone else.

At first I didn’t quite process it. He sounded so normal, with absolutely no indication of what was about to come. He just spit it out on the table, the painful truth with no sort of euphemism. The way he said it sounded more like he was telling me about how his meeting with his boss had gone or commenting not very interesting news he heard in the radio in the morning. That tone, almost casual, is most certainly not the tone in which you let your wife know that your marriage is essentially over.

“I think I’m in love with someone else.” He repeated after five seconds, now more serious, as if finally realizing what the words said meant, and that under no circumstance they could be unsaid.

I didn’t say anything, and in my lack of words he found a chance to fill time with his. In an attempt to both justify and apologize, he went on and on about how unavoidable his feelings for this woman I did not know were, and how he knew I didn’t deserve to have to listen to any of it. Still in silence, I agreed with him. I absolutely did not deserve it, but that within itself is not enough to really change anything.

“Hey,” he looked at my hand, and in his eyes I saw the decision to not reach for it “do you have anything to say?”

That was, clearly, a stupid question. As his wife of twenty one years, the person who has loved him through all life has to give, through pain and happiness and funerals and weddings and raises and resignations and every single bad day, there is no question I would have a lot to say when finding out he thought he was in love with another woman.

The thing is: I didn’t, really.

“You think?” It’s all I said. “How is it that you think you’re in love with someone else?”

He raised his eyebrows, clearly confused, probably by my tone, as casual as his when he broke me the news.

“Yeah. I think.” I looked at him, waiting for more. “I’m not… I can’t…” He seemed like he had something to say – something he was fundamentally not able to communicate. “I don’t…”

“Jesus, just say what you want to say.” I found myself strangely impatient. The food was getting cold.

“I can’t know for sure. Love isn’t born like that, you know? Fast and out of nowhere. But there’s a possibility there with her. And it feels stronger than…” He hesitated.

“Us?” I said with a clear sadness in my voice, more because it felt appropriate than because I truly felt sad. He nodded.

I understood what he meant perfectly, of course. I had never believed in love it first sight; love wasn’t born when he introduced himself to me at that party so many years ago, his name said through his teeth in a charming smile and his dark eyes looking right into mine, deeper than anyone else ever had. Love was built over conversations about life and death, fights about stupid and sometimes not so stupid things, sharing secrets we thought we’d take to our graves, reading the paper and drinking coffee in silence on Sunday mornings, sleeping next to each other for over twenty years and memorizing every detail there is to know about someone. But still, that Saturday night so many years ago, when he looked into my eyes, my entire body was electric with possibility, and though I may not have fallen in love right at that second, a part of me knew it was bound to happen – I knew it did not make sense at all, of course it didn’t, but I knew too that some things simply don’t need to make sense.

I also understood that possibility turned into passion and passion turned into love, and the electricity was always there. Love, even when in routine, in a boring and repetitive everyday life, within itself is electricity, and it wasn’t until he nodded on that Tuesday night as our Chinese food got colder that I realized it had been some time since I had felt that. I was jealous, I realized. Not of her, but of him, because I wanted to feel it again too. I wanted to feel a possibility strong enough to make me turn all I know as life upside down.

“I really don’t know if I love her. But I need to find out.” He looked at my hand once again, and once again did not reach.

“So you’re leaving?” I said with a clear anger in my voice, more because it felt appropriate than because I truly felt angry.

He apologized again, and he did truly seem sorry. “I know it sounds crazy to do that because I only think I love her. But the fact that I think I do…”

“It says something about us.”

He agreed, and there didn’t seem to be anything left to say, so I sat there and stared at him staring at anywhere in our living room but into my eyes.

I felt like I should say something else. Fight him or yell or cry or ask what it was about her that I lacked. But I the truth is the answer didn’t really matter to me. What I really felt was confused, simple and raw confusion, exactly because I wasn’t sad or angry or even jealous of her – and as things go, or at least are supposed to go, I figured I probably should have been.

I looked around, contemplating the almost chocking feeling of confusion and the lack of any others until I got bored enough to remember I was hungry. So I got up, grabbed the Chinese food we ate every Tuesday, took it back to the kitchen, reheated it in the microwave, took it back to the dining table, put it in front of us right on the spot it was before, sat on the chair I always sat on, and started eating while asking him about his day at work, like I did every night.

He ignored the obvious weirdness of it all and over dinner he told me how the meeting with his boss had gone and about some news he had heard on the radio on his way to work. Then we finished eating, and he washed the dishes and I dried them, like we did every night. When we were done, he went to our room, quickly packed a bag of only essentials, and let me know he would be coming back soon to get the rest of his things. Before he left, he wished me a good night, and I wished him one back, just like we did every night before drifting into sleep.

Over the next month, he stopped by a couple times a week to pack more of his things. Sometimes I was there and heard the doorbell he rang despite of still having his key, and I helped him with the boxes over small talk; other times I wasn’t, he used his key to get in and when I would come back I’d find the home we built for so long every time a little more unrecognizable, a little closer to half empty.

It was a weird month. Confusing above anything else, because I had been waiting for all the things I was not feeling to come all at once, like a storm I would not be able to control. That never happened. So I was left with a feeling of unsettling confusion, and it was only as the weeks went by and half of my home went away that I began to finally understand that the storm was not coming at all. There was no anger, no sadness. I understood that I had fallen out of love with him just as he had to have fallen out of love with me, and where there once was passion now there was just an emptiness that didn’t let me feel any of the things that anyone else would consider inevitable.

Still, it took some time to get used to the harsh coldness of the empty spot next to me by my side when I slept. But when I finally did, I found the simple joy of sleeping alone on a king-sized bed. I went to the movies by myself, and cried when the couple finally kissed in the ending. I made myself my favorite food on weekdays instead of ordering in like always. I ate a sandwich in bed without worrying about crumbs, left my makeup on the bathroom sink, and got drunk on wine on a Monday night. It was only then, alone in my apartment, the windows open to the city, the lights of so many windows blurry in my eyes reminding me reminding me of how desperately big the world is, my favorite song he not so secretly hated blasting from the radio, dancing by myself drunker than I expected to be, that I realized that I had simply forgotten that I loved myself, and in that love there was the electricity I had quietly missed so much.

Last night he stopped by to get his last box. Inside of it were jeans that no longer fit, ties he never wore and his half of our wedding china, which we never used since the wedding because we were saving it for a special occasion.

He sat next to me on the couch with the sealed box and his own glass of wine, and we talked about divorce papers, who would get to keep the car and how to tell our friends. He apologized again, and in my most genuine honesty, I reassured him: “It’s not your fault.”

And it was true. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Not his, not mine, not hers. That was, in fact, the most painful part of it all: there was no one to blame. The fact is that life happens and people leave and it is a fundamental part of the very nature of feelings to eventually fade. And that is what happened: our love grew pale. We were both guilty and victims of falling out of love, and the only difference is that he found someone who made him realize that before I did.

The silence between us had been growing for too long; the Sunday mornings stopped being peaceful and became simply boring, kissing had become as automatic as brushing our teeth and we never held hands just for the sake of holding hands anymore. It had been way longer than we noticed since we had in fact been us, and it surprised me that I didn’t realize it the moment he told me about her and my heart did not shatter in a thousand pieces.

“I’m still sorry. This doesn’t make sense. There’s nothing wrong with us.”

“Some things simply don’t have to make sense.” I reassured him, and myself.

And in a moment of wonderful weirdness, we looked at each other and we laughed. We were simply not able to ignore the painful irony of being here. You spend over half of your life learning everything about someone, their hopes and fears and dreams, every detail of their face, every path of their body, every secret they hold within their eyes, and one day they tell you that they love someone else. And then, with no possible explanation, the love you are so certain is forever and so brightly colorful has grown pale, and there is no option left but to accept that. So we accepted it and laughed until the seconds became minutes and we completely lost track of time.

When we stopped what seemed like hours later, we panted our way back to our breath’s normal pace, and when nothing but silence was left, he finally reached for my hand. He told me he loved me. I said it back in a whisper, and in that silence neither of us found it necessary to add but I’m no longer in love with you. We knew.

After he gave me his key and washed his glass, he left with his last box, and I was left with a half empty home, a half full glass of red wine, and with myself. There was a kind of nostalgia floating in the air, a quiet reminder of the inevitable end most forevers are bound to come to. I had lost all that such little time ago seemed to be everything – there was nothing left to be ripped away from me, and I was okay. I was alone, and it was beautiful. And in that moment, it was true that I didn’t have much more than a half empty home, a half full glass of wine and myself – and that seemed to be just enough.


Portuguese version: A maravilhosa ironia de estar aqui

A janta era comida chinesa, como religiosamente era toda terça-feira há tempo demais para lembrar exatamente o quanto. Ele comprou depois do trabalho, um pouco atrasado por causa do trânsito, e esquentou no micro-ondas enquanto eu arrumava a mesa – a louça que usamos todo dia, nada chique como a do nosso casamento; aquela era só para ocasiões especiais. Sentei em minha cadeira, a primeira à direita, meu lugar desde que nos mudamos para o apartamento, endireitei meu garfo e faca e esperei que ele sentasse à minha frente, como fazia toda noite pelos últimos vinte e um anos. Foi então, naquela terça-feira que parecia igual a toda terça-feira de nossas vidas mais do que ligeiramente rotineiras, quando ele decidiu me contar que amava outra pessoa.

Em um primeiro momento eu não processei suas palavras. Ele soou tão normal, sem absolutamente nenhuma indicação do que estava por vir. Simplesmente cuspiu as palavras na mesa, a dolorosa verdade sem nenhum tipo de eufemismo. O jeito em que ele disse soou como se estivesse me contando como tinha sido a reunião com seu chefe ou comentando notícias não particularmente interessantes que ouviu no rádio de manhã. Aquele tom, quase casual, certamente não é o tom no qual se informa sua esposa que seu casamento essencialmente acabou.

“Eu acho que estou apaixonado por outra pessoa.” Ele repetiu depois de cinco segundos, agora mais sério, como se finalmente compreendendo o que as palavras ditas significavam e que sob nenhuma circunstância elas poderiam ser retiradas.

Eu não disse nada, e na minha falta de palavras ele viu uma chance de preencher o tempo com as dele. Numa tentativa de ao mesmo tempo se justificar e se desculpar, ele explicou e explicou o quão inevitáveis eram seus sentimentos por essa mulher que eu não conhecia e como ele sabia que eu não merecia ter que escutar nada daquilo. Ainda em silêncio, concordei. Eu absolutamente não merecia aquilo, mas reconhecer isso por si só não é de fato o bastante para mudar nada.

“Ei,” ele encarou minha mão, e em seus olhos eu vi a decisão de não segurá-la. “você não tem nada para falar?”

Aquela era claramente uma pergunta estúpida. Como sua esposa de vinte e um anos, a pessoa que o amou por todas as coisas que a vida tem para dar, pela dor e a felicidade e funerais e casamentos e promoções e demissões e todos os dias ruins, não há dúvida de que eu teria muito a dizer ao descobrir que ele achava estar apaixonado por outra mulher.

A questão é: eu não tinha.

“Você acha?” Foi tudo que eu disse. “Como que você acha que está apaixonado por outra pessoa?”

Ele levantou as sobrancelhas, claramente confuso, provavelmente devido ao meu tom, tão casual quanto o seu quando resolveu me dar a grande notícia.

“Sim. Eu acho.” Eu olhei para ele, esperando mais. “Eu não… Eu não consigo…” Ele parecia ter algo mais a dizer –  algo que era fundamentalmente incapaz de comunicar. “…não sei como…”

“Meu deus, diz o que você quer tanto dizer.” Eu me encontrava estranhamente impaciente. A comida estava esfriando.

“Eu não tenho como ter certeza. Não assim. Amor não nasce desse jeito, sabe? Rápido e do nada. Mas tem uma possibilidade com ela. E parece mais forte do que…” Ele hesitou.

“Nós?” Eu disse com uma óbvia tristeza em minha voz, mais porque que parecia apropriado do que porque eu de fato de me sentia triste. Ele balançou a cabeça, concordando.

É claro que eu entendia perfeitamente o que ele queria dizer. Eu nunca havia acreditado em amor à primeira vista; o amor não nasceu quando ele se apresentou para mim naquela festa tantos anos atrás, seu nome dito entre os dentes em um sorriso encantador, seus olhos escuros encarando fundo os meus, mais fundo do que qualquer outra pessoa jamais havia encarado. O amor foi construído sobre conversas sobre a vida e a morte, brigas sobre coisas bobas e as vezes não tão bobas, segredos que achamos que levaríamos ao túmulo, silenciosas manhãs de domingo lendo jornal e tomando café, vinte anos de noites dormindo ao lado do outro e de memórias acumuladas sobre cada detalhe que é possível lembrar sobre alguém. Ainda assim, naquela noite de sábado tantos anos atrás, quando ele olhou em meus olhos meu corpo inteiro foi eletrizado com a possibilidade, e mesmo que eu não tenha me apaixonado naquele segundo, uma parte de mim sabia que seria inevitável que eventualmente acontecesse – eu sabia que não fazia sentido algum, claro que não fazia, mas eu também sabia que algumas coisas simplesmente não precisam fazer sentido.

Eu também entendia que a possibilidade havia se transformado em paixão e a paixão havia se transformado em amor, e a eletricidade sempre esteve ali. Amor, mesmo em rotina, na mais entediante e repetitiva vida, por si só é eletricidade, e foi só quando ele balançou a cabeça naquela terça-feira enquanto nossa comida chinesa esfriava entre nós, que eu entendi que já fazia algum tempo desde que eu havia sentido aquilo. Eu estava com ciúmes. Não dela, quem quer que ela fosse e o que quer que fosse sobre ela, mas dele, porque eu queria sentir aquilo de novo. Eu queria sentir uma possibilidade forte o bastante para me fazer virar a vida que me é tão confortável e familiar completamente de cabeça para baixo.

“Eu não sei se a amo. Mas eu preciso descobrir.” Ele olhou para minha mão novamente, e novamente escolheu não segurá-la.

“Então você vai embora?” Eu disse com uma evidente raiva em minha voz, mais porque que parecia apropriado do que porque eu de fato me senti com raiva.

Ele pediu desculpas outra vez, e parecia sinceramente culpado. “Eu sei que deve parecer maluquice fazer isso simplesmente porque eu acho que a amo. Mas só o fato de eu achar isso…”

“Diz algo sobre nós.”

Ele concordou, e não parecia haver mais nada o que falar, então continuei sentada e olhei ele olhando tudo em nossa sala de estar exceto meus olhos.

Parecia que eu deveria dizer algo mais. Brigar com ele ou gritar ou chorar ou perguntar o que ela tinha que me faltava. Mas a verdade é que a resposta não me importava muito. O que eu realmente sentia era confusão, simples e crua confusão, exatamente por não estar triste ou brava ou mesmo com ciúmes dela – do jeito que as coisas são, ou pelos menos deveriam ser, eu conclui que provavelmente deveria estar.

Eu olhei em volta, contemplando o quase sufocante sentimento de confusão e a falta de qualquer outro até que fiquei entediada o bastante para lembrar que estava com fome. Então me levantei, peguei a comida chinesa que comíamos todas as terças-feiras, levei de volta para a cozinha, esquentei no micro-ondas, levei de volta para a mesa de jantar, coloquei no centro da mesa no exato lugar onde estava antes, sentei na cadeira de madeira escura em que sempre me sentava e comecei a comer enquanto perguntava sobre o dia dele no trabalho, como fazia todas as noites.

Ele ignorou a óbvia estranheza de tudo aquilo e durante o jantar me contou como havia sido a reunião com seu chefe e comentou uma notícia qualquer que havia escutado no rádio no caminho do trabalho. Quando acabamos de comer, ele lavou a louça e eu sequei, como fazíamos todas as noites. Depois que acabamos, ele foi até nosso quarto, fez uma mala rapidamente com as coisas mais básicas e me disse que voltaria logo para pegar o resto de suas coisas. Antes de ir embora, ele me desejou boa noite, e eu desejei de volta, exatamente como fazíamos todos os dias antes de dormir.

Ao longo do mês seguinte, ele passou aqui algumas vezes por semanas para empacotar o resto de suas coisas. Algumas vezes eu estava em casa, ouvia a campainha que ele tocava mesmo ainda tendo a chave e o ajudava com as caixas em meio a conversa jogada fora; outras vezes eu não estava, ele usava a chave para entrar e quando eu chegava em casa encontrava o lar que por tanto tempo e com tanto amor construímos ligeiramente mais irreconhecível, um pouco mais perto de metade vazio.

Foi um mês estranho. Confuso mais do que tudo, porque eu esperava que a qualquer momento todas as coisas que eu não estava sentindo viessem de uma vez, como uma tempestade que eu não seria capaz de controlar. Nunca aconteceu. Então restou apenas um desconfortável sentimento de confusão, e foi só quando as semanas continuaram passando e metade do meu lar desaparecendo que eu comecei a compreender que a tempestade simplesmente não viria. Não havia raiva ou tristeza. Eu entendia que o amor profundo que sentia por ele havia desaparecido assim como o que ele sentia por mim, e onde um dia houve paixão agora havia apenas um vazio que não me permitia sentir nenhuma das coisas que qualquer outra pessoa julgaria inevitáveis.

Ainda assim, levou certo tempo para que me acostumasse com a dura frieza do lugar vazio ao meu lado quando eu dormia. Mas quando finalmente consegui, encontrei a simples alegria de dormir sozinha em uma cama de casal. Fui ao cinema sozinha e chorei quando o casal finalmente se beijou no final. Fiz minha comida preferida em um dia de semana em vez de pedir de um restaurante qualquer como sempre. Comi um sanduíche na cama sem me preocupar com migalhas, deixei minha maquiagem na pia do banheiro, e fiquei bêbada de vinho em uma noite de segunda-feira. Foi só então, sozinha em meu apartamento, janelas abertas para a vista da cidade, as luzes de tantas janelas embaçadas aos meus olhos me lembrando do quão desesperadamente enorme o mundo é, minha música preferida que ele não tão secretamente odiava, tocando no volume máximo, dançando sozinha mais bêbada do que esperava estar, que percebi que eu simplesmente havia esquecido que me amava, e naquele amor estava toda a eletricidade da qual eu silenciosamente senti tanta falta.

Ontem à noite ele passou aqui para pegar sua última caixa. Dentro havia calças que não serviam mais, gravatas que ele nunca usou e sua metade da louça do nosso casamento, que não havíamos usado sequer uma vez desde então – estávamos esperando uma ocasião especial.

Ele sentou ao meu lado no sofá com a caixa lacrada e sua própria taça de vinho e conversamos sobre os papéis de divórcio, sobre quem ficaria com o carro e como contaríamos para nossos amigos. Ele pediu desculpas mais uma vez, e na minha mais genuína sinceridade, eu prometi: “Não é sua culpa.”

E era verdade. Não era culpa de ninguém. Não dele, não minha, não dela. Isso era, na verdade, a parte mais dolorosa de tudo aquilo: não havia quem culpar. O fato é que a vida acontece e pessoas vão embora e é uma parte fundamental da simples natureza de todo sentimento que ele eventualmente evapore. E foi o que aconteceu: nosso amor desbotou. Éramos ambos culpados e vítimas da dor de se desapaixonar, e a única diferença é que ele encontrou alguém que o fez perceber antes de que eu encontrasse.

O silêncio entre nós vinha crescendo há tempo demais; as manhãs de domingo pararam de ser pacíficas e se tornaram simplesmente entediantes, beijá-lo havia se tornado tão automático quanto escovar os dentes e fazia muito desde que demos as mãos só pelo simples prazer de dar as mãos. Havia muito mais tempo do que éramos capazes de perceber desde a última vez que havíamos de fato sido nós, e era chocante para mim que eu não tivesse percebido isso no segundo que ele me contou sobre ela e meu coração não se quebrou em milhares de pedaços.

“Ainda me sinto culpado. Não faz nenhum sentido. Não há nada de errado com a gente.”

“Algumas coisas não precisam fazer sentido.” Eu lembrei a ele – e a mim mesma.


E em um momento de uma maravilhosa esquisitice, olhamos um para o outro e gargalhamos. Éramos simples e completamente incapazes de ignorar a dolorosa ironia de estar aqui. Você passa metade de sua vida aprendendo tudo sobre alguém, suas esperanças e medos e sonhos, cada detalhe de seu rosto, cada caminho de seu corpo, cada segredo que guardam em seus olhos, e um dia ele te diz que ama outra pessoa. Então, sem nenhuma explicação possível, o amor que você tem tanta certeza ser eterno e colorido se mostra desbotado e quase sem cor alguma, e não há opção alguma além de aceitar isso. Então nós aceitamos e rimos até que os segundos se tornassem minutos e perdêssemos completamente a noção do tempo.


Quando paramos o que parecia ser horas depois, ofegamos até encontrar o ritmo normal de nossas respirações, e quando nada além do silêncio restou, ele finalmente segurou minha mão. Ele disse que me amava, e eu repeti em um sussurro, e naquele silêncio nenhum de nós dois sentiu a necessidade de completar mas não estou mais apaixonado por você. Já sabíamos.


Depois que ele me devolveu sua chave e lavou sua taça, foi embora com sua última caixa, e restaram-me apenas um lar metade vazio, uma taça de vinho metade cheia e a mim mesma. Uma certa nostalgia flutuava no ar, um lembrete silencioso do inevitável final ao qual a maioria dos para sempres estava destinada. Eu havia perdido o que tão pouco tempo antes parecia ser tudo – não havia mais nada a ser arrancado de mim, e tudo estava bem. Eu estava sozinha – e era maravilhoso. E naquele momento, era verdade que eu não tinha muito mais do que um lar metade vazio, uma taça de vinho metade cheia e a mim mesma – e aquilo pareceu ser o bastante.






A perfect metaphor

Before you, I didn’t really understand why they call it falling in love. I thought it was exaggeratedly metaphorical, a hyperbole just for the sake of it. Too theatrical, without a doubt.

I thought of love as perfectly written poetry, red roses, soft kisses, a familiar perfume, a way to find home.

But to my surprise, the expression was perfect. From that day in October when a girl with freckles painting her cheeks and eyes dark as the night walked into that bar I used to hate, just a little brighter than everyone else, the word began to make sense.

Through looking for the words that you would want to listen to, discovering that your laugh was my favorite song, crossing my fingers under the table like a child when I asked you for your number, through the hours I spent thinking about which date would charm you the most or wondering the exact right moment to call you, through the things I said and was always disappointed when you didn’t say back, through all of it, I kept thinking about that word. Falling.

The shortness of breath, the blurry vision of everything around me, the adrenaline felt on every spot of my body and most of all the desperate uncertainty of what will come next. Pain, death, the heartbreak of a lifetime, a story I will never want to tell, a dive into crystalline water. Falling felt like a beautiful possibility, but mostly it felt like a sharp fear of the unknown. At best I could see eight feet in front of me, and whatever would come next was a complete mystery.

For a while, it felt almost like a nice kind of thrill. Those are the butterflies, I thought. The suspense made things exciting, somehow, although I could have done without the unbearable nerves. I though about you all day, wondering where to go or what to say or when to kiss you or how to tell you the things I wanted to tell you. There was something about the beginning of the relationship, about discovering the mysteries of you.

But as it does, time passed, and it was always there. Every day more butterflies, and more seeking of your laugh, your smile, your kiss, your words. Every day, a little disappointment. Every day another evidence that love in fact is like falling, a perfect metaphor, not at all a hyperbole, as much I have wished so.

There was I, falling at maximum speed, no way back, the wind blowing in my face, and you were nowhere to be found.

I like to think love could be perfectly written poetry, red roses, soft kisses, a familiar perfume, the way back home.  I like to think after you fall and your heart is to your throat there is the sweet quietness of a waterfall only you and I know where to find, the peaceful and simple beauty of everyday waking up to your eyes. Maybe if as I feel you had jumped too. Maybe if you had held my hand.

Two or three, at most (on a scale of ten)

I’m not sure why I am waking up just now. If it was the dog downstairs, who barks at nothing (or ghosts) in the middle of the night, or the girl upstairs – the one with hair so black I sometimes think it’s blue (maybe it is) – that gets home this late almost every day (one day I’m going to ask her – doesn’t she have a job?) the heels tapping the floor, my ceiling.

I’m not sure what time it is: the battery of my digital watch died (at least two or three months ago, at best). But the Sun hasn’t risen yet, so I must have a few hours until cold shower, hot coffee, crowded subway.

I get up to open the curtains, that by the force of habit I closed before going to bed. Since the battery died, at least two or three months ago, I have been waking up with the sunlight (I have always been a light sleeper). I wake up even earlier than I would with the alarm on the digital clock – and still, every day, I sleep with the light, almost imperceptible, adrenaline of the risk – the risk of waking up just before lunch.

Without caring about how pathetic that may be (is), I pretend I am one of those people we hear so many stories about – so many sometimes we forget they really exist. The ones who climb mountains, travel to Africa, quit their jobs, parachute jump, the poets who write about waking up in the morning, taking a cold shower, drinking hot coffee, and, on the way to the crowded subway, getting hit by a blue car – imminent death. And here I am, almost high on the adrenaline of the risk of waking up just before lunch.

The streetlight hurts my eyes (even though it is almost completely dark). A lamppost, one car or another here and there, two windows, three at most, with the lights on. When the curtains are fully open, my dangerous (almost) alarm turned on (almost), my eyes get used to the light (or lack there of). The street outside is ugly. (Always has been). The building next to mine too grey, too close; so close I can barely see the sky. (And if I could, only two starts, three at most, would shine as they’re supposed to.)

In one of the many windows with the light off (now I see there are only two with it on anyway), there is a girl with honey hair. Or maybe it’s red, or perhaps it’s only the fire on the tip of her cigarette that gives me that impression. She drags looking at the sky and blows the smoke with her eyes closed, head stretched out the window just like dogs or drunk blonde girls do in those movies that almost always have happy endings (and I’m not complaining – I have always been a fan of happy endings).

I look for a while – not too long. I would rather remain a romantic without becoming a potential stalker. Even though I’m not, I would like to think if someone was looking (maybe someone is) they wouldn’t think I’m that weird guy who stares at pretty girls (maybe she isn’t, but I don’t think it matters) smoke cigarettes by the window in the middle of the night.

Before going back to bed, I look for stars one last time (there is no harm in trying). The grey building is blocking my view, and I’m not sure there even is anything to see, but I keep looking (there really is no harm in trying), and I wonder what she, with the honey (maybe red) hair is doing awake at this hour (two or three in the morning, it must be). Maybe she was woken by a dog who sees ghosts or a neighbor with very high heels and stretched her neck out the window to look for stars (, sure, but mostly so that her boyfriend wouldn’t notice the smell of cigarettes – she does have asthma after all, and he really cares for her health.)

Maybe. Or maybe she owns the medium dog and doesn’t want to make of him a passive smoker (he’s her best friend). Maybe she is the neighbor who just got home from a loud noisy party, the kind that happens every weekend and we go to anyway (and worse: love doing so); (maybe that is a normal tendency between girls with unidentifiable hair colors); and as much as she promises everyone she’s not a smoker, when she’s drunk it’s a free pass (and she drinks every weekend).

I pretend she has blue eyes (I have always been a fan of blue eyes – yes, I know everyone is a fan of blue eyes). I pretend I have the courage of smiling at her. I pretend the only thing stopping me is not wanting to seem like a stalker. I pretend I am that guy from the movies that always have happy endings (and I’m not complaining); the one who runs through the airport (as if he can’t just send a text she’ll see just as she lands), the one who kisses in the rain, who travels the world, who quits his job, who buys a hundred red roses, who risks (for real). I pretend she smiles back.

And just as I lay in bed again, eyes already closed, I realize that, by the force of habit, I closed the curtains again. I need to get up, of course, to turn on my (almost) alarm. My version of parachute jumping, the danger I enjoy being in. And I get up again, and I open again, and I lay in bed again – eyes already closed, falling asleep, almost high on the daily dose of adrenaline. The imminent death, the second you jump, the unbelievable danger – of waking up just before lunch. (On the last two or three months, it hasn’t happened once.)


“I am over you”, she said blandly, over the perfectly loud music, not in anger or love or passion or hope. She said it as if just stating a fact, like she was informing me that the sky was blue or the Earth was round or like she would if I asked her the day of our first kiss (she always remembered, she was so good with dates). I stared into her dark eyes, waiting for her to say anything else.

I couldn’t see my face at that moment, but I am as sure as I can be that my eyes were begging. I swallowed.

I looked at her, illuminated by the flashing lights of the club, waiting for her next words, for the but. Nothing came. She just kept staring back into my eyes as I searched for any sign of a lie in hers. I didn’t find it, but maybe I didn’t look enough, I told myself. Maybe. She seemed honest, too honest, maybe more than I had ever seen before. More than when she said no when I asked if what I said drunkenly hurt her or if she minded staying home with me instead of going out just tonight i promise or just one last time please please please.

I wanted to yell at her. I wanted to scream louder than the very loud music, louder than the very very loud thoughts, to scream until I stopped feeling so small she could squeeze me between her thin fingers. I wanted to scream myself into the size I once was when I stood next to her. I wanted to scream at her why why why are you saying these lies just to hurt me, how could you be so heartless after I loved you so much, I loved you, I love you, why can’t you appreciate that, I love you you bitch. But I also wanted to pull her body close to mine and kiss her, and more than anything I wanted her to kiss me back, and I was drunk, confused, a little very surprised with her confidence and way smaller than I was used to being, so I stayed frozen, staring at her.

She looked so beautiful. She always did when I missed her. The longer we spent apart, the more beautiful she was. The colorful lights illuminated her perfect face, changing from pink to red to yellow to green to blue. Behind her, bodies merged into each other, completely interchangeable, and everything was dark. She was the light, and I just watched.

She started to turn away from me, officially nothing else to say, and I grabbed her hand. Please, I whispered, though I don’t think she heard. She didn’t look back like she used to all those times before. She untangled her hands from mine, back still turned to me, and she kept walking. I waited. I looked at her walking away and waited for the moment when she would look back. The moment she would run back to me, the moment I would find the lie in her eyes.

But from a moment to the next, just like that, her body merged into all the other ones, and I no longer could see her. Everything was dark and then colorful, but the lights weren’t illuminating anything specific. One second she was there, right in my hand, about to look back, I’m sure, and then she wasn’t anymore. Just like that.

In that moment, as I had in more ways than one lost her, it crossed my mind that maybe it was true. Maybe she was really over me. Maybe she wasn’t coming back. I ignored the thought and waited a few more minutes, and still nothing. So I shruged and went to buy myself another drink. Okay, not today, I thought to myself. I’ll text her in a week. Make her think I don’t want her anymore, make her almost sure I have given up on it, and then a glimpse of hope. She won’t resist. She never does. I bought my drink, absolutely sure of it.

What I didn’t know then, as I sipped my twenty dollar whiskey, was that I could not have been more wrong. That I would text her the next day, the moment I woke up, and that she wouldn’t answer. That I would go back to my initial strategy and wait long enough for her to think I had given up. That the thought that O actually had would be a relief for her, and when I called her again she would block my number. That she was really, truly over me, that it was the hardest thing she ever had to do, and that it hurt her more than I could ever imagine, but she still did. She was over me.

I didn’t know then that I would go on feeling small for a very long time, and I definitely didn’t know I deserved it. What I didn’t understand and would keep not understanding for years to come was that she wasn’t making me feel small; she had simply stopped letting me believe I wasn’t.

What I didn’t know was that I would go on living my tiny little life, and when I finally understood how small I really was, she would be living the big life she deserved.

I didn’t know exactly what I had just lost, and I also would never know what she had lost because of me.

I give it two weeks for her to come back, I thought as I took another sip of my drink.

a poem with no title
forgotten in a drawer
in a room where a boy once dreamed
of planes on the blue sky and boats on the infinite sea
in a house where once there was no silence
now there is nothing but.
someone told him
dreams don’t come true
and the sea is not infinite,
but forever too big for him to ever understand it
and his father bought him his first suit
it was still too loose,
but you’ll grow into it.
in the pockets there was no space for dreams
so he left them under his pillow
and at the bottom of the drawer.
sometime between then and now
they suffocated to death
just maybe the monsters under the bed
chocked them until helplessly they seized to exist
no one was there to hear their screams
but in the bottom of a drawer
in a room empty except for an old mattress and a washed-out suit
in a house that was no longer home
empty with the silence and the memories of children laughing
of the television on during dinner
of the oven telling us lunch was ready
of a baby crying
of the relieved sigh of mom after everyone had finally fallen asleep
in a neighborhood with too many noisy houses
for anyone to notice this one was silent
in that drawer
in that room
in that house
in that neighborhood
in that city
in that country
in this finite infinite world
there was hope.
a poem with no title
from a time when there was noise
and the sea was still infinite
and the monsters under the bed hadn’t been convicted of murder just yet
and silence
and a poem with no title
and with a little bit of hope
and silence.

And the sun will keep rising

He died on Wednesday, late at night. Heart attack, completely unexpected. It was the bacon, maybe. He smoked sometimes, a lot when he was younger, almost every time he drank. Did he have a stressful life? (who didn’t?)

His wife woke up with the noise and called 911, but he was dead before they got to the hospital. Her older brother helped her with the paperwork, her mother took their daughter for the night, her younger sister organized the funeral: ordered the lilies, found a caterer, offered her house. They met at the cemetery early in the morning. His wife cried as her brother hugged her and the daughter held her hand. A few teenagers who knew the girl from school sat silently in the back. Old friends from college looked at each other fondly, suddenly reminded of how much the missed the people who were once the closest. His sister cried desperately as her husband tried to control their son, who followed the woman’s lead even though he was too young to know why. Distant cousins regretted not going to his last birthday. His wife saw his body one last time, watched him be put down where he’d lay forever, and she felt as if she was dead herself.

They got in the limo, the empty space and 16 minutes all filled with crying and a sharp, painful lack of words. The house smelled like food so good it didn’t belong on such a sad occasion. They ate and tried to tell stories without acknowledging how depressing it was, and then night came and people went to their houses and she paid the caterer and was taken home. She told her daughter goodnight, and they slept.

She felt as if she was dead herself, but here is the thing: she woke up the next day. Her heart was still beating, and the sun was shining because it didn’t know anything was wrong.

The college friends went home to their families, secretly happy they weren’t the ones who, statistically, would have to die young. The distant cousins took their long drives back to their houses and promised they would go to more birthdays, but when the day comes there will be so much traffic or a friend’s dinner party or they’ll be feeling sick, so let’s leave it for next year. The baby cried all night and will cry for a few more days until his mother stops, and then she will, and he’ll grow up and understand and pretend to miss the uncle he doesn’t remember. The caterers packed their things and went for a drink after work, because it’s Thursday and Thursday is almost Friday. The owner of the flower shop used the money from the lilies to buy her boyfriend a late birthday gift.

The man’s daughter cried all night, skipped school the next day and then she will skip Monday and the next and the next and the next, and then she will wake up and put her uniform on and take the bus. She’ll have first kisses and last kisses, she will go to college and find a job, she will be let go and go broke, she’ll get married and cry because her dad can’t walk her down the aisle, she’ll have a baby that carries one-fourth of the man around the world and adopt a dog; she’ll keep breathing (until she doesn’t).

His wife will cry for days straight and then a little every day for months, until one day she won’t. She will go back to her job after a couple weeks and go back to actually doing a good job after a couple of months. She will be caught by surprise by a piece of clothing or a smell or a song sometimes, and cry until she feels her lungs dry, but in between these moments there will be good movies and delicious meals and a funny joke and PTA meetings and long phone calls and beautiful weddings and a unexpected visit and her grandson being born and days so, so happy that they become a little sad because he isn’t there to share it with her.

The sun will keep rising every morning, as if it doesn’t know anything is wrong.

They will hurt and cry and miss, but they are as alive as he is dead, and the world is too big to stop when we request it. He is gone, and that is so much for so many people, but for the world it’s nothing at all.

The sun will keep rising, and they will keep breathing.

There is too much life, even around his death.

His wife will feel as if she’s dead herself.

But no.

She’s alive.

And the sun will keep rising.

A good man

“I like him”, I say, in a whisper too low, almost like I don’t want him to hear.

I look down at my worn out blue converse, waiting for my father to say anything at all. Nothing. Only silence, painful silence, like a cold hand wrapped around my neck tight and tighter until I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.

I wait for maybe two minutes that feel like two lifetimes, and still nothing. The silence is poison in my blood, killing me over and over every second that goes by. So I look up, because I think I rather he just kill me once and for all. I wait for the yelling, the hateful crying, the slap on the face or all of it in just a look.


“Okay.”, he says blandly, like I just told him I’m going to walk the dog or I have extra practice on Saturday. He says it like he does on the breakfast table, sipping his coffee, eyes still reading the paper. He says it like it’s not a big deal at all, even though I know and have always known it is. It is not “okay” for him.

I try to look into his eyes, but fail, so I look everywhere else. From the empty coat rack to the stairs behind him to the outline of the couch to the television, still on, and he still has not said anything else.

“Dad.” The words sounds like a plea, my way to beg for him to please say anything else, punch me in the face, say you love me or say you are ashamed I am your son, say something or anything.

“You like him.” He nods at the door behind me as he says the last word, even though by now Ian is long gone. I wish he weren’t. I wish he was here to see me finally say these words, because he would be so proud. He would say I’m brave and amazing and maybe I wouldn’t be so alone right now.

“Yes.” My voice sounds small. It makes me feel two inches tall, as if he could just step on me and go back to the couch to watch the movie he paused to say hi and shake hands with my friend. He was excited to meet him. “Good thing you made friends with a man, son. I know you get along with girls best, but comes an age in a man’s life he needs a brother.”, he said this morning, when I told him Ian was coming over.

More silence, more poison, and I am afraid I will shrink until I no longer exist. “Yes, dad, I like him.” I find in me the courage to look at him right in the eye. I will not let myself be small, and despite everything I do not want to stop existing.

“Okay.” He says again, though now it sounds more like he is just thinking, wondering what to say next. It occurs to me that maybe, like me, he simply has no idea.

“Is it? Okay?” I just want to run out the door or upstairs to my room or to the other side of the world. I want this to be over, and I would rather he says it now all at once than to keep being poisoned by the silence.

“No.”, he says almost immediately, finally no infinite silence in between our words. For something so expected, it hurts me more than I thought it would. “You know me, son. I’m not going to stand here, look into you eyes and say it is okay. I am no liar. I am a man and a man doesn’t lie. That said, I have taught you to be a man too. And you are my son. I know you as you know me, and I know you are the man I have taught you to be. You are good and you are honest. Standing here and saying the truth to me, that is proof enough. So I’m not going to lie to you or say I can change, but I will say that I will try, because you are my son and you are a good man. And I am proud of you.”

A tear falls down my face. I feel it, the warm drop, tickling my cheek all the way to my neck. I don’t clean it. I let it fall, looking my father into his eyes. Dark brown, a small hint of caramel, just like mine. I feel a quiet kind of happiness. It’s not the best thing he could have said; he could have smiled and hugged me and said it doesn’t make a difference. But I am still happier than I thought I would be, both because he is my father, proud of me, and because it feels better than I could have possibly imagined to finally say the words. I wait for him to break the eye contact, and I think that, secretly, I wait for him to tell me he loves me. I think I have been waiting for him to say it since the door closed behind me.

He doesn’t. He looks at me and I think that if it was possible to read eyes, his would have said he loves me. But there are no words, no smile, no hug. Nothing, except a hint of what his eyes may be saying. But it’s okay. It’s okay because my father is a good man, an honest man, but he is not perfect. It’s okay because he breaks the eye contact, nods and goes back to the couch and the television still on, and I am left standing by the closed door, finally free, and he may not have said it, but my father loves me.