Each time where he walks, the world is slightly different. Fields burst into bloom.
We were lying on the hill outside Springfield, the one with all the little blue flowers. It was just the two of us, and the sky was very blue. There were some clouds above us, and the sun hit them in a way that they lit gold, instead of white. We didn’t talk or move for what felt like forever, and at some point I wondered if we were dead. I thought, If neither of us coughs, or sneezes, or moves to scratch an itch at the bottom of our feet in ten more minutes, it will mean we’re dead. He lifted up his head and kissed me.
I wondered then if we were making a memory: if it was becoming one of the moments I’d come to remember when I thought back on us. The thousands of minutes we’d spent together, stopped and gathered; all these tiny moments I’d collect like pebbles when I thought of us.
The first few minutes we were quiet, and he said he couldn’t hear what I meant. I demonstrated again. He shook his head and I thought: Il n’avait jamais écouté le silence profonde. He has never heard deafening silence.
When he was little, he told me, he was very shy. He’d stare at the ground wherever he went. His mother and his father yelled at him, told him he was missing out on all the best things. Staring at your feet was no way to see the world. But I don’t know. I think maybe there’s something to it. He saw things most other people didn’t. So whenever we went on vacation, or if we went somewhere new and beautiful, he had a habit of glancing at his feet, of taking pictures of the world around them. To anyone else the ground is the ground. But he could pick out Amsterdam, or Kuala Lumpur, or Cairo, just by the sand or cement or gravel.
I thought how there’s hundreds of ways of seeing the world: how flies see a thousand of the same thing at once, and dogs with their noses, and even people look at the same thing and see something different.
He pressed his fingers into mine, kneading them like clay more than holding them, and I thought how pottery was the most honest of all art. How paint could dry and be gone over, notes changed every time a song was sung, but the history of its whole life is in a piece of clay. It wears its past all over.
The first time I saw him he was shuffling through people’s things in the coat-check room. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was slipping notes in other people’s pockets. I asked him to slip one into mine. I closed my eyes and felt his hand. His fingers were cold. I took the note out, and it said:
each time where she walks,
the world is slightly different.
fields burst into bloom.
We sat outside and watched the people take their coats and hats and umbrellas with them home. No one reached into their pockets to see what he had written. We followed them with strings, each one to us, and all of them back to each other. How long would it take them to read what we had tried to tell them? Did they know that they were at the end of string, the moment it began or finished, like two people locking eyes?
When he left me I felt the same as when we met. I knew I was about to change, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Everything that I couldn’t stand before, what I had set out to upend, suddenly didn’t bother me so much. Like falling back into something comfortable.
So now when I’m walking down the street, I’ll smell a smell and know it’s familiar, but I can’t tell exactly what. It’s not quite oranges, and it’s not quite home. And I don’t know what I recognize first: that it’s grapefruit, or that he used to eat it at breakfast.