Saturday, January 14, 2006

Departure

“Write me,” Ruby said. Though I knew I wouldn’t, I said I would. Writing was not what we were about. We stood on the jetway at JFK in the International Departures building saying a kind of goodbye. The feeling was like that moment before a great leap, when the anticipation holds everything in place like fruit in jello. I kissed her because I thought I should, because it was the seemly thing to do. I grazed the corner of her mouth leaving no question: half friend, half something else. It was more out of respect for the dead, this memorial of a kiss. We stood bathed in the clamor of JFK noise, filling the moment the way a grouter fills in the spaces between tiles. That is what we had become now: tiles never quite touching. The verbal placeholders, the ums and un-huhs, neither of us wanted to let go, but neither of us wanted to hold on either. Ruby twirled her hair. She always did when she was nervous. I remembered the breakfasts; the balsamic smell of the apartment whenever I cooked omelets; how she loved her toast black and how she chastised me whenever I tried to scrape the char off.

On the jetway we stood and looked at each other. It could only have been a minute or so. People brushed by with their lives in suitcases heading off to places. We could not do a thing but stand there and pretend that tomorrow we would talk about this moment and laugh.

She was odd, Ruby was. She indulged in odd things. Like the way she would always carry around a glue stick so that whenever anyone asked what the glue stick was for, she would tell them it was in case Michael Jackson came into the room and his nose fell off, she could glue it back on for him and then she would be his favorite. She also loved to save the lint from the dryer and make things with it: birds’ nests, potatoes with “hair” and toothpick arms. She was just strange this way.

On the jetway I took her hand and held it in a traditional handshaking, ergonomic manner, to show connectivity, but not too much connectivity. From a distance we could have been business associates. We touched the whole time even when the half words and sounds wriggled free from our closed lips and pinched hearts.

I always loved the way Ruby made me look at things, but lately, it was always a closed one way alley: small and bordered. It was how she never really needed me, her independence from me, that always got me so horny in a way I still cannot reckon.

On the jetway, stepping aside from the inexorable flow of passengers like some toreador fighting a bull, we stood at both a bridge and a wall. Something needed to happen. We locked into a gaze and an awkwardness neither of us had ever really known. I fumbled with an index card that had the recipe for Ruby’s favorite meal: fried eel with breaded cardone. I’d been carrying the card for weeks now meaning to file it. Recipes are just culinary memories. I made a mental note to toss the card away after she left, and I was out of sight. She whispered something Italian into my ear that I never heard over the gate assignments and pages over the loud speakers. She wore a baseball cap with her dusty long hair pushed through the back of the cap. Pulled down over her eyes, the cap gave her a great fierceness.
She looked deep into my eyes and touched my cheek and smiled. She could see that I had been smoothed raw by her love. It was clear that I was a finished man.

M C Biegner
1/14/2006
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4 Comments:

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1/18/2006 9:15 PM  
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1/20/2006 2:37 PM  
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1/21/2006 8:20 PM  

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