Just yesterday I caught the familiar whiff of her. Her scent a trail on the backs of others as if she intended for it to be obscured but also wanted to apply test, perhaps she torn with the ambiguity that plagues us all: to have my cake or to eat it? And perhaps coincidence favored to have her in the vicinity but if it were test then I did not fail as even that small sample of her is as distinct to my nose as a freshly split harvest apple might be to your nose or a spring pine after a full rain might be to all. And while it has been so many years since I have seen her, since we sat across from each other like no more than lunch companions (so hard have I tried to erase that final picture: the demure companions), and talked of love as about love, as something over there, as something abstract, as something we no longer shared between us. And yes this was a good decision to talk around love and to keep it labeled past tense because we both had chosen such divergent geography and laid foundation and no sense revisiting that again, no sense getting too close to what if.
I wonder how you came to recognize me. How you came to locate me in a world over-stuffed with voices (your eyes never very good, squinting even as a girl, and I do not imagine you tasking your delicate nose to the ground, you unwilling to bend that low, and I do not blame you that, not one bit)? Do you remember me reading to you: the dull textbook, comics, newspapers, the dinner menu? And when my improvisations proved too annoying and you had scrunched your nose in disapproval, maybe a small giggle, maybe not, and you had scrunched again, Please stop, the obvious message, and at that instant always I would have the same impulse: to leap upon you and wrap my arms around you so tightly, so fully that even taking breath would be difficult, that it would be easier for me to breathe for the both of us, and all you need do was stay warm, always stay warm, for the both of us, yes, but stay warm for me. So cold without you.
Would it please or disturb you to know that for years I wrote you poems? You should know they were more bleating than poetry, not unlike these words, and you should know that I did not care then as I do not care now. Let the world label me, Man who Bleats, and I will wear the accompanying sign across my chest, and if need be I will change my signature to match my new label, and every time my pen scratches paper I will feel compelled to recall a touch of you, a delicate splash of you, of you, you that haunts me still.
(as a girl she would hide. I would find her tucked away in odd places, her secret places, that I learned to uncover one by one. and before the first harsh blast of autumn she would start with the bundling, oh how she did not like feeling cold, and she might wrap three scarves around her face and ears leaving no slots for her eyes because, as I just now realize, her reaction to what she would see was instantly chosen: elation or sadness, and a screeching jumping slap my chest and arms elation, and a days in hiding sadness, hidden and wrapped and buried in hiding places I could not find, places she would not later reveal, and that is how it comes to be that some days the risk is just not worth taking. and that is how love comes to fade but not die. of course it never dies.)