Three fingers in a tripod on the pizza box in the passenger seat to hold it in place in a one-handed left turn. That’s when I thought I heard a honk, but it was just part of the song on Track 3 of your CD. I’m not sure the name, and I couldn’t hum the tune if you asked me, but as soon as Track 2 ends and there’s a beat of silence I remember what’s coming next.
When a song tricks me into hearing a honk I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to drive with one hand on the wheel, even though that’s how I used to drive when I would glide around the last road turning out of school, neck fully out the window (even in peacoat weather).
I saw you in Wegmans the last time I was home, first time our paths crossed in one year and one month. First thing I noticed was the tacky orange shirt, practically neon. It was yours, of course, who else would wear that? Eyes inch up and it was your face there, too, of course. Dim eyes staring down—strange for you—which maybe meant that you had seen me first.
You used to romanticize me because of how I stuck my head out the car window in peacoat weather. You seemed refreshed, like you hadn’t heard everything in the world yet after all.
So later when my mom and I were checking out and she said, oh shoot, remember we needed to get Diet Coke? Not Diet Pepsi? I power walked across Wegmans width-wise to switch out the brands and I turned my head at every aisle entrance. Then, there, at the end of some aisle two-thirds across the store, surveying the milk brands and expiration dates, you, in your tacky orange shirt.
Down the aisle, length-wise toward the milk. On the train going home last year I sent you the last message I’ll ever send you: that the best thing you could do for me would be to not talk to me again. At least for now, I added, deleted, added again. Since then, one year and one month ago, so many places and people have been between us. Now in the chilly aisle, just ten feet.
I swung right towards the Coke. Maybe after I turned, you saw my back to you.
One thing I’m sorry for is if I compressed you into that night. But it started that first morning after, when you looked at me with dim eyes in the apartment and I went to work to wait for the day to be over. And at around one o’clock, when I made myself be in some place brighter than my head—to the fifth floor, where the wall is all windows and the sun fills the room. Wrote myself a note with a golf pencil, folded it. Planted myself on the carpet in the sun, facing the window, note in my hands, hands holding one another behind my back. That’s when you became an event.
Not sure if I forgot how to relate to you—hard to tell who it was in that orange shirt. Not quite the you who used to read aloud to me that one July, when we’d wait for the days to be over together. Also not quite the you I sent that last message to, knees up on the seat-back of an emptying train creeping farther from the city. Just a character in a book I haven’t read.
Fingers on the pizza box relax, finish the turn—
Just a honk. You wrote it all yourself in Sharpie on your CD: out of the rabbit hole and home.