April 30, 2019
L (You) –
I got lost in the smallest of your makeup. I walked by a stranger yesterday when coming out of the Ueno station near the Spanish restaurant with the half-decent paella and there was this scent. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t cologne or an oil, but probably a really good soap, and because scent is the sense most linked to memory, I suddenly remembered everything about that day on my balcony when my face tried to find its way into your neck. You were almost late to work and I was so far behind on a deadline, devouring you wouldn’t have made much of a difference. It would have been quick. There’s a difference between the exhaustion in your eyes when mixing the beats with the vocals isn’t as easy as you thought it’d be and the exhaustion in your eyes when you just want to be done with life. Your words trail when you’re talking about things you love. When talking about people you love, your words are crisp, like you’ve been thinking of how to phrase them all day. I’d know your hand wherever you placed it. Your fingers are fat and so are mine. Until you, I’d never been kissed with an intensity that made me question if I could be loved so much. Your bottom lip flinches when it’s in my mouth and your top lip does not come to its rescue.
Your fears – and I know the scariest of them, I think – are yours to tell, not mine.
I know how you like your salmon’s skin to crunch, but so does the chef. The chef doesn’t know how slow your blinking becomes after the first bite. He doesn’t know your almost-thick, slightly-thin eyebrows disappear into your forehead when you’re excited, and the bags you’ve grown under your eyes become so much cuter. You don’t want to work so much, but your goals won’t let you sleep like the others. I was awake, too. I was across town, across the ocean, across the room. I was awake, too, wondering how it was possible to exist in the same space at the same time and not explode.
I checked on your soul – your gristle and your marrow. Your father died and a continent away, I wore the ugly shirt I almost wore the day I met him. He fed me, even after catching me staring at you with an intensity normally reserved for stalkers or men who feel they’ve finally found home. I knew you were tired because you hadn’t bothered changing out of your sweats and a few times, you held my hand longer than you normally did in public spaces. Your sisters fed me later and filled me in on your childhood. I learned your inflections and each time your tone changed, I knew why. You gave up on a fork early and I could smell the stewed meat on your fingers when you’d touch my face. I knew you were going to tell me you loved me that night. I was prepared this time to say it back, but not first.
Your head lowers slowly toward something soft or toward me when you’ve given your wall a rest, and you talk about all the stuff. All the things. I tell you in those moments you are fine – hoping you believe it as much as I do. I listen because I love how your skin by your temples pull down over your cheeks and how your mouth and tongue form words – your accent an architect of intricacies. I once watched a colorblind man put on special glasses to see the colors of an Upper West Side, New York sunset for the first time. And you, wrapped in newness and in stories you’ve been dying to share with me, rivet my eyes. You become sunset and I the color blind man, not wanting to remove the shades.
A man sitting far from the path I was on in Yoyogi Park beneath trees blocking all light used fallen leaves for padding and folded pieces of paper into odd little complicated shapes. I wondered who made you. How long does it take to make such a complicated thing? He handed me what he said – in pretty good English – was his only Goliath Frog “because too difficult to make.” I paid him fairly. I carried it in my hand all day to keep it from tearing or falling apart, fearing I’d never be able to put it back together.
I walk, moving my fingers across the folds, laughing at myself for being resentful of those who shout obscenities – though they are probably lies – like, “I get over people quickly.” I’m resentful because I can’t. Because I write and know things only a writer knows. Because the smallest of your make up is stuck in corners my fingers are too fat to enter. Because I was told to never use “Because” to begin a sentence.” Because.
I am fine, too.
Darnell Lamont Walker