(From a letter scribbled at Denny’s).
The words are written on the back of a napkin. They shot themselves out of the dark.
I am sitting here watching the coffee swirls form along the surface of the cup in front of me. The time on my watch reads 9:15. It’s a woman’s watch, a memento that I’ve become used to keeping in my coat pockets. I found it on the day I drove Anne to the airport. She had left it on the end table in our motel room.
The hands weren’t moving anymore and the face was cracked. I knew nothing about how watches worked but it looked like a long shot to fix. Still, I wanted it and took it to Sears. Why not? Daily absences have put me in the habit of collecting whatever keepsakes I can find. Daily absences inform my biography. I feel closer to Anne knowing I have her watch: it helps me remember what her wrists were like.
The night before she left we drank a bottle of whiskey. We drank until it burned our insides and then we purged ourselves kneeling on the bathroom linoleum. We had just cleaned up when I tackled her into bed and her arm flung out in surprise towards a waiting table top corner. In the silence of 2:30, I heard a crack and looked up. It would have been so easy to fall asleep just like how we were, with my chin on her collarbone.
“What was that?” I said.
“It’s my watch,” Anne said, taking it off and laying it on its back.
I propped myself on an elbows and looked at the watch face under the lamp light.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said.
“Are you sure? It looks broken.”
“I’m sure. Just leave it alone. I’ll get another one when I go back. It was cheap.”
Cheap. That’s what I remember most. When I try to think about what her voice sounded like, it always says the same thing: it was cheap.
I couldn’t sleep last night so I turned on the TV and watched a documentary about the universe on PBS until around 5:00. The universe fascinates me. I am in love with the unknowable.
“I am large, I contain multitudes.” When I think about the universe, this is what it says to me. And it laughs in a big shoulder shrugging kind of way. A Walt Whitman kind of laugh. It has to be this way. It laughs because it will outlast all our lifetimes. We know what the universe is in words, we can break it down into basic units– protons, electrons, positrons neutrons, quarks, radiation clouds, gravitons and gravity wells, dark, photons, things we only know in written form. In the end, what do these things tell me? It’s only in my imagination that they exist. We can’t see them.
I turn the napkin over and read it again.
I love you until the stars supernova and collapse in on themselves, become white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes: exhausted bodies that churn for no other reason than to be compelled to. If they didn’t, we’d forget that they exist. We measure traces of them from long ago; that’s how we know they’re there.
If loving you is like this then so be it.
The coffee’s lukewarm now and I’m looking at the watch again. It’s only 9:40, though the time is secondary. When I had the watch fixed, the repairman asked if I would like to have the glass replaced as well. “No, actually, I prefer it this way,” I told him.
Thoughts of you are consuming. It makes talk senseless. Even stars fall to gravity. Watch movements keep on on.