I called him. He was staying with some friends from home. Home? I never thought of him as someone with a home, let alone someone who stayed with friends from home. I wanted to say, isn’t this your home? But I didn’t say anything. He hadn’t read the Sufis yet. He wasn’t ready. America made him a bum. He smoked too much weed and he couldn’t get a job. He didn’t try very hard. He spent most of his time on the sidewalk talking to the elderly, always asking about what it used to be like. Hipsters are fucking nostalgic. Overly nostalgic. It’s because he didn’t have work and because he felt far away from everything. All he could do was what bums do, find a nice place in the sun and claim it. Kind of like what sunflowers do, and what poets do. He was dying to be a poet. He didn’t try hard at all and I liked that about him. He didn’t try to make it seem like he was a poet. But he always thought he was on the verge of death and needed to die having done something, and for him the only idea he had of anything he could was to have written something, and every time he found a new book or a new collection or a new name he’d see his own name printed on the front and wonder why his own book didn’t look like that.
I noticed him by his hat, somewhere across the park. I was standing at the corner of an abandoned sandwich shop, rundown, everything looted, except for a tiny chair in the middle that still had all of its legs, but the seat was gone, just the seat, and the rest of it sitting there like it could still be used if you provided your own seat. He had something going, he kept saying, but I didn’t feel like asking or hearing about it. I had to take my roommates dog out for a walk. I just looked into his eyes, big, puffy, allergenic eyes, and smiled. He got the hint and we just started walking. Sometimes I have to keep people away. I don’t want to be someone’s muse. The muse gets ditched. We understood each other. He gave everything to everyone in the moment and then he disappeared wanting people to wonder where he’s going to pop up next, or when he’ll be back. The mystery is everything to some people. They want to be the mystery. Others want the mystery for themselves, they want to own it, find it in someone else and claim it as theirs. I never gave him the joy, the satisfaction that comes with being the one to leave. Whenever he seemed like he was ready to go, disappear into the woods, I always left first, just before him. When we got off the phone I wondered why he’d come back, if everything had gone alright over there. Over the Bosphorus, over the hills of Anatolia, right into the port of ports, where he always said he belongs.
When we started walking, I noticed he’d lost a lot of weight. Maybe I’d just forgotten for once how skinny he really was but he looked sick from up close and even sicker from a distance. But he wasn’t sick, he seemed alright. I was alright. We could both be alright. We grew up well, sheltered and alone. Maybe we had been prepping for a godless winter. We walked. He told me he had plans to finally see the country, finally go further into America, like he had always planned. He told me he’d been writing, and it was okay. I told him I was depressed for a while, that I was bored at work, that everyone I loved was going away, not like they were physically there, but that they felt further and further away, every time we spoke, like it would be the last time, and the next time we speak I wouldn’t recognize them. I told him it scared me, and he told me he was scared too. I asked him why, he didn’t answer, just kept walking at our pace. I started to feel like something was wrong, and I started to feel like I didn’t feel up for babysitting or taking care of him, if he was going to be a drag, or if he was going to play quiet and sad and expect me to lift him. It was wrong of me. He started blabbering about nonsense, trying to paint an image that would tell me something he couldn’t say himself. I wanted to tell him I was going to leave, that I was offered a job in Paris, and that I was going. We ended up near the water, because that’s where he likes to go, and I forget to plan where I’m going, but he always wants to see the water, so we ended up there.
We found a bench. I had half a joint on me from earlier. He rolled a small one as well. We smoked. I said very little. It was silent. And the silence was nice. I noticed the sunlight for the first time that day. It was strong. Everything was glowing with a veneer of life. Like we were given birth, renewed. Runners passed us by, and some couples with their strollers. There was a nice enough breeze in the air to keep our bodies cool. I had my sunglasses on. I felt like we were transported somewhere else, staring off into the water, like we were on some rocks in the Mediterranean, smoking a joint. I was itching to tell him about Paris, talk about what I really wanted to be happening, what I would do there, who I already knew. I brought it up and then dropped it, and then he brought it up again, and before I could get on the subject of why I brought it up, to tell him I was going, he started on about writing, and poetry, and the stage, and about how everything in Europe is dead, and how the Europeans colonized the world but most of all they colonized their own hearts, and excavated their souls dry, and now there’s nothing left, just a sad picture of what was once the most industrious place on Earth, and now it’s empty, and people live well until they die, and they wonder why during the whole motion they don’t blow themselves up before it happens. We spoke about the resistance, the renaissance, the decay. The boredom at the turn of the century. The century that lifted the lid on all our misconceptions. I told him I had been in love, twice, since the last time we spoke. He asked me about them, who they are, what they do, I didn’t answer. I don’t know if he felt he deserved to know. Because he had that in him, to feel like he deserved something.
He liked his joints thin, slick, like slim cigarettes on a model filter. I like mine fat, like baseball bats, so they burn slow and smooth and I can taste the whole package in my lungs. His joints would crumble at the tips. He never bothered to pack the weed or roll the smoke around. Mine are airtight. I like the weight of the smoke in my hand. He lifted the paper with his thumb, dipping in the spliff in the underbelly of the roll, leaving little pockets of air and pockets of light. Maybe I liked mine fat because I was never alone, I liked to smoke with company, I had roommates, I didn’t like to be alone. Always surrounded, always social. Even at work, social. Even at home. But he smoked most of his joints alone, most of the time, on a backstreet, at the water, between the dumpsters, in the park. Unless he had a mood and something encouraged him to go outside. An idea, or a nostalgic fit, missing the sound of someone’s voice. Wondering if they’re still around. I rolled a new joint and we walked. I sparked it and we continued down the water to the end of the boardwalk, the whole avenue rail disappearing in my palm. We crossed over some roadwork, sand bags and excavation. Something with the light, the sparkle in the day, it was daunting. He looked comfortable in his skin, comfortable in the city’s jungle, stepping over the obstacles, into the sand, like when he was growing up, he said, spending his days in construction sites.
I’m not sure how it happened, but we kissed. Then we fell onto the sand. Then we laughed. Finally he gave me his hand, and I felt shivers in my knees, like I was twelve. It was probably the weed, and the strong sun, and I hadn’t had any water. We stood against the railway, overlooking the sea. It felt good, peaceful. A word I don’t use there often. For a while we stood there, neither of us saying a word, just resting at the moment between two different times, two paradigms that never collide. That’s how I felt. I wanted to tell him I was leaving. He was going to leave anyway and we’d never make it out alive if we chose for once to leave together. I didn’t bother saying anything. We found an installation, a large mass of land, poured over concrete, with little cubby-holes and swings and places to sit or lie down. A sandbox in the corner, jungle gym, a barricaded wall so nobody could jump. Everything, I realize now, is fenced off, gated, to keep us from leaping onto the other side. Without the fence you see what’s there. With the wall you have to climb and then you just go, gun. Whatever comes will come. Walls make me want to jump.
I found us a spot, a patch of finely shaved wood, poured lightly to look like felt. We lay down. Then he got up, wandered off to the side, climbed over the barricade and fixing his eyes to the horizon. I closed my eyes. In the beginning I looked up from time to time but then I settled and kept my eyes closed and enjoyed lying down with the sun in my face and my eyes hiding behind the glasses. I felt his distance. Then I heard him coming, nearing our little shelter in the late September air. He eased onto the woodwork, finding his way to my shoulder, resting there, barely grazing my arms. I felt him nearing, but once he was close enough to stop moving I felt his mind sort of slip away, like he wasn’t really there, and then it felt like a large lump of mass bearing down on me. And then he slipped away.
We must have stayed there hours. The sun went down, the night sky ascended. I lost the sound of his breathing somewhere in the midst. We were there hours, neither of us saying a word. I don’t remember if I slept, if I was awake, if we danced, two warring minds entangled. We were there hours, and the whole day must have passed, and the entire time it was quiet, and if I slept or if I was awake, it didn’t really make a difference, I just remember the feeling of the light, and the feeling of the light when it was gone. I felt him touch me and I woke up from a dream. Where do we go, he asked. His voice was soft, like he was a little boy again, waking up from a nap, ready to go outside and play. I’m leaving, I said. He walked me home. I left him at the entrance, waving goodbye. He wanted to come inside, I could smell it in his breath. Thirst. Hunger. Nobody needs me, nobody needs you. He turned away and disappeared. Sometime before I left I called around to his house, nobody answered. My guess is he ended up at home.