I watch the rain approach, a gauzy drape of grey embracing the shoulders of the apartment buildings to the west, and I throw open my window to yell to you ‘watch out’ or ‘walk away’ or ‘turn around’ but you cross the street to the park wearing that turquoise T-shirt and my safari hat like it was August instead of April, pulling your bandana mask down the second that two joggers part around you as if you are Moses, while your Jack Russell heads straight to the park wall and pees and paws leaves and dirt all over your spanking new white Converse, but you are oblivious to rain or earth, crouching to take a picture of a robin perched on the back of a park bench, inching your iPhone toward the bird, who I imagine cocks its head and asks ‘are you really mediating your reality with a device that will render me into pixels instead of trying to look into my dark caviar ebony irises in order to really commune with nature’ and then poof

the bird is scared away by a bulky man overwhelming a Citi Bike, long black wool coat flapping behind him like a drunken brother of Batman, who swerves past and snarls ‘put on your mask, asshole,’ which causes you to pivot like Baryshnikov and scream ‘take care of your own viral load, you dick’ and that’s when I slide the window down, all the while willing you to look up, LOOK UP, look up toward the third floor of the townhouse just two doors down from yours where once I swore I’d only spend that one weird forlorn February night with you, just before the pandemic, watching you tearing coupons out of your thigh-high stacks of free neighbourhood newspapers, and I remember you used the word shocked as in you were shocked that anyone could let a third-slice-free voucher be wasted and you giggled ‘See Jiminy Cricket we’re not going to spend a dime on dinner tonight’ oblivious to the fact that the pizza joint succumbed to Covid and no one was lining up in a cold rain to buy that rubbery stuff, no one craved garlic knots these days, and the next evening you came over and lit up my room for a few hours with great sex, yeah, sure, but also with hot disquisitions on Cicero and the phony rise of Camus and

the Existentialists, who you thought were just trying to enact a philosophical separatism from humanity by handing over the job of identity formation from self to society, which, you claimed, allowed the current celebrity culture to flourish and grow like noxious algae eating up all the oxygen in the pond because human intelligence, you insisted, had made us all pretty dim bulbs, a line you’d repeat every time my new LED digital fixture in the kitchen would flicker (I had finally run out of the incandescent bulbs and had abandoned two weeks earlier the desire to keep you a one-night wonder) so the new bulb made the room as bright as any combat zone surgery theatre, and to test its light, we twisted off all the other bulbs and experimented doing different things in the glare like reading the instructions on a box of macaroni or mooning each other or pulling thread under our skin with a sewing needle (you matched me to a Tony the Tiger, orangy-red thread

nestling an inch of it into my forearm) so now when I’m sleepy in some dull seminar on Kierkegaard and I start to lay my head on my arms I feel connected for a second until I remember that since we’ve gone remote you won’t talk to me or even text or look up at my window and I realise I’m hoping for a downpour so I can run

outside and make you return my safari hat and kick your stupid dog Skipper as if by accident and I’d forget my umbrella and I’d ask if I could get under my hat with you and you’d come up with some riddle about the Sphinx and the rooster and what side the egg rolled down and I’d guess toward the Nile not toward Cairo, even though I know roosters don’t lay eggs, but I’d pretend to forget just so you’d feel triumphant because the idea of giving pleasure is enormous to me when every time I sniffle I think I’m going

to die and you make me feel like a kid trying to spot my favorite horse flying around the carousel, the horse I stayed faithful to, Blackie, even after I fell off him and was hospitalised and never completely erased my slight limp, which you liked to imitate hopping up my stoop, calling me Tiny Tim and huffing Ho Ho Ho I’m the ghost of the Christmas future, and still I prayed you would be my brass lamp genie and we’d camp in the Adirondacks and paraglide, and learn to play ‘Hearts’ on the piano as a duet like all the cool kids did in sixth grade, and instead I cajole your super to let me into your apartment a month after you ghost me and I see the half-eaten scrambled

eggs in the skillet and the neat stack of coupons on the counter and by instinct I grab the coupons and chew a big mouthful, swallowing some, my teeth blackened by ink so when you burst through the door as if interrupting a robbery you screech and beat me out into the hallway, your super trying to dull your fists and after the arrest I’m thankful the judge changes the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor since vouchers have no intrinsic value until they’re redeemed, he says, and I want to be redeemed, one day, but today

I draw the curtain to practice on my therapist’s advice a primal scream or two, afraid

I might spit something up and splatter particulate matter on my window which would shame me more than your disappearance although I realise now that mastering just the right scream—supported by my diaphragm, with open ribcage and full lungs, without any taste of bile rising up the gullet—is an exercise on which, to achieve perfection, I will have to work and work and work, thanks to you, for a large portion of the rest of my life.

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