sometimes i still think of you

All the time he was away, I imagined that maybe he’d come back and surprise me.

Nothing much had changed since he’d left. The leaves on the trees had just become a deeper green, the paint on the renovated building duller and less striking, and perhaps the faces I passed looked infinitesimally older, but campus was still the same campus it had been before we’d met. Before, we had lived out separate lives (“how could we have missed each other”, we’d later ask, as lovers are wont to, in astonishment that somehow the universe had hidden us from each other) – lives which had probably intertwined on the same streets, in the same classrooms, or at the same parties – but it was never on campus that we’d met.

Perhaps that’s why I wanted this to be the place where he’d announce his return – leaning against a pillar by the front of the building that housed my department, lounging on one of the library’s couches, waiting at a table in front of a eatery. It didn’t matter where – a thousand times a day, I would think of a new place, somewhere where a face in the streams of people would suddenly become the face, and all that bonecrunching longing would disappear. I wanted to fix this feeling of lack that campus held, as a place that had never known us.

He never came, of course. He was overseas.

And later, when it was over, I was thankful. Campus was free from memories that hijacked my thoughts in other parts of town. Other places held unbearably delicate traces of us in quiet corners, on rough-edged window frames, inbetween pages of books. Like tendrils of cigarette smoke flung by the wind to someone standing metres away, these pieces would suddenly descend and drown out all other senses. My life became a practice of living in the cracks of pavements, filling in the gaps so neatly that nothing could touch me, that nothing resurrect the hurt. But campus was a place where I could still at times play the game of denial.

He was never here. He was never here. He was never here

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~ by translating for peas on October 12, 2009.

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