She Knocks in Your Mind

The knock is the same as the one in your dreams – it’s a knock. It comes at the same time as you dreamed, which is at some time. It’s neither loud and angry nor gentle and timid. It’s as you had imagined it – a knock that says nothing. It’s a sound that is, by all other aspects of its character, another kind of silence. You think of Poe – the tapping in The Raven, the door blown open in the House of Usher, the locked room of the Rue Morgue and the sealed fortress of the Red Death. All your fears are in that sound – not for what’s beyond it – but instead for what probably isn’t. How many times have you opened the door, and no one was there? You have felt shame – and for so long that it has been a kind of dying.

To need something, when you need it from a person who has it to give and won’t – it breeds shame. To want it and be unable to stifle or control the want – that feels even worse than need. Both the wanting and the needing eat you up in ways you can’t help, but the want is worse, because it feels like something you should be able to dismiss or control.

You’ve abhored yourself for wanting and despised yourself for needing, and was that really the door? If it wasn’t, but you open it to check, will your sense of self fly down the corridor, seeking emancipation in the night beyond? The ghost of a knock is welcome as much as the real thing, until it vanishes along with your hope. Or else there will be the landlord (to fix something broken, but who can’t fix the essential thing) or the postman with a delivery (never the thing you need, just the essentials of existence – not of life) or a neighbor to borrow something you probably don’t have (do I seem as if I have a cup of sugar – can’t you smell the emptiness? It’s the husk smell of abandoned places). Or had it actually been something real, but really only the wind rattling the window panes or the movement of your door as someone shut their own? It’s as if all the warmth and life is behind other doors – yours is not to let life in but to let out your soul’s blood.

You could go back and sit down and think, and smoke, and drink maybe, and finally fall asleep in your chair, and maybe wake again wondering if what you heard was only in your dream.

But it comes again, a little louder, so it probably is the landlord or a neighbor. The postman would have just left a package and gone on. So you stand and walk to the door, take a breath, and turn the knob. You have long since stopped bothering to look through the peep hole. Whatever imaginary fiend could merit checking for threats is more welcome than an empty hallway. The imagination plays pranks on you, like mischievous children, knocking and hiding, until the joke becomes a horror and the children the phantoms of your longing.

And there she stands. She’s there. She could have been bedraggled and stinking of booze, and the radiance of her would still take your breath away. She’s there, and that’s all that matters. It means something – just the fact of it. You have either lost your mind and are holding the door for a dream, or she is really there and, for that moment, you don’t care which. She is going to set you free, at last.

How have you rehearsed it, so many times in your mind? More than one way. Sometimes, you smile warmly, calmly, hold the door wider and say simply “come in”. Maybe you shut it behind her, and say “I’m glad you’re here. Make yourself at home. Would you like some tea or some wine?” Maybe you try to be suave. Or you simply speak without moving, confessing your awe a little, “Wow, you’re really here.” You might let a little of the shake move from your hand to your voice. You are vulnerable. Maybe you don’t hide it. Maybe you are a shield, a fortress. “This is a surprise,” and you wait, or you follow it with “What can I do for you?” or a more casual seeming “What’s up?”

Of course, rehearsals only work when you’re daydreaming, and the pleasure and trepidation of reality is that the other person has a mind of her own. She speaks first. “May I come in?” And you respond:

“Yes, please.”

Or “of course.”

Or “certainly, come in.”

You don’t know what you’ve said. You only know that she chooses her own chair or place to stand, says yes to tea or to wine, or “no, thank you”, or perhaps she’s even holding a bottle of whiskey – you have no idea. You don’t care. She’s there. She’s there, and that’s all you care about.

She knows what you want to ask. And you have it down to four questions – four confessions of bewilderment – four acknowledgments of confusion. You’ve reduced it like an emotional concentrate, a roux of wanting. The ritual of it is unavoidable. She will speak first, giving you your cue. Then you will restate what you want to know. It’s a liturgy that leads to the prayer of confession. It’s already written, and the only thing you cannot forsee is what exactly she will say in response. In the church of this forgiveness, you are a new convert, waiting to know the disposition of your mind. What you know for certain is that, whatever the answers will be, they are better than no answers at all.

So you ask. Maybe you ask the questions slowly, one at a time. Or maybe you ask them all at once, so you can settle in while she talks. Or you fire them off like a shotgun. However it is, they come out. “Why cut me off – and not speak to me at all? Why not remain at least a contact, if not a friend? Why can’t I have the photos – just the copies – you kept everything – is the history lost to me too? Why do you hate me – forget love – you said you hate me – I don’t understand – why?” It is a litany of why, a song of unknowing. You don’t ask why it didn’t work – you already know the answers to that. There are no whats and whens left – those already drove off in the car with love and they didn’t come back. There is why but only the why of transforming – the why that wants to redeem – to turn something that hurts endlessly into something capable of holding some good.

People call it “closure”, but that’s such a ridiculous word. It’s like “grief process”. The heart may be a machine, but the part of it that loves is a spirit, and it lives well beyond the mechanical functions of the valves that pump blood. If it were not so, you could have driven a stake into the damned thing and spared it the misery. Love was only ever possible, because the heart is a door and, someone knocked, and you opened and told her to make herself at home.

Where she sits or stands doesn’t matter, and neither does what or whether she drinks. Your mind is fixed only on the answers, as if the answers hold the whole world. That’s why she’s there. She’s there, because she has consented to tell you truths or lies, or just to laugh in your face and leave you broken on the floor, but perhaps to tell you something. In that moment, before she speaks, the world might be anything. You imagine yourself a white dove taking flight from a tomb. You think of the air beyond – it’s not without pain, it’s cold, it tears the feathers, but it’s up and onward, beyond the pall of death.

She answers.

Choose: Scenario 1 | Scenario 2 | Scenario 3 || Scenario 4 | Scenario 5 | Scenario 6

Scenario #1:

“I feel guilt. I have felt such incredible guilt, and I feel shame. I know I hurt you, and I know you placed a lot of trust in what I said, and I feel terrible. I’ve made myself sick with feeling terrible. It hurts to face it, and I don’t want to feel more of it by facing it continually. I want to feel life again, like you want to. To even see you again, reminds me. This has to be the last time.”

“If I told you that I’m OK, that I’ll be OK, and that I just want to know how you are sometimes, just that you’re well, and maybe a little of what you’re doing with your life – that you’re being successful in your plans – wouldn’t that chase away the guilt?”

“I don’t know. I know I can’t do it right now, and you seem to need it right now. You seem stuck. And I can’t give you any more of myself, even if I know that it was terrible – the way I ripped it away.”

“I can accept that. These words, coming from your lips are enough, for now. And if there’s a possibility of friendship, some day, then that’s a bright thing, and it makes me feel that this hasn’t ended in just nothing, but in something potentially good.”

“I can’t promise.”

“I don’t want you to promise. I wanted this. I wanted you to show up, and tell me the answers. But I still don’t understand about a couple of things. The photos – Hell, I’m in those photos – can’t I have my copies? And the hatred – you said you hate me. I don’t understand that.”

“I don’t really hate you. I have hated you at times – because you didn’t just let me go – you made me face it, that I hurt you. You kept asking for these things.”

“Because you promised them.”

“I know I did. I say what I say sometimes and I don’t necessarily mean it. I did it with promises. I did it with hating you. And that’s what I did with love, too. I thought I meant it, and then I didn’t. You see why guilt would consume me? Even I can’t trust my own words. How would you feel?”

“I understand. I’m sorry.”

“It’s not yours to be sorry for. But it affects you, and it affects me, and you affect me, and that’s why I need quite a bit of time before I can even think about even friendly contact with you, if that’s ever possible, and I don’t know that it is.”

“And the photos?”

“The photos. I guess it’s that I want something that’s just mine, that isn’t also yours. See, if I give them to you, then it’s like sharing still more with you now, which I can’t do. I want something good from this, too, something worth loving and remembering, and I do remember that time in those photos with love and with some happiness. Do you have to take them from me? Even if I give you the copies, I can’t look at them anymore without thinking of you looking at them too. Can’t they just be mine? I know I promised, but I want you to tell me it’s OK to break my promise.”

“It hurts, of course. But yes, I release you from that promise. Keep them. Maybe some day you’ll share one of them with me, but only if and when you’re ready to be friends. I’d love it if we could just be kind to one another. You could cry on my shoulder when some guy breaks your heart again. And I could tell you again how wonderful you are, when you doubt it.”

“See, and what do I give you, that you need?”

“Your existence. The knowledge of it. The joy of knowing and seeing you become fully who you are. And I don’t need photos for that. But to hear from you some day is a hope I’ll have, and I’ll carry it with me, in my back pocket, like a photo. You’ll always have my good will.”

“I have to go.”

“All right. Thank you, for coming here. Thank you for explaining. I can’t possibly convey what it means to me.”

“If it means freedom for you, then maybe I can let some guilt go, too.”

“Do so. Let me see you out – walk you to the car.”

“No. No, don’t. Just say goodbye, OK?”

“Goodbye, then. I will miss you.”

“Don’t hope too much.”

“I hope everything. I hope you have only joy and all the best. I hope one day you call me and tell me how you are. I hope you will tell me if you ever need something. I hope you find the way to always mean what you say, and always say true things.”

“I do too.”

And then she leaves. The door is shut, though you don’t lock it. You sit down in the chair directly across from it. You look at the knob. You listen as her car door shuts, the engine starts, and she pulls out of the space, drives to the end of the lot, and goes down the road. You know she’s playing the music loudly. You know she’ll drive fast. And then even the sound of her is gone.

You listen then to your own breathing, to the thump of your heart. Are you really going to be OK? You’re going to cry, once. And not again, after that. And not for lost love, and not just from relief, but because now finally you can let it go – the love and the need – and let it turn into something else. You hate the word that comes to mind – “bittersweet”. What does it even mean? It’s a stupid word. You don’t accept it. You accept that now you go on. And you do.


Scenario #2:

“I’m going to be honest – you scare me. You’re intense. You’re older than me. You’re dark. I guess the very things that drew me to you scare me, which is unfair, but true nevertheless. I’ve been erasing any trace of you, any connection to you, because I know you’re hurt and I don’t really know what you’re capable of.”

“You think I would hurt you in some way?”

“You already have hurt me. You think things about me that hurt me. They may be justifiable things – maybe I would think them too, if I had nothing else to go on. But they still hurt me.”

“But I would never physically harm you.”

“You say that, but you’re physically harming yourself. You’re drinking yourself down and smoking yourself to death. Tell me the bottles in the corner and the full ash trays aren’t hurting someone. You’re capable – you just haven’t turned it on me, yet. I hope you wouldn’t, but I don’t know.”

“I suppose I understand. It’s the bewilderment. It’s the confusion. I don’t process it well. It messes up everything I try to do. I can’t concentrate, can’t focus. Imagine you’re knocked down, your vital organs stolen, and you’re dumped in the trash, and don’t even undertand what happened or why.”

“See? You think of things in such monstrous terms. There’s a monster in you, and I’m afraid of it. It’s something animal. You ask me why I hate you. I’ve been afraid, and being afraid makes me hate you. And hating you enrages me. And that makes me hate you even more, and be afraid of myself. I am just as much in a cycle of pain as you are.”

“But you…”

“Don’t say I chose it, or I control it. I’m not stupid. I know I chose to end things. But I didn’t choose the emotional consequences any more than you did. Do you control what’s happening to you, completely? Or don’t you feel just as lost in it as I do?”

“You’re right.”

“I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to hate. It affects my work as much as confusion affects yours.”

“Is that why you came, then? To try to do something about it? Because right now, it seems like it just festers.”

“I came because something has to give. And if this is what it takes, then this is what I’ll give. I brought the photos.”

“Thank you. And you brought answers?”

“I’ve just given you the answers. Haven’t I?”

“I understand why you hate me. And I understand that as long as you hate me, you don’t want anything to do with me. But a real answer is one that turns that hatred and anger, and lets it resolve into something else.”

“It will take time. And I can’t promise anything. I can say that when and if I’m ready, I’ll let you know. Believe it or not, I care about you. I don’t want you to be like this. It hurts me that you’re hurting yourself. But I care about myself more, and I can’t let myself be afraid for anyone, not even someone I loved. I loved you, but now I have to love myself.”

“I understand. Thank you for the photos. And the answers. They’re worth a lot to me.”

“Are you going to just get worse and stay in your funk?”

“It’s far worse than a funk, my dear. But no, I don’t think so. I’m going to understand. When I say “I understand”, I’m not just answering you. It’s my way of saying “that makes me healthy”. Understanding puts me back together again. Like Humpty Dumpty, if you like.”

“Nothing could put Humpty Dumpty back together again. That’s how it the story goes.”

“Yeah, but I’m monstrous, remember. I’m willing to go in search of the parts, and run electricity through his body on a stormy night.”

“So you’re going to take care of yourself.”

“Yes. Thank you. I’m going to do a couple of things. I’m going to think better of you, because I understand. And I’m going to be less monstrous toward myself, because I understand.”

“I’m glad you understand. I need to go.”

“I know you do.”

“How’s that?”

“I’ve played this scenario in my head quite a few times. You always need to go.”

“I really hope some day we’ll be able to call one another on the phone and give each other good news.”

“You don’t have to worry about me, you know. I’m not a dangerous man.”

“Yes you are. But I can see you now, and you’re mostly dangerous to yourself. I’m going.”


She doesn’t say goodbye, and neither do you. You think maybe there’s hope in that. Some day she’ll tell you about her latest concert and the man she’s fallen in love with. You’ll mention your new book and where you’re living. She leaves the photos on the shelf by the door. You wait for the sound of her driving away. You hold a glass to your nose, and inhale the scent of oak and vanilla. The ice has melted, but the contents are just as potent. You set the glass down again, without it having touched your lips. Then you stand, turn on the light, dump the ash trays and the new tobacco into the can, lift the sides of the bag, and begin to pour the bottles into the sink.


Scenario #3:

“I came because one of your friends called me. I’m not telling you who, so don’t even ask.”

“I’m surprised.”

“You have some very dedicated friends.”

“I didn’t put them up to it.”

“I know you didn’t.”

“What did he say?”

“I didn’t say it was a he. I didn’t say it wasn’t, either. What your friend said was that you’re not doing well, that the reason you’re not doing well is because you can’t seem to get a handle on how things ended with us. And you aren’t likely to be well until you do.”

“I figured you knew that, already.”

“I did. But I thought you’d get past it. Clearly you haven’t.”

“You’re angry. Resentful.”

“Yeah, I’m angry. But I’m not here to discuss anger with you. I’m here, because you want answers, and I’ve got some time, and I’m going to give them to you.”


“You may think what you want about me. I can’t stop you, and I wouldn’t dream of trying. And I don’t guess I’d blame you for thinking the worst. I’m humiliated, a little, by how I acted. That’s part of the anger – not all of it. But I also know that I’m not heartless, and I am not as awful as you might think.”

“I don’t think you’re awful.”

“Yes, you do. One way or another, you do. But the reason I cut everything was to help you, so you could go on. Staying connected would just make it worse for you. You’re insanely talented, you know, and this just diverts you. It diverts me, too. It’s better like this, anyway – you thrive on unhappiness, and I thrive on freedom from responsibility. We just need to break off everything. We’re not going to make good friends.”

“We were friends…”

“Not for long. We quickly became more than that. And it was based on passion – everything was – passion and idealism and hope – and what you need is something a little different.”

“I don’t think I agree.”

“Nonetheless. I’m not in a place I can be the kind of friend you need. Besides, apparently I end up sleeping with friends, sooner or later, and that would be disastrous for you, if we started all over again.”

“Ha. Not the way you think. I could use a good disaster, at least once. Look I know it’s over – I’m not pining away for you to come back – I’m just lost in that you were such a light to me, so much light – you’ve changed my life, you know. And now you’re just gone, in total, as friend, as everything.”

“You changed my life, too. I learned incredible things from you. But you’re also an incredibly powerful personality, and I have to develop my own personality apart from that. It sounds selfish, but I need it, or I’ll never be who I need to be.”

“So not even an occasional ping, and you let me know how you are?”

“Maybe. But not yet. I don’t know how I am, yet. I’m struggling, in what I’m doing. And I’m afraid. And I’m stressed. I have a lot on my plate. I’m not going to sit around and be depressed, like you. If I have to go outside and scream, then that’s what I’ll do, but I’m kicking my life in gear.”

“I’m jealous.”

“Good. Be jealous. Because if you don’t get your ass in gear, I’m going to make you look ridiculous by comparison. You’ll be eating my dust.”

“Jesus. Well, that’s rougher than I expected.”

“Good. I’m a rough girl. I’ve said some things that were too rough though. I don’t hate you, and I’m sorry that I claimed I did. I was trying to get you to change directions, and let me change directions too.”

“I thought maybe you wouldn’t share the photos, because you hated me.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Yeah. Well, you knew that. But I also listen carefully to what you say.”

“I know. I’m sorry for that. And I brought the photos. You can have copies of everything. I want copies of the ones you have, too.”

“I’ll send them. Some of mine are r-rated – I’m not sure you should be losing your focus looking at that stuff.”

“I don’t need those. Just the G-rated ones.”

“Jeez. That’s a slap in the face.”

“We were a bad idea.”

“Yeah. A bad idea that was good for a while, but yeah, a bad idea – at least it worked out that way. I blame myself more than I blame you, you know.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Yeah, I do, actually. I…”

“You acted how you acted with what you had to respond to, and don’t apologize. Blame is a waste of time, even heaped on yourself. I know this.”

“Well, it’s one of those things we’ll probably think about differently. Maybe I’ll be quoting you some day, when we talk again.”

“Yeah. I do plan to call you when you’re richer and therefore better looking.”

“I’ll be glad to get that call.”

“But you’ll be taken by then, and I’ll be taking numbers.”

“You have a fascinating way of looking at things.”

“I’m just getting started. So are you. Get started. And eat something besides my dust.”

“I will.”

She grabs the doorknob and walks out without looking back. She was like that, sometimes. She was different all the time – different every time. This time she leaves the door swinging, and you get up and close it. You lift the blinds and watch her walk to her car and get in. She never turns. She drives away into the night, and you turn back on your space and your life. It’s more than a crappy apartment now. It’s dust, but you can build from dust, not just eat it. Who the Hell had called her? And whoever it was, you are glad for it. You pick up the packet of photos, but you don’t open it. You put them away for another day. She has given you a way to get past it, to get through it, and you are going to take it. The scariest thing now is the possibility of just doing nothing.


Scenario #4:

“I do hate you. I hate you!. You ruined my life. You messed up my future. You made me love you and made me dream. And now I have to struggle and deal with the fall out. I hate you, and I’m always going to hate you. And guess what? I burned the photos. They’re gone forever. You’ll never have them, no matter what. I cursed you when I burned them, and I hope you die. That’s why I’ve never said another word to you – because, to me, you’re a corpse.”

She grabs the door handle. She hadn’t taken a seat. She hadn’t accepted anything to drink. She hadn’t even allowed the door to close fully. You put your hand up, stay the door a moment. She turns her eyes to yours, which is what you wanted. They’re bigger than the slits they had been.

“If you wanted me to die, you could have made that happen. You want me to live with the pain. You want me to not be able to let it go. But if I can’t, then you can’t. To keep me in pain, you have to keep yourself there.”

“I don’t care.”

“I do.”

You let go of the door. She waits a moment. She doesn’t open it farther.

“I don’t really hate you, so much.”

“I hoped not. If I could do anything…”

“That’s just it, you can’t! I need to be able to be in control of my own life. And what happened is just as embarrassing and difficult on me as it is for you. I told all my friends. I told everyone that we were making a future. And then…”

“And then you changed your mind.”

“I know! I know it’s my fault. I know. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the shambles of the aftermath. I was getting ready to change my whole life. I had changed it. And now it’s falling back down around me, like the pieces of a balloon I blew up that popped. I’m getting control of it, but it makes me angry that I have to.”

“It’s not about fault. And I’m sorry you’re angry.”

“You’re sorry doesn’t help me a bit.”

“Is there some way I can help you?”

“No! Don’t you get it? That’s the point. There’s nothing you can do. Nothing I want you to do. I want nothing from you. That’s why I don’t talk to you. I don’t tell you what’s going on…”

“Then why are you here?”

“I’m here because you didn’t just go away. You go to all the same places. I might run into you anywhere. And if I do, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I might lose it and go off. So I’m explaining here and now. Then maybe I don’t have to care about that, either.”

“Well, I don’t hate you.”

“I know you don’t. You love me. You’ll always love me. You love me with epic love. You…”

“No. Not exactly true. I care about you. I love you – sure. In lots of ways. Who wouldn’t? And yeah, I’ll always love you, and I’ll always love anyone I’ve loved, and I’ll always remember loving you – it’s not like that gets erased. But I’m not holding out some hope or wish that we’ll get back together. I am, however, epic in everything I do. I’m even capable of epic friendship. But I’m not pining for you to come back.”

“I don’t know that I believe you.”

“I can’t do anything about what you believe. All I can do is what I’ve always done – tell you the truth as best I understand it. And right now, I’m telling you I’m not looking for that. Actually, I miss my bright friend.”

“We weren’t friends, we were lovers.”

“What is that, if not also a kind of friendship? We spent lazy mornings together. We fell asleep talking together. We helped each other. And it was friendship. I miss a lot of things, but what I want is the things that can be saved.”

“You can’t have it. I don’t have room in my heart to make what we were into just a friendship.”

“Yeah, I get that. So I was hoping you could just maybe put it back to something other than hate. Can you?”

“I don’t know. I have a lot of anger.”

“Yeah, and I have a lot of sadness. But…”

“Don’t lecture me about going on. I’m going on. I’ve been going on. You’re the one sitting around languishing like fertilizer.”

“True. Sadness is… quieter than hate.”

“You haven’t been all that quiet.”

“True, too.”

“I didn’t burn the photos.”

“I know.”

“I’ll e-mail them to you, all right?”

“All right.”

“After that, you won’t hear from me again, at least not for a long time. I might get over my anger. My hatred. But it’ll take a while. A long time. At least months.”

“I get it.”

“I’m leaving, now.”

“One last thing.”


“Hatred is very powerful. It’s also very weak. It will hurt you, and it’ll just hurt, but it won’t survive through one simple fact.”

“Which is?”

“I won’t say ‘I love you.’ We’re past that. I’ll say this. I don’t hate you. For my part, I don’t hate you. Even if you had burned the photos. Even if you hated me. And I never will.”

“I’m going.”


She walks through the door, which has never fully closed, and you close it. You turn the bolt. You lean your back against the door. You let the tears come softly. You won’t work today. Tomorrow, you will. For now, you’ll watch movies, eat chocolate, and get through the effects of having just seen her in person. You will get through them, though. And you will open your blinds the next day, and see daylight coming in, and you’ll shower, put on clean clothes, go out, and greet the day with understanding and freedom.


Scenario #5:

“I am not going to answer your questions in your way. Do you understand?”

“I hear what you’re saying. I don’t fully understand, but I assume I will. Go ahead.”

“I already know what you’ve been going through. I’m going to tell you, instead, what I have been dealing with. It’s how I need to do it. And my needs are important here, too.”

“Yes. I agree with that.”

“Fine…. Here’s what you need to understand. I don’t always know what I’m doing. I try to think of myself as someone who has a handle on the world, but I don’t. I am confused. People talk about honor and responsibility, and these sound like some kind of mediaeval English to me. I want to be taken seriously, but I don’t yet know what I take seriously about myself. I know what I want, sometimes, while I want it. I don’t know why I change my mind. And I don’t know if I should feel accountable to someone for changing it, or if I shouldn’t. All I know is that I have to keep making choices the best I can. Does any of this make sense to you?”

“It does, in a way. I understand what you’re saying. I can’t say I feel those things. I usually feel all the opposites to those things…”

“Which is why we don’t really work.”

“See, I wouldn’t say that, either. But I would say that I think a lot of people feel those things at some point in their lives. We’re just at different points.”

“So you agree that we couldn’t have worked out?”

“Nope. I don’t agree with that either. I agree that we didn’t, not that we couldn’t have. As you say, you’re always changing. I figured we’d interesect more and more over time. Maybe not, but that was my thought.”

“We’re getting off track, and I wasn’t finished.”

“Finish. I’m all ears.”

“I was afraid that, with you, I didn’t know what I was doing. You brought so much. You showed me so much. But I started to feel powerless and overwhelmed. I don’t have a handle on my life yet, and I want to feel self-sufficient, and I’m afraid because I’m not, not really. And I’m afraid of being afraid. And I’m afraid of facing being afraid. I’m afraid of everything. And you can say ‘don’t be afraid’ all you want, but that won’t make me not afraid.”

“No, it won’t. It wouldn’t for me either. I’ll let you in on something – I’m afraid of some things, too, most of the time.”

“I know you are. And don’t laugh, but you being afraid makes me afraid, because I’m already afraid.”

“Are you sure I can’t laugh.”

“Not if you want to live.”

“Sure, scare me with that now, too.”

“Damn. Take this seriously.”

“I do take it seriously. I understand what you’re saying. You’re afraid you don’t have the world by the balls, and you need to at least get one nut in your hand before you can take on another one, like me.”

“Um, yeah. Good job.”

“Thanks. So I get it. I already knew, though, why you don’t want to be with me. I even get why you could hate me and feel rage, though it makes a lot more sense now, and I appreciate that. I don’t get why you don’t want to stay in touch. I don’t get why you’d deprive me of the fond memories those photos have, either.”

“See, I might do anything when I’m pissed off enough. I was fine before I met you. Or if I wasn’t, I didn’t know I wasn’t. Then I saw how far I have to go, and I believed I could – you helped me with that – I finally believed I was good enough. But it’s a two edged sword. It scared the Hell out of me that I could see it, see it as finally possible, but think I might not get there because being with you meant going about it wrong. It meant that if I was ready to commit to a deep relationship, I couldn’t also commit to my other goals. It terrified me.”

“Again… ”

“I’m getting to it. I need to know that I can do it on my own. It’s not fair to you. I know that. You helped me see it, see it’s possible, see myself differently. And now I need to know if I can do it without your help, without you helping me see, without what you see being a factor.”

“Wow. That freaking hurts.”

“Yeah. Why do you think I haven’t said it to you?”

“I figured you didn’t know.”

“That too. When you’re figuring out who you are, sometimes your reasons are just shrugs. I don’t know who I am. I know I can’t know that until I know it in my own way, without being wrapped up with someone who knows exactly who he is, what he needs to do, and is bent on doing it.”

“But those are all the men you admire. You constantly point toward those kinds of men, and people in general, and say that’s who you want in your life.”

“I told you, I’m full of sh*t. Yeah, I want them in my life. But you’re a high intensity kind of “in my life”, in a way that I can’t just test drive and drop off at the dealership. Even as a friend, you’re going to be a Tesla that won’t go home.”

“That sucks. Sorry, but I have to say it sucks.”

“What have I been saying?”

“That you didn’t tell me, for precisely these reasons. That it would hurt.”


“Well, I’m glad you were inconsistent on this one other thing. I needed to know these things more than I needed to avoid them hurting me some. It has hurt far, far more not knowing, and not being able to get past it.”

“See, that’s where I’m confused. Here you are a grown man, self-made, self-defined, driven, creative, and you are sitting around in bewilderment because of me, and I’m just starting out. What the Hell are you doing that for?”

“Oh, remember – I loved you. Do you know what that means?”

“No. I don’t know what it means. That’s part of what I’ve been saying.”

“Yeah. I’ll tell you, then. Listen up, girl. Loving you means that I see in you all the best things you can be. I do see the flaws – don’t me wrong – not seeing those isn’t love, it’s blindness, and love isn’t really blind. But it sees you and takes what it sees. Love takes you with open eyes, open arms, open lips, open everything. Not blind, but open. I took all of you.”

“That’s just it, you took all of me.”

“We’re at different points. It means different things.”

“So you understand now? Finally?”

“Well, you know it’s more than understanding. Yes, I understand, pretty much. But what I needed wasn’t just understanding. It was the act of you explaining, the ritual of it I guess, the meaning in you doing it. I needed you to tell me.”

“I don’t get that. But I get that you needed it. So is it what you need then? Have you got what you need?”

“Yeah. I do, mostly. So, it doesn’t mean we couldn’t maybe check in on each other some day – down the road.”

“You hoping we can try again, then?”

“Ha. No. You’re a hot commodity. You’ll be somebody’s babe, and someone will be yours, by then. No, I mean I’m interested in your life, like I always was. Do you understand that? Interested in you, the person.”

“I don’t know if I do. I don’t know if I care. I don’t know anything right now, except I’ve got a lot to do. I’ll think about it, OK? No promises.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah, which is why I didn’t say anything.”

“I thought you didn’t say anything, because you were afraid and confused.”

“That’s the point. It’s all wound together. Fear, sympathy, anger, confusion. That’s what I’m talking about. I’m afraid you still don’t get it.”

“I get it. Still hate me?”

“I’m softening a little.”

“Good. Photos?”

“You’ll get them.”

“You said that before. Ah… sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“No, it’s true. All I can tell you is be patient. I’m doing the best I can. I’ve got them. I’ll try to get them to you sooner or later OK?”

“OK. Thank you. Thank you for coming.”

“I don’t know if it helped you. I sure don’t know if it helped me.”

“Um, it helps me a lot. A whole lot. And you’ll find, if I may presume, that knowing that you’ve helped me will help you. Sorry to sound like the voice of wisdom here. I’m just saying.”

“I’m going.”

“Yes. You look good.”

“You too. What the Hell? You’re like 30 pounds lighter.”

“Yeah. I’m hot.”

“You’re still old.”

“Hey. I look younger than you will when you’re my age.”

“We’ll see. But by then, I’ll be rich and famous.”

“Good. You’d better send me free tickets.”

“Take care of yourself.”

“You too. I know you’ll be fantastic.”

“Be fantastic.”

“I’ll try.”

And then she’s gone. You don’t remember which of you opened the door. You don’t remember which of you closed it. You kick yourself for not paying closer attention, absorbing every detail. You’re not even sure you memorized exactly what she was wearing. But then you realize those aren’t the important things anymore. She’ll be wonderful, for someone. Hopefully, she’ll be wonderful for herself first. That’s what she really wants. It’s an ache you understand. Can you do the same thing? You smile a little, at the way she sort of smirked at times, as she spoke. You slump a little and sit down and are sad, because of all the things about her you’re reminded that you loved. And then you’re better. You understand. You know it’ll be a while, that she has a road ahead of her, and you do as well. Different roads. And you are inspired. You should have told her. ‘What you’ve said to me makes me want to move more deliberately, faster, better – quit wasting time.’ It was always like that – that’s why you loved her – one reason – and it’s like that now too. You look down at your hands. They’re metaphors, but you wiggle your fingers. You’ve let her go, you’ve let yourself let her, and you’ve gone on – your hands were waiting on your heart to follow. You look down at your feet, and they’re already in motion. You look around your shitty apartment, and laugh at the funk. Tomorrow, you’ll open all the windows, let the air in, and you’ll breathe. That girl is going to go forever. She’s a Tesla. She’s going to drive. And so are you.


Scenario #6:

You strain to hear, but it’s as if her words are footfalls landing in butter. When you were a kid, you had those dreams of something or someone chasing you, and you could only go in slow motion. Nothing you did was fast enough. You woke up with the panic of it, and were relieved to be awake, but it was just like physical pain – it hurt, those dreams. And that’s how you know.

You shake your head. Too many times you’ve let comfort in, in the form of waking or sleeping fantasies. You’ve let yourself feel something that wasn’t real, because in fact she means what she says. She hates you. It’s the only thing she has said. No answers to anything else. Just “I hate you”. And you don’t want to feel it. It’s the claws in a child’s slumber, the fist that beats you down before you can cover your face. You shake yourself until the room is a different shade of dark, and you are in a different place in relation to the door. You can’t help it. You’re awake now, but you still go and open the door.

It doesn’t make sense to do it. She was right there in front of you. You had let her in. And it wasn’t real. There’s no one on the other side. But you do it anyway. It’s not hope. Hope was gone a long time ago. It’s that you can’t rest until you do it. And when you have, you’ll pour another drink. Your body is telling you it’s low now. You can feel the world. You’ll light a smoke, and fog the air with nicotine. You’ll settle in and laugh at yourself. You’ll mock your despair. You’ll run through the questions again. You’ll run scenarios in your head. You’ll fall asleep that way, and you won’t know if the next knock is real or not, but you’ll check it, regardless.

You turn the knob. You open the door. And there she is.


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