I remember our unlikely beginnings: a particular gleam of sunlight on the plaza outside Wrigley Field, the thunderstorm that cracked the sky the night we sat for hours in his old Toyota in the church parking lot where he asked if he could hold my hand. That was two Junes ago. We have not gone back to Chicago, and rarely have I been close enough to reach his hand.
When I have told him about my solitary days, in blue bubbles of text or fragmented phone conversations or occasionally—every so often—video chat, I have recounted rarities. I have failed to share the sensations that have become, already, so familiar that I do not consciously recognize them. I realized, the other day, that I can identify the peculiar smell of Boston bus exhaust. I can hear it coming long before it rounds the bend; I can guess its proximity from flickers in the window of the west-facing house at the bottom of the hill. Sometimes, when I step jerkily toward a vacant seat, I see people I recognize. I couldn’t tell you when I’d seen them first, nor definitively where. I can only say that this particular, unextraodinary face is familiar. This particular, unextraordinary stranger now makes up my world.
I do not, I cannot, describe for him each face I see. I do not pause to speak of the dusty glow that purples the Boston skyline on nights I walk up Fairview in the dark. Perhaps I am too embarrassed, or perhaps I simply forget, to tell him that the streetlights lit up the underside of autumn’s oldest leaves one evening and I can still picture them splayed bright against the darkness. The less lovely moments, too— I do not say that I marked a finger with ink putting the cap back on the pens he bought me. I do not tell him that a woman left a teal scarf on her bus seat one morning. I noticed when I stood to get off, but I didn’t know what to do. When I turned to cross the street I saw someone else stand and pick it up before the bus exhaled and moved away.
When he is here, at last, I will omit these same snippets from the accounts of my day. I will come through the door and announce the errands I have done, and I know I will fail to describe the woman whose long fingers held her necklace as we waited at the CVS checkout. I will recount happenstances: things that made me laugh, or made me angry, or slowed me down. The pale moments of stillness will remain caught in my throat, because they seem unimportant, or because they seem desperately and inarticulably important, and remind me so beautifully, so cruelly, that “we live alone in the house of the heart.”
“We are utterly open with no one, in the end,” writes Brian Doyle, “not mother or father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend.” It seems odd to speak of the limits of human intimacy when anticipating our reunion; to record for the world the untold stories which are themselves just fragments of a billowing moment already passed away, to promise that I will fail again to share them fully. It may be unromantic to say that their quiet ache will be unsoothed by his boyish laughter or the solid warmth of his chest. I can never quite explain the importance of an abandoned scarf, but I will try. And soon he will be here. He will ask to hold my hand, and I will try again.
Katie is a doctoral student in English and education at the University of Michigan. She loves the New York Times crossword puzzle, advice columns, oceans, and dogs of all kinds.