Your analogies are too cumbersome, Colin used to say. They should snap. Yours don’t snap.
Colin could be a real drip.
I don’t miss him but sometimes I feel his absence. He would argue that these are the same. Colin could never tell the temperature of words.
I didn’t notice his absence on my birthday last month or our anniversary just the other day, but last night at the beach I thought of him because he would have been overcome it was so various and beautiful.
When I was nudging my way through all those skinny empty trees in the forest, the sun blasting in between them like a strobe light I thought of him, and then on the flat beach, the horizon soldered shut, and the sky bursting with every kind of cloud and all the colours including a bruise of rain over Niagara and a pink smudge over Rochester I think was snow.
And then over the bluffs thousands of birds shifting like a single organism – the kind of thing you expect goes on in the sea – but so strange and sudden in the air you feel like it’s a flash mob.
Not unlike what would happen if you shook all the letters off this page.
They’d swoop and stretch, turning one after the other until an instant of invisibility, and then a dark slam in a corner where they’d gather into a new shape, some punctuation loosening at the edges and so on, until they would fall back into place or nearly.
That’s the part Colin didn’t understand. If you let the words just go, without trying to craft them to death, when they sink back into place they never quite catch their breath and you can feel it.
Colin said my willingness to write imperfectly was a cop-out. He said my similes were sloppy, my coincidences unlikely, too many run-on sentences and inconsistencies especially with punctuation. I didn’t defend myself. I didn’t tell him I think mistakes create a sort of intimacy, and that I like to write in the honest atmosphere of their residue.
When the birds finally sank into the trees at the bottom of the bluffs I kept hoping they’d turn up again but they didn’t, so I looked back at the lake. The moon, slumped on one side, was lodged in a darkening sky and right below, like he’d fallen from it like an egg, stood Colin – big eyes and round mouth as usual – resting-surprise-face I used to call it.
Beside him was another me.
I wish I could say she was taller or thinner or that her hair was a different colour or she had opposite taste in clothing or we weren’t both terribly pale – but I cannot.
We shared moon-faced hellos before I loped away and sank like the birds into my dark car.
That night, I let the phone ring three separate times.
Of course it would be Colin trying to explain why he broke it off with the real me in the first place but I didn’t care in the same way I don’t care about mistakes and omissions. All I cared about was the wine, the salty cheese room-temperature and sharp, and the cat – our cat – applying a sort of pressure on my lap each time the phone rang as if the shrill of it increased gravity.
One of the things I liked about Colin was he never knew where to put his happiness so it stuck out all over the place in an alarming and hilarious way.
Also that he didn’t have a sense about how he looked – not a clue – which at first I thought was a hoot but after a while I wished he would tone it down because in those secondary colours and Steve Martin plaids he could look like a clown.
I suggested grey and other monotony and he fell out of love with me the way something falls off a bridge.
There. Did that fucking snap?