But great writing - great writing forces you to submit to its vision. You spend the morning reading Chekhov and in the afternoon, walking through your neighbourhood, the world has turned Chekhovian; the waitress in the cafe offers a non- sequitur, a dog dances in the street.
(Written for my Letter as Literature class, the assignment was to create an epistolary situation from the text italicized.)
It has been six months since she disappeared. Richard’s trembling hands sets back down the fat, heart shaped perfume bottle on the corner of the bathroom counter, which smells faintly of pink lipped flowers and soft silk slips, and holds his breath—for a minute, then two, then releases. It is time, he tells himself. He peers at himself momentarily, his weary dark eyes, his clumsy stubble, his too soft, too wide face. He looks away.
He goes to her room, the small alcove she claimed to be her room anyway, behind the ivory Japanese dividers. Promise it’s mine? She had asked, a little breathless, a little Marilyn, and he had said, of course, of course. She kissed him quickly, on tiptoes. She was so small! He thinks of her head of antique gold curls, her high pitched, anxious laugh, bony wrists and bony shoulders. He imagines her in the room, sitting on the high backed chair with her legs folded beneath her. He asked her what she did here, all that time alone, and she had looked at him with unfocused eyes and said oh, just, nothing.
And I was taught to feel, perhaps too much,
the self-sufficing power of solitude.
I always say that I wish to have three sorts of people as my friends, those who are very rich, those who are very witty, and those who are very beautiful.
There was a few weeks when all she did was cry.
In the mornings there was the too bright light from the window despite her pulled shut blinds and in the day there was the endless cups of something coffee tea steaming hot something that burned her tongue and trips to the corner store to stand and stare at colorful narrow aisles, blinking, and the dark skinned man behind the counter with his curled dark hair shaking his head.
In the evening when it got cold and colder still and she was alone huddled beneath the pale dead blue of her blankets, knees pulled to her chest, fingers sunk into either side of her head, rocking and crying and remembering, it was the worst. The glaze of the sunset across the sky was lighting the visions that came alive in her head.
The way he brushed her hair and held her hands, kissing the tip of each finger, the way he woke up and the cologne he sometimes wore that smelled like leather and cognac and amber and the way the stubble he was always trying to convince her was a sexy touch felt against her skin, prickly and violent and
The way he looked at her, right before, the way he squeezed her hand and the sadness sunken in his cheeks and the way she knew but couldn’t have—
Alone in her room, her swollen bottom lip, her aching eyelids, crying, as if it could turn back time and erase erase erase like the way he used to pretend to erase every part of him that wasn’t good (enough for her).
The way he said those words. The way she felt a flutter of unease every time her eyes settled on his wrist. The way he promised he wouldn’t, not again, not with her.
The way she realized that she never knew him at all.
At first, we were not sure what to make of her. She was a capricious, freckled little girl with big, at times frightening, eyes, and she didn’t seem to belong in our home, swinging her legs and dangling her plush white slippers on the kitchen stools that were too tall for her, sticking her head out of the window with the fire escape, small fingers touching the leaves of the plants there. She talked about her mother a lot, and always called her that—mother, not mommy or mom or mama, but mother. Mother said to eat fruit for breakfast. Mother always slept until the afternoon on weekends. Mother hated pictures like that—she said, and pointed to the black and white photographs of the city we hung on our living room wall.
Her mother, Roxanne, was a thin and wild haired woman we were never close to, though shared a house with in college. She was the only last minute aquaintance we could find when our friend couldn’t sign the lease. At parties, she used to disappear for hours at a time, and then someone would discover her, crouched in some corner with a worn old book, rocking and reading aloud softly. She was strange, and her habits inexplicable, but she was beautiful and kind, and even in those days that offset a lot. We guessed about her, but most of the time we simply accepted that it was a part of her, part of being an artist. Some nights she used to stay up, frantic, painting beneath the weak light in the living room, face pale as a ghost when we passed. We lost touch after graduation, moved to new gleaming jobs in the city while she stayed upstate, still renting the same room with new housemates who were strangers.