Once upon a time there was a boy. He lived in a village that no longer exists, in a house that no longer exists, on the edge of a field that no longer exists. Once upon a time there was a boy who lived in a house across the field from a girl who no longer exists. They made up a thousand games. They collected the world in small handfuls, and they were never unfair to each other, not once. When the sky grew dark, they parted with burrs in their clothes and leaves in their hair.
When they were ten, he asked her to marry him. When they were eleven, he kissed her for the first time. When they were thirteen, they got into a fight and for three terrible weeks they didn’t talk. When they were fifteen, she showed him the scar on her left breast. Their love was a secret they told no one. He promised her he would never love another girl as long as he lived. “What if I die?” she asked. “Even then,” he said. For her sixteenth birthday, he gave her a Polish-English dictionary and together they studied the words. “What’s this?” he’d ask, tracing his index finger around her ankle, and she’d look it up. “And this?” he’d ask, kissing her elbow. “ ‘Elbow’! What kind of word is that?” And then he’d lick it, making her giggle. When they were seventeen, they made love for the first time, on a bed of straw in a shed. Later—when things had happened that they never could have imagined—she wrote him a letter that said, “When will you learn that there isn’t a word for everything?”
Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl whose father was shrewd enough to scrounge together all the zlotys he had to send his daughter on a boat to America. At first she refused to go, but the boy also knew enough to insist, swearing on his life that he’d earn some money and find a way to follow her. He got a job as a janitor at a hospital and he saved as much as he could. But, in the summer of 1941, the Einsatzkommandos drove their armies farther east; on a bright, hot day in July, they entered S. At that hour, the boy happened to be lying on his back in the woods, thinking about the girl. You could say it was his love for her that saved him. In the years that followed, the boy became a man who became invisible. In this way, he escaped death.
Once upon a time the man who had become invisible arrived in America. He had spent four years hiding, mostly in trees but also in cellars and holes. Then the Russian tanks rolled in. For five months, he lived in a displaced-persons camp. He got word to his cousin, who was a locksmith in America. In his head, he practiced over and over the only words he knew in English. Knee. Elbow. Ear. Finally, his papers came through. He took a train to a boat, and after a week of passage arrived in New York Harbor. Folded in his hand was the girl’s address. That night, he lay awake on the floor of his cousin’s room. The radiator clanged and hissed, but he was grateful for the warmth. In the morning, his cousin explained to him how to take the subway to Brooklyn. Only as his finger pressed her doorbell did it cross his mind that perhaps he should have called, so as not to give her a heart attack. She opened the door. She wore a blue scarf over her hair. He could hear the broadcast of a ballgame through the neighbor’s wall.
Once upon a time the woman who had been a girl got on a boat to America and threw up all the way there, not because she was seasick but because she was pregnant. When she found out, she wrote to the boy. Every day, she waited for a letter from him, but none came. She got bigger and bigger. She tried to hide it so as not to lose her job at the dress factory. A few weeks before the baby was born, she got a letter from someone who told her what had happened to the town of S. She stopped going to work. She couldn’t bring herself to get out of bed. After a week, the son of her boss came to see her. He brought her food to eat and put a bouquet of flowers in a vase by her bed. When he found out that she was pregnant, he called a midwife. A baby boy was born. One day, the girl sat up in bed and saw the son of her boss rocking the child in a shaft of sunlight. After a year, she agreed to marry him. Two years later, she had another child.
The man who had become invisible stood in her living room, listening to her story. He had changed so much in five years that now part of him wanted to laugh a hard, cold laugh. She gave him a small photograph of the boy, who was now five. Her hand was shaking. She said, “You didn’t write. I thought you were dead.” He looked at the photograph of the boy who, although the man didn’t know it then, would grow up to look like him, go to college, fall in love, fall out of love, become a famous writer. “What’s his name?” he asked. “I called him Isaac,” she said. They stood for a long time in silence as he stared at the picture. At last he managed three words: “Come with me.” The sound of children shouting rose from the street below. She squeezed her eyes shut. “Come with me,” he said, holding out his hand. Tears rolled down her face. She shook her head. “I can’t,” she said. She looked down at the floor. “Please,” she said. And so he did the hardest thing he’d ever done in his life: he picked up his hat and walked away.
And if the man who had once promised that he’d never fall in love with another girl as long as he lived kept his promise, it wasn’t because he was stubborn, or even loyal. It was because he couldn’t help it. And, having already hidden for years, hiding his love for a son who didn’t even know he existed didn’t seem unthinkable. Not if it was what the only woman he would ever love needed him to do. After all, what does it mean for a man to hide one more thing when he has vanished completely?
There’s nothing like listening to the Beach House discography in a dark room with a pint of icecream
One of those nights in Laguna when I woke up in your arms and it felt like the most natural thing in the world (except that it was 6am), I realised that I would probably miss you very much. And I thought that even if we never saw each other again after summer, even if I were to be sad until winter, it would be okay because in that moment everything felt as though it belonged.
That moment existed, and it was ours, and that was enough.
But it’s not enough anymore and sometimes I wish it would be. I mean, we do have each other now, but I want you for more than the time that we have left.
It’s a shame that there is no forever. I know there isn’t. And I still want you forever.
my blog is a mess because my life is a mess but I don’t have anywhere else to push the mess
like cleaning a room by putting all the clutter underneath the bed, this blog has become my bed because I don’t know where else to put all this stuff in order to keep the rest of my life looking okay
DO YOU REMEMBER WALKING AT HALF YOUR NORMAL PACE NEXT TO ME AFTER WE LEFT THE CLUB THAT ONE NIGHT BECAUSE I WAS BAREFOOT AND THE STREETS WERE COBBLESTONE AND I HAD TO HOP FROM ONE SMOOTH STONE TO THE NEXT SO THAT THEY WOULDN’T POKE MY FEET. WE CAME TO AN ATRium sort of area and there were lights all around us and I told you to stop and you looked down at me with so much concern and asked if something was wrong and I said no and I pulled your face down toward me with my hand on the back of your neck, I just wanted to kiss you on the side of the cobblestone street surrounded by twinkling little lights somewhere in the centre of London
it was so perfect
maybe I knew
– Zelda to Scott, 1935 (via fitzgeraldquotes)
Remember how we used to tiptoe around ideas and feelings because it was so romantic to both know something shared, without saying it aloud. Then like the tipping point of a titration, the “I love you’s” would appear in little fuschia bursts, then all at once with the passionate fervour of things left unsaid for too long
The dead are always looking down on us, they say.
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.
They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,
which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.
– Billy Collins