You, on the night of the day you first saw her. How was that dinner party thing, Ward asks, voice distant. Amazing there remains even one dusty corner of his brain not focused on playing Halo. I met this girl, you said. Ward spins around. How had Halo ever been important.
A girl? What was she like?
“Nice, she was nice.”
On your second date you happen to mention you were adopted. Then that one part of your brain that Freud was right about kicks in. Your face must have done something cause she asks, what’s wrong. Oh nothing, it’s just that you’ve never really told people you were adopted. You hadn’t told Susan until you’d been dating for almost two years. Even your most of your best friends don’t know. It’s not that you are ashamed of it but its just a little thing you keep for only the ones who matter most to know.
Oh nothing, it’s just that I don’t normally tell people I’m adopted until I’ve known them for a while. Why did you tell me, then, she says. Her eyes flicker. Those eyes, you had wanted to say.
“I don’t know. It just came out I guess.”
She is hopping from rock to rock on the shore at Monterey. Later you would see an otter (wow a real otter!) and her smile would write itself onto the photographic emulsion of your mind and you would buy her that “Harry Otter” shirt of an otter with a lightning bolt scar.
What are you looking at she says.
You were curled up like kittens on her bed. Why do you love me so much, she asked. Oh that’s easy you said, but it wasn’t. You said the things that came to your head that sounded most true. You complete me. You make me feel like I can do more than ever before. Your smile. Your eyes. Etc. But they were all clichés and they only got worse. You cursed the movies for filling your mind with such dreck.
The truth was so much more, but also so much simpler. But our minds and mouths almost never say what they really want to. They only repeat what they’ve heard before that comes closest. The most you can hope for is a slightly new combination.
You were hiking through Bryce Canyon with your kid brother the week before you left for Japan. Would you marry her, he wanted to know. I am marrying her! you said. When I come back. We got engaged last Saturday. How does it feel, he pleads, he is eager. He has been thinking about asking Jess.
You turned but didn’t answer cause the wind was whipping too loud to talk anyway, but your smile was as wide as the canyon.
It’s your last night together and she comes up for air with a wicked grin and wants to know how did that feel? You find yourself reminding yourself to breathe and you know you’ve never, and you’ll never ever.
“Good” and you gasp. “So good.”
But you did. You were in Japan and Yuki was nice and you were lonely and drunk but more angry than drunk or even lonely. You’d heard from Arie on IM why the dean of her med school was fired. It had even made the New York Times. When Yuki asked you later why you looked so sad you said “wakarimasen” but that was a lie cause you knew exactly why.
Her English was so much better than your Japanese, but Japanese is easier on the heart sometimes. Its sentences have no subjects, only verbs and the nouns things are done to.
You confronted her on your third night back. The makeup sex would have been amazing if you hadn’t known why she was doing it. Try to put yourself in my shoes, she said. He told me he wouldn’t recommend me to Harvard. Medicine is still a man’s world he told me. My career is my life, it’s everything I’ve worked so hard for. Don’t just sit there, please say something, please say anything.
But you said nothing. There were no phonemes in that alphabet.
It took you four months to kill that piece of your heart where she lived but you did. You had told her you still loved her and she had said she had never ever stopped loving you. But at some point you wanted to matter to her even more than her career, but now you knew for sure that day would never come. You could marry her, and be mostly happy, but you would always be the second to last thing sacrificed. And to you marriage was about making someone else the only thing you never sacrifice.
You were sitting across from each other eating ice cream in the Harrell’s in Harvard Square. The third time she did that little unknowing thing with her tongue to get the ice cream off the corner of her lip you just couldn’t anymore. You didn't want to let yourself think or speak so you pulled the key to her apartment out of your pocket and set it on the table. You had taken it off the key ring weeks ago but it had jangled loose in your pocket everyday until now.
She looked at it for a long time, melted ice cream running down her hand and dripping onto the formica.
I will always love you, she whispered at last, but she never looked up.
There was so much you wanted to say, but all you said was “I know.”
That night you stayed up with your journal, re and rereading the long entries you had made all those other nights. You had thought that today’s might be the longest one yet but in the end you only wrote one line and went to bed.
I am sad.