When some people are sad, they drink. Or they cry. Or they exercise. Or they argue with their loved ones. Or they find some fairytale to take them away from it all. God knows I've done all of those things, but mostly, I write.
I sometimes wonder if other people's brains work the same way mine does. I don't mean to say that I'm more intelligent or more interesting, because I'm probably not. But my brain is constantly making up stories. My body will be in Pharmacology, but in my mind, I've just met Leonardo DiCaprio and he's telling me how he never realized how wrong Bar Rafaeli was for him until he met me. Or I'm a spy sneaking into a Middle Eastern country with a fake passport and an authentic ability to speak Arabic. Or some other fantasy that is just outside my reach.
I could tell the actual story, all facts and no lies, but that's not the way I see it in my head. I'll start with the truth and add some accessories.
In the way that things should be, we're both in phone booths. Phone booths are best for conversations like these. I am walking home from class in a skirt and sensible shoes, and the sun is shining. I can't stop smiling. You are on your way home from work. It's raining and you're in a black suit with a matching hat. You rush into the booth, shaking out your umbrella. There is an eight hour difference in our days and this is the time that works best for us to speak.
In the real version, I'm curled up with a book in a hot pink chair, sloppily dressed in jeans and a university t-shirt. I'm sure that you're in your room wearing those old track pants, smoking cigarettes, one after another, getting ready for bed. You call me on a whim, because you haven't heard my voice in nearly six months.
Cell phones and casual dress take all the poetry out of this story.
Here is the part that is true:
We each knew that this call would happen someday, but neither of us was looking forward to it. I knew exactly how it would feel, the knife sinking into the heart, all the way to the handle. I knew that it would leave a dull, steady ache in the chest of whomever it rested.
Your voice is thin and faraway on the telephone line as I imagine it traveling from your mouth into the phone lines which rest on the floor of the Atlantic until it reaches New York and connects with the country I call home. Even in that great distance, I can hear you searching for a casual way to tell me, hoping that the words won't shoot from your lips too carelessly. I will myself not to make a sound as your confession reaches my ears. I make a joke, remembering to smile so that the sound of that first tear rolling down my cheek is inaudible.
It hurts too much to speak English, so I switch to a neutral language, one that we each learned as adolescents. I feel that it is only fair for both of us to be at a linguistic disadvantage. It feels safer that way.
I ask if she's pretty and "Not as pretty as me" is your smug reply. My laugh is hollow and insincere as I tell you that I'm glad to see you haven't lost your sense of narcissism.
And just like that, it's over. You've fulfilled the agreement that we had and there's nothing left. You tell me "Bon courage" because "Gros bisous" is too intimate for us now and I wish you the same.
And it's not that I loved you because there wasn't much of my heart left to give but I just wanted to keep everything that we shared in a picture frame so that no one else could touch it and there was always the possibility that we could go back to it someday. From the moment we parted ways, we knew that someone would walk by and carelessly push the frame from that table, causing it to shatter as it fell to the ground.
This is the conte de fee that I promised I would write about you.