The Light We Lost (Page 22)
Do you remember sending that? I was so glad you did. Knowing that you hadn’t moved without telling me made me feel calmer, as if the world were spinning at the right speed again. But really, I’m not sure why it mattered so much to me. I guess I wanted to still be important to you, to be the person you wanted to share news with, even if you weren’t that person for me. Some psychologist would have fun with that one.
What you didn’t tell me then was that you’d met a journalist—Raina—who was reporting from Islamabad, and that was why you were thinking about moving. I’m not sure how I would have felt if I’d known that just then. Honestly, I think I’m glad you didn’t tell me.
That year Darren gave me a pair of Manolo Blahniks for my birthday. And we decided to move in together. We’d been a couple for a little over a year and a half, and both of our leases were up in the summer.
“Let’s find a new place,” he said. “One that’s not yours and not mine—one that will only ever be ours.”
I liked that idea. It had felt a little strange moving your clothes out of drawers so that mine could fit in, and you offering to take down a poster or two on the wall so I could put up some of mine. You had shared your space with me, and I didn’t want to take more than what was offered or change too much, even if I would’ve set the apartment up differently.
“What do you think we should look for?” Darren asked, grabbing a piece of paper and a pen off his coffee table. We were at his place. It seemed we were mostly at his place. Probably because it was bigger and easier to get to on the subway and had a particular dog bed that Annie loved that was too big to lug with us and too expensive to buy a duplicate of.
“Dishwasher,” I told him, as I put my socked feet up on the table. “Light. As much space as we can afford.”
He nodded, writing furiously. “I’m adding close to a subway stop, near good restaurants and shopping, and two bedrooms.”
“Two bedrooms?” I asked, my feet back on the floor.
“For guests,” he answered, not looking at me.
But my brain went to babies. Moving in with Darren didn’t feel like moving in with you. It felt more serious. More like we were making a real commitment to each other. More like the step before getting engaged.
We spent our weekends looking at apartments. Darren wouldn’t let us settle for something less than perfect. Our real estate agent was ready to kill us.
“I think this is it,” I finally said to Darren one Sunday in late April. It was prewar, put together in a seemingly haphazard way that involved hallways and alcoves and an archway into the kitchen. It was two flights up and had an exposed brick wall in the master bedroom. “I love it.”
He smiled at me. “And I love you.”
I swatted at him and laughed. “But do you like the apartment?” I asked.
“I do,” he said. “And not just because you do.”
“Good,” I said.
We signed the lease that day, and moved in together three weeks later. We took tons of pictures and I posted our smiles on Facebook. We went to Bed Bath & Beyond and bought anything that made us laugh—a cookie jar in the shape of a muffin, a teapot with a sculpted face, a shower curtain with a picture of a shower curtain that had a picture of a shower curtain on it ad infinitum.
“Mise en abyme,” I said.
Darren looked at me like I was speaking another language, which I guess I was.
“The Quaker Oats phenomenon,” I clarified. “An image with an image of itself on it, over and over again.”
“I didn’t know that had a name,” he said.
You would’ve known, but I didn’t think about you just then. I didn’t think about you when Darren paid for everything in our cart, or when we got home and played fetch with Annie. But I couldn’t help comparing Darren’s and my first night in our place with the one that you and I spent together in your studio that became ours that became mine.
Darren and I cooked dinner together—a fancy affair that involved simmering sauces and Cornish game hens and a bottle of champagne. Then we took Annie for a walk, watched a movie, and made love.
You and I had ordered in pizza and split a bottle of wine and had sex on every surface imaginable. The couch, the floor, the coffee table, and the bed of course. Then we woke up the next morning and did it all again.
But you and I didn’t wash each other’s hair in the shower, like Darren and I did that first morning. I don’t know why we never thought to do that, but it’s wonderful, washing the hair of someone you love, having him wash your hair back. It’s intimate. Maybe it connects to some part of the genetic material we share with apes; they always groom their mates.
And you and I didn’t leave notes for each other in the refrigerator either. Little Post-its stuck to various containers so that the milk read I love you and the orange juice said You’re beautiful and the bag of string cheese had I’m so happy and Me too next to the image of that Polly-O parrot.
I don’t remember how it started, but I do remember thinking: This is something Gabe would never ever do. He’d probably think this is moronic. I hope you don’t. I hope I’m wrong. Because I loved it.
When we met for a cup of coffee that spring as you were passing through the city, I could sense there was something different about you. There was something different about the city, too. They’d started building the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero. It felt like the bandaging of a wound, or like an elaborate tattoo inked to cover a scar. I understood the desire to rebuild, to create something tall and grand, a big f**k-you in the New York City skyline. But the area felt sacred to me, too, still raw. Not quite healed enough to build on.
It had nothing to do with us. It had to do with the people who looked like birds flying out of windows as the towers burned and collapsed. With the new building going up, it made it harder for me to see them. I kept away from that part of Manhattan. Is it awful to admit that I’ve never gone, even now that it’s all completed? Even now that there’s a memorial there too? I didn’t think I’d be able to handle it alone, and I didn’t want to go with Darren.
We didn’t talk about the Freedom Tower that day, though, or the memorial, or the morning we met.
You started out by telling me how impressed you were with the It Takes a Galaxy episode you saw during your layover in London. “The one where Electra proves to her grandfather that she can repair his spaceship, even though he thinks they should ask her brother. Was that one yours?” you asked.
I smiled. “Guilty as charged,” I said.
“I thought so,” you told me, as you sipped your Americano. “It felt like taking a little trip into your brain.”
Darren never said anything about It Takes a Galaxy. He certainly wouldn’t have said that. I felt a pang, a wistfulness. It had been great to be in a relationship with someone who cared so much about my job, who understood that part of me.
“How’s Islamabad?” I asked.
“Good,” you answered. “It’s . . . good.”
For you—for us—a nonanswer like that felt off. I took you in, then, trying to see what I was missing. You seemed relaxed. You were leaning back against your chair, holding the cup of coffee in your lap.
I started fishing. “Do you like your apartment?”
“It’s nice,” you said. “It’s a house, really. I share it with some other journalists.”
“Oh, that sounds fun. A nice group of guys?”
You looked down at your coffee cup. “Actually,” you said, “I share it with Raina. I met her when the AP first sent me to Islamabad. We ended up collaborating on the piece.” You shrugged.
“And you collaborated on a lot more?” I supplied for you. I wondered if that kind of work and life collaboration was what you’d imagined for us when you asked me to come away with you.
You shrugged again, as if you were embarrassed to tell me this. “She’s a Pegasus,” you finally said, “like you.”
It felt like a punch in the gut when you said that, which was idiotic because I never agreed with your interpretation of that myth anyway. But I knew what that word meant to you. And even though I’d been with Darren for nearly two years, and you hadn’t been with anyone, and it only seemed fair that you find someone too, it still hurt. As long as I’d been with him, Darren had never taken your place in my heart, and I hated the idea that someone else had taken my place in yours.
“That’s great,” I told you then. “I’m happy for you, Gabe.”
You ran your fingers through your hair, like I’d seen you do hundreds of times before. “Thanks,” you said. “So how’s your boyfriend? Daniel? Derrick?”
“Darren,” I said. “He’s good.”
Did you mess up his name on purpose? I always figured you had, but I didn’t say anything about it.
I’m glad we only saw each other for coffee that day. I don’t think I could have taken much more than that. The jealousy I felt scared me—it made me question my relationship with Darren, and I didn’t want to do that. I loved him. And you loved someone else.