when you were only shadow and wonder, I asked an absent God to show me your face in a dream. Because the thought of missing the moment, the signs, the signals, of walking by you and not feeling that sense of instant recognition crushed my fragile heart.
But in that dream you were often unknowable, infinitely unfamiliar, a blur of features and colors outside my feeble ability to comprehend. Or worse, an amalgamate of every love and lust, imprisoned in comfortable names, fragrances, walking with recycled steps, singing reprocessed songs, and I would wake in fear, convinced I could never know you the way I was certain I had to know you.
But here in the time after, in the same room together, my old heart loving you the way only old hearts can love, I marvel at my good fortune, the life I never expected or knew I wanted unfolding in remarkably ordinary days and nights. You rise from the sofa, a half finished novel in your hand, take the three short steps that separate us. I look up, expectant. You smile that crooked smile I adore, kiss me softly on the head.
It is more than enough.
I’d been excited to read it, the book he’d written about playing poker, being in the big one, the tournament of tournaments. Not that I actually played poker, card games, games of chance, though that would lend credibility, but still I was interested, intrigued, curious (another list in threes) as to the hows and whys (only two?). His fictions struck me as nearly perfect, and though perfection itself is boring, near perfection, like the no skip album, is a treasure.
We won’t talk about that one book, the second effort, where I could only finish 113 pages before admitting failure. It isn’t the fiction’s fault. I completely blame myself.
But there it was, the last of his books I didn’t own, hadn’t read, right in front of me in the hotel room, purchased from the big store in The Big Apple, 16 miles of books. From the first page it was a struggle. Pretentious and dull, overwritten and deliberately (it seemed to me) difficult. Zero flow, Unfunny jokes, and so little writing about what I thought the writing was supposed to be about I checked the cover and blurb over and over to be sure I was in the right place, reading the right book.
And then came the heart stuff.
That pressing pain not so much immobilizing as terrifying. A pain that shouldn’t be, one that had no physical point of origin, but yet seemed to be cracking my sternum from the inside out, waking me from sleep, making the previous days of frequently being hunched over, gasping for air, dizzy, sweating, filled with confusion, seem like a welcome walk through light rain.
So many long sentences to say something so simple. My chest hurt. My heart wasn’t working right.
But it isn’t simple, is it? It is horrifying in its complexity and significance. And while I sat in the taxi, the driver speeding through the 2 AM empty mid-town streets, beseeching me under his breath to not die in his cab, I couldn’t shake the disappointing thought that the last book I would read was so awful.
Silly sure, but in my mind a cruel twist.
Of all the books to read last, I’d picked a complete dud.
I didn’t die, which was wonderful. There have been many more books, but the thought remains in the back of my brain, and from time to time it pushes forward. There will be a last book, a last song. There will be a final kiss, a final I love you. There will be a last sleep, a last sunrise. We know this and we don’t. We understand this and we don’t.
We want this and we don’t.