places, tucson


Inquiring, Inquirer

when you get down here give me a ring

You had said, “when you get down here give me a ring and I’ll set up a nice little welcome.” We had called each other “dewd.” We had called each other “man.” We had called each other “buddy.”

This is the conversation where we make plans, finally. Well, we make some plans. The first plans. These are just plans for me to use up the paid time off from the paper. Plans to meet at the Manhattan, a few years from 23 and newly 31. Four big hugs through the door. Your arms around me. Four clinks of bourbon and ginger. I don’t move my fingers away and they bump against yours.

I had said, “I miss seeing pictures of yr life!” What I was really saying: I miss seeing you. I miss being able to look at you. I’d liked the portrait with the towels rolled up, the door open, the shower curtain, the strap hanging down over the bare chest I try to look away from. You look sleepy. I want to be the person in the other room calling you back to bed. I don’t tell you that.

You told me, “so you guys are totally mobile.” What you were really saying: come here. Come HERE.

I had asked for fireworks, so that’s what we talk about at first. Concrete, practical plans for what to do in the dark, if the lightning flashing behind all those big ominous clouds lets up outside. You said you had access to bottle rockets and Roman candles, that you wanted to start out with the bottle rockets and finish the night with the Roman candles. It had been four years since I nearly burnt down a bridge in the rain in Brooklyn. You’d liked that piece. To get the attention off me, I brag about the person I’m there with, because I can feel the sulkiness emanating in waves and burning up in a fine mist when it tries to touch me.

You say, “Hm.” You mean: I don’t care and neither do you.”

You tell me about how much you ache from the first race you finished. I try not to think about how I could make you feel better. I say something about arnica and foam-rolling instead. It is purposefully lame because our banter is maybe a little bit too good and you and I are laughing a little bit too loud and the two people we are with are getting a little too quiet.

We call ourselves “easily entertained.” What we really mean is, “you fascinate me and I want to know everything about you.” You say “so we have that going for us.” What you mean is, “look how perfectly you would fit in my arms.”

I forget what we were planning to have for dinner, or if we end up going. I remember fishing out the pieces of mint with my fingers from the drink and how it looks on your face when I nibble on the leaves, and we both notice that only we notice this moment. There are cigarettes, first four, and then two. Maybe she went to the bathroom. Maybe he went with her. Maybe that’s what we hope for, because maybe we don’t care, and we can’t ever care ever again.

“You don’t want to live in Atlanta anyway,” you say.

“I know,” I say. “Silly me.”

“Well, I told you to move here,” you say, “but you were all like, ‘oh, i have to have a job’ or whatever.”

“Squaresville,” I say.
“Lamesville,” you say. “Hicksville.”

I make you take it back. Because it has started raining, and I actually like it in this place better than you know. And we are entertaining each other like we have never laughed before, never heard a joke before, never smiled before, never made a reference that had landed in anyone else’s company. The drops pound on the metal roof. I’m beautiful. You’re gorgeous. You tell me I’m cool. You won’t let me defer. And then, I wouldn’t let you avoid the conversation we’re about to have.

You had said, “some things are great, some things could be a lot better. You?” What you meant was, “everything is terrible.” I tell you everything is terrible here too.

I think about the photo of you in your green shirt and floppy hair, your child leaning on you. I think about how I would have gotten your eyes in focus. How I would have done it better. I have no right to think these things.

You tell me, “I sincerely hope you get everything your heart desires.” I wonder if you can see what my heart desires. I suspect, then, that you can. I know, now, that you do. That I do too.

You wrote something the night I asked, again, when you would update, when you would come back. You didn’t use my name. You called me “inquirer.” You pointed out I was the only person who had asked in all the days you’d been away. You said “thanks.” In the thing you wrote, you wrote a list of all the things you had done in the time you had not updated. You wrote that you had bought new undershirts, some hula dolls, and gotten a haircut. You said, “I bought a kite, but there has been no wind.” Then, there was a list of all the things you had not done. In the middle of all the silly ones — “been to a circus, built a robot” — there was “danced with my wife.”

I did ask for fireworks. The wind isn’t gone anymore. Let’s dance.