08 October 2016

Sit Back And Wonder

He peels the foil back from around the neck of the bottle and reveals the wire cage. Five and a half twists and it shakes loose. He gently twists the cork, but rather than the whisper and hiss of carbon dioxide, it slips into his hand with a soft pop and a rush of liquid and finds itself free.

Careful not to lose any of the liquid gold, he tips the bottle towards a glass and fills it. Small bubbles make trails in the champagne and he takes a long first sip, enjoying the cold relief that it brings on the taste of buttered toast and grapeskins.

He shivers and then sits back and wonders.

There is a photograph of someone he loved. No. Loves still. He remembers the way she kissed him a long time ago, on the tempestuous, unsure seas of transition and departure. He remembers what home suddenly meant, all at once, clutching her close to him and suddenly finding in her some native soil, something anchoring, something worth loving and then watching it disappear as surely as January night in wintersun. A city fading into memory behind the cold aluminum and steel wings of an airplane. A heartbeat he will not feel again. Eyes he will not look into again.

All this sealed with the soft kiss of I love you goodbye I can't wait for you anymore on the envelope that held the fragile affection, the wind-broken night, the long hours and longing.


And he wonders, yes. He wonders what might have been, as men do, if he had stayed to be in the photograph with her. Would her eyes be as sad? Would the nights still seem endless?

The glass is empty now, sticky with residual sugar, the rim honeysweet. He pours again and he wonders.

There is another life behind him that tugs at him, asking where will you go and what will you do and when does it end? He looks at the missed calls on his phone. The unanswered text messages from everyone-not-her and he thinks about a world called what-could-have-been where there is no sharpness in the champagne, no aftertaste of regret, no top notes of missing the sound of her voice, the smell of her hair, the small of her back, the taste of her like sweet pine and...

He wonders.

The bottle is empty now. Another beside it is empty, too. The glass sits by his bedside and the moon has risen.

He thinks of the steel wings that carried him to her and wonders how she can be so far and still feel so close; how she can be so close and still feel so far.

There's no more wondering. He knows that his pain is boundless. She won't be back.

He curls his fingers around the grip of his pistol.

He feels its weight.

He lifts it, pressing it to his temple, his index finger taking up the slack of the trigger.

The hammer drops.

There is a pop and a rush of liquid and he finds himself free.

Somewhere far and close, she wonders where he is tonight and what he is doing and whether or not he still thinks of her. She calls and there is no answer.

A shudder. A sigh. Something passes over her like a shadow.

A heartbeat she will not feel again. Eyes she will not look into again.

Sealed. She doesn't know.

How can he be so far and still feel so close? How can be so close and still feel so far?

She wonders what he'll say when she comes back.

Written February 2011. It was a bitter winter, my first semester at Columbia.