In the first place I went men were walking around with their hearts on the ground and they were picking them up and attempting to shove them back into their breasts and their breasts weren’t having it. In the second place most of the people were pleased that they weren’t in the other place, but they seemed kind of bored. It was like LA, to be honest. Then in the third place everyone was a little loopy and really really happy to see each other. They kept melting into one another, and doing tricks with each other, and glowing from the outside in, and inside out, and it was great, I mean it was incredible (it was kind of like LA too), but after all of that, I mean, I kinda just missed you.
The first time I heard your name was six months before that, at the bar Simon and I would go to after work. I thought he was ordering the bill, but he was saying your name, and it was funny because I hadn’t heard of a girl called Bill before. Maybe Billie, like the Billie who wasn’t Michael Jackson’s lover, but not Bill. And when I saw you, it seemed kind of unfair to all the Bills in the world that you should be so beautiful and still be called Bill.
We ran into you at the same bar again, just after I returned from the three places. You talked with your teeth. Or maybe I was just looking at your teeth the whole time—I mean, your smile. But your teeth carried on the conversation, and I just beamed back, and nodded at whatever your teeth said, because who could disagree?
When we got to talking that time, Simon introduced me properly, and said I’d just come back from this big trip, and you asked where I’d been, and so I told you about the three places, and you said you’d had an aunt who did the same trip when she was in college. You reached across and touched my hand.
When we have sex two nights later, it’s good sex, and you say, in the middle of it, you say, Do you know it takes 13.62 billion years to create two people like us, doing what we’re doing, and understanding and perceiving it the way we are right now? To get everything to evolve just right, so that you’re you, and I’m me, and we’re… like this? And you squeeze me a certain way inside to emphasize, I guess, your point. It was something like that you said, the moment overtook itself, like a lip of flame on a piece of paper.
Your roommate left Chinese food in the refrigerator so we warm it up and sit cross-legged on the living room floor and eat some decent chow mein and some rather chewy sweet and sour chicken. All of a sudden we’re a little shy about our bodies, I guess because we’re consuming and digesting Chinese food and all, and so then we’re wearing clothes. The good thing is your roommate has left his clothes drying in the living room, so we just drape them over ourselves like bibs, and I ask if he’ll mind, and you shrug and say maybe, and you slurp up a noodle and it whips your nose and makes it slimy, but delicious slimy.
After our snack, we’re kinda bummed that there aren’t any fortune cookies to open, so we make our own fortunes. We write them on the inside backs of our knees and sit with our knees folded up and wrestle to see who can unfold a knee and read their fate first. You win, actually, but before we exchange fates, or wishes, or whatever, we’re kissing again, and you ask what it was like in the first place. This catches me off guard, and I say I don’t want to talk about it, but you push me for some detail—anything—you say your aunt never wanted to talk about it either, and I say it was cold. You were an icicle. And you just attached yourself to the stalk of a frozen rose, and you stayed there and didn’t even think of melting. We start kissing again, but your nose is oily, and I’m feeling kind of fat and tired, and we excuse ourselves to go to the bathroom or get dressed, and then we melt into the television and we are in tune, we are tuned in, we are a zany cast of New Yorkers making a TV show about a TV show.
I think you’re sleeping later that night when I turn to you in bed and say that in the second place they had pretty decent pizza, but no one there had ever been to Italy, and everyone knew this, so everyone, by extension, felt at something of a remove from authenticity.
We’re having sex early the next morning, just as the sun is rising orange on my chest, and you say that there are three basic muscle types in the human male body, and that I have the leaner of the three, but somehow it suits me. The “somehow” makes me slow a little, and I’m looking at my belly button for a little while before I realize that we’re conjoined and the deepest part of me is carrying on a millennia-old conversation with the deepest part of you, and this is how life and love and everything good perpetuates itself. But when I ask whether you’d ever consider having sex without a condom, you say you’ve been down that road before, and you laugh, and then stop, and you’re in that second place for a second, and then you’re in the kitchen cracking eggs and grinding coffee. I say I love you into a walkie-talkie receiver I pretend is in my hand. In the kitchen, you make a staticky noise and say it back.
You say you like un-words. Shakespeare coined a lot of those. But, I ask, does it count as coining if you just add an “un” in front of another word that already exists? Is that a half-coin? What is that? A tuppence? I ask what your favorite un-word is, and you think for awhile and say unhinge. What about me? I say I like unearth. Your roommate arrives home from his business trip that night, and the question is still on the table, I mean we’ve written it in chalk on your kitchen table, and he says, unusual, and you shrug and look unimpressed, and then he says, Hey, who ate my food?
But he doesn’t really mind. He’s almost exactly as you described him—in fact, he’s a little unsettling in how describable he is. I say this to you, and you say, “How do you mean?” in the way that means, basically, “I don’t agree.” I guess what I mean is that I’m glad that, when he touches your waist when you’re bending over by the fridge, you make a point of straightening up and stepping just out of reach, and squeezing my hand moments later, and making a static noise in my ear.
Your roommate goes to a bar with us that night — the same bar Simon and I used to go to—and Simon’s there, and so are some friends of ours, and some friends of your roommate, and I’m buzzing, I’m telling all kinds of stories about the third place, and how the people there ate light, gulped light into their stomachs and concaved with light, I mean waterballooned with light and when they burst—they always burst—for an instant that light was all you were, all you were drinking, for an instant you forgot yourself into that light, into that substance that wasn’t any substance at all and stepping out of that moment was like stepping out of the best bath you’ve ever had. I drink too much and you’re telling me all about the stupid things I said the next morning, when I’m trying to introduce a little sliced bread into my system but my system won’t have it.
Your roommate buys us real breakfast later in the day at your favorite diner, and outside the first snows have started to fall. It’s nice to unwind on a day like that, when the world is floating, and you squeeze my hand and say you’re going to use the ladies room, and as your roommate and I both watch you float away, we’re one gaze softly fixed, your impractical skirt is swaying above the knee, like summer fronds swaying, and I catch that mark on the back of your knee, which I mistake at first for a bruise, and as my memory unwinds, I unread it from a distance, and take it for something better.