I Sit in the Dark
I sit in the dark comforting corner in this little café, watching and writing. These words I scribble on my napkin, they come and go like lightning, and sometimes I don't jot them down quick enough. They recede faster and faster, until they blend into the darkness in the gorges of my imagination. Then—they are gone forever.
I'm waiting. Waiting for what? I don't know. Whatever it is, I hope it is worth this wait, because this stay is driving me crazy.
Now I remember what I've been waiting for. It's a boy. Or rather, it's the memory of a boy. We used to come here often. I remember now; we'd dawdle in the front of the little store, giggling like idiots and holding hands tight. His name is like a gold chain dangling from my ears, sweet like the jingle of metal.
It's been so long ago; I almost can't recall it. I sat here all the time, him by my side. We sipped our drinks, savoring the moments but not understanding why we should drink so slowly. I understand now, but then, it was like something so mysterious and lovely in the back of our minds, telling us what we wanted to hear: that we could be content just sitting there and watching each other. Oh how good I was at watching him. I'd let my eyes drift around, dart across the air, to the ceiling, to the walls and the floor and the strangers walking in and out. They would return, back to him, to his face. They remained there, for an indefinite amount of time, lost in his perfectly flawed features, his blemished cheeks, his coarse, mountainous skin, his knife-like eyes draped by the curtain of his thick lashes. My eyes were prisoners to the beauty only one in love could see. I pulled in, close as I would. He never noticed until I was right there, unflinching, next to him. We were both shy kids, uncomfortable under the spotlight, awkward and touchy.
Never here. Here, in this magical place, he only smiled at me. And he'd open his careless mouth, tormenting me to no end, and he'd whisper my name. Afterwards, a throaty endearment—"You're so perfect. I like you too much." It was so perfect it made me shiver.
Or—"Your pimples are adorable," just to provoke me into retorting, "Your ears are big and ugly." Afraid I'd hurt him, I'd add, "But they are beautiful and I love them." What was beautiful? What was ugly? In our world, we decided they were the same. We said things we didn't mean, and we understood the words that were never spoken.
Sometimes I didn't know what went on behind his lips or behind his eyes. I was jealous. Did he trust me as much as I trusted him? How was it that it was so easy for me to blush at his confidence and charm while I bit my lips in self-consciousness and a burning wish to be more? Or should I have felt lucky? I'd always wanted to be "cool". I wanted him to be proud that he had me, this smart, talented girl who was so sure of herself—on the outside, at least. I should have known that it wouldn't have mattered to him what others thought about me; but I suppose it's something teenagers never learn until they shed their nineteen-odd years of clumsiness behind them and face the reality that no one really does care.
What everyone did say was that we were young. What did that mean? I think—or at least now I do—that somewhere in the back of our consciousness we knew we wouldn't last. That someday we, too, would succumb to the treachery of an innocent love, when it might slowly seep out of our souls and bleed out its flaws. But that didn't deter us, didn't deter me from feeling and loving. I could do anything, I could tell him lies and force myself from looking at him, but those emotions, they remained always, and I didn't deny them. Were we young? I thought we were so old, when we stared at each other, like years would pass in the blink of our eyes and we would leave the café decades older.
And leave together we did, for months we'd grow old together, and when we'd come back we felt so young again, like stepping through that door replenished our hearts and we were reborn. The café always played a different song over the speakers. Every day my favorite song changed. Sometimes I didn't even know what the song was called. Sometimes the music wasn't the genre that I liked. It didn't matter. It was our world, ours only. Whatever song played over our clouds, we accepted it and we heard it and loved it.
One day, we grew up. It was very sudden. He moved across the city, and I decided that I didn't like coffee anymore. In fact, I found that I never liked coffee. The taste was bitter, but if you added sugar like I had always done, the sweetness felt tight and superficial.
It's been so long.
The worst thing is that I'm forgetting him. This is why I come here, every day now, whenever I ride the subway home from my work. I hate the coffee and tea makes me sick. But I come, every evening, and I order a drink, and I sip it ever so slowly, trying to remember something long past. I think I'm looking for something I've lost. I don't want to forget it. When I leave and go home, I abandon an entire lifetime, a person, a people, all left just behind me. They remain confined, in that little room, begging me not to leave. I have to go home. But where is home? Sometimes I think home is there, in that single unfathomable corner. It draws me in; it sings to me that if I dive deep enough into the endless crease running up and down, I might find a way in, back in to where I belong. Every time I'm there, another world opens, a world into the past.
So I come and I sit, where I've always sat before, and I take a napkin and a pen and I write down what I'm thinking, what I've thought the past day. It's my diary. When I can't think anymore, I throw it away with the drink I leave unfinished, hoping that someday someone will come pick up the pieces I've left in the wastelands of my mind and search a way back into my heart.
One day, I come to the café. There's a sign on the window. It reads "FOR LEASE".
Where's my memory now?