It was her idea to take a walk. It was late evening I was tired and would have preferred just sit. But I saw her look of expectation, exploration, and I quickly built some enthusiasm. Sure. Let's walk to by the Alamo. By where we used to feed the pigeons? We used to, she said. We. And we + activity. And this she remembered. Fondly. And now wishing to revisit. Me lately feeling like a phantom, a shadow, those words pleased. Me lately walking unsteadily between is was might be. Me lately feeling a constant drain, a siphon, and thus the inclination to rest, to sleep, because of the toll of such roads just listed. And then, Where we used to. Such a rush.
Too many memories move away from me. They lose distinction, detail. Diminished vibrancy. Imprinting new ones has become difficult. A chore. A task. I fear friends think I do not listen closely because I often can't recall a detail they gave me a month ago. A week ago. Yesterday. I appreciate the kindness when they choose to just tell me again. But there do remain those memories that bring pleasure. A great fondness. This point in time was Real and it was Good. Such memories have become inviolate. A grounding of my existence. It is possible I visit them too often to the detriment of now. The miser always stacking and arranging and admiring his coins. I am not blind to this possibility. But I must have them.
I find it jarring then when my memories of times with others have faded for them. They recall vaguely. Sure, they say. Politely not saying, What's the point? Why do you bring this up now? The vacant look that compels me to question have I even existed to them before this moment? To make me want to flee from them, or retreat from the whole world of people and forgetting. Quit this uneven game. To complete the forgetting before I start to count all of the times I must have disappointed to receive such zero in return. All things in balance. It is the only certainty.
I remember sitting with N at the coffee shop that used to be at Bitters and West Avenue. That place gone so many years now. We're sitting at a little table on the tiny patio, maybe three or four little tables total, the choice of outside a concession to my smoking habit that she despised. "I just can't wait for the other shoe to drop," she tells me. "The pain of the wait is so much worse than the result of the drop." I had never heard such a thing before. She explains that she would rather knock the shoe down herself than endure the suffering of waiting for its inevitable fall. All shoes fall had been her experience. In this particular scenario she had recently decided to end a relationship, by all accounts a good relationship, because she was just too terrified of him leaving. Or him changing, becoming a dick. This lesson of dropping shoes she taught me too well that day. Later I would be the one to knock the shoe down. N's shoe. A deep and full regret. How can I ever overlap memories with N now?
"Do you remember all the pigeons here?" She didn't say that when we made it to Alamo Plaza but I don't care because I could tell by how she looked around it was familiar to her in a way that pleased her and thus pleased me. She remembered me and her and this place and equated it with Good. We may have been equally pleased with our reminisce. I was happy, in the moment.
The first story I wrote was called Mr. Kindresol. It was born as much as written and none since have ever come out like it. I had gotten my first writing desk maybe a week earlier, from Goodwill for twenty bucks, and it just sat there in my bedroom with its vast writing surface and its drawers that I had populated with pens and pencils and notebooks. I was still in the process of looking for a deal on a typewriter. And then one night, about 3 AM, I woke and said to myself, I must sit at that desk and write this story. I had work the next day and needed the sleep but the pull was so strong I could not in good conscience ignore it. And I knew I would be unable to fall back to sleep. So write I did. Got it all in that one sitting. Boy, was I pleased. So pleased I didn't know what to do.
D, the singer/poet/song writer had me come over and read it to him. In my excitement I butchered a couple of spots and he didn't hide his displeasure. "I certainly wouldn't pay to hear you read," he told me. His voice was exquisite - rich resonant kind firm worldly - and I would have paid to hear him read. "Write another story, right away," he told me when I finished reading. Huh? You like it, right? WTF. "Look, I know lots of guys that wrote a story once. Or a song, ten or twenty years ago. Or they wrote a poem that they can recite to you at the fucking bar when they're getting blasted on any given lonely night. Write another story. Right away. Don't get attached to that one. Don't be that asshole at the bar."
After the coffee and N teaching me about the weight of suspended shoes we went to Slick Willie's. She was awful in pool but insisted she loved it. I humored her. To me it's no fun when the objective is fun. Excellence is the only fun objective. N didn't see it that way. And after pool we sat outside on the parking lot curb, the coffee shop had closed, and she went over story number two line by line, her reading it aloud a sentence at a time, then pausing to offer praise and criticism in the most gentle manner I have ever known. I was so uncertain about the reaches I had taken in that 2nd story that I had been afraid to show it to anyone. But now, watching N read it so slowly with such care and concern, but then erupting into laughter, so full and outlandish, so genuine, me not understanding but trusting, having to trust, who could think to invent this? We sat under the street lamp on the curb for more than an hour. N devoted to my words thoughts ideas feelings. My art. How is it possible to grasp the suddenness of experience, the newness, the absolute mind fucking blowing shock? So, quite obviously, after N gave me perhaps the greatest hour plus of my life she turned into a shoe.
For a long time I thought I could write her back into my life. If I wrote something smashing enough then the writer in her would compel her other self to forgive me and then she would come back. It would be awkward at the first but then we would pick up not far from where we left off. Well, we can't know about how well that might have worked because the smashing part hasn't got done. But, in a manner, she has come back. As other memories retreat, recede, fade, she by default is pushed ever closer. More to the front now. More properly displayed now. Prominent. And I remember now her voice, the frankness (she loved to say, Fuck, not for the shock value of the word but for the sound of it; the abrupt ending pleased her almost to hysteria when she was in one of those moods). And now she reminds me that she's been here the whole while. Do you remember the coffee place over by Bitters and West, at the very end of the strip center, I ask her and before the words are even out I regret giving them voice. I don't want to know her answer. It will just kill me if she doesn't remember the night I resolved to wreck everything.