Who knew

i first met them at the nuyorican’s cafe. we were waiting to enter and they were there, wearing a felt coat that i felt, was too much for tonight. it was cold. i was alone; so i tried to talk to them. they corrected me and gave me their pronouns first, and i thought it alright. the line was moving, but they decided that they won’t go.

they wrote down their number, and their name all in lower case. i said, like bell hooks? they said of course. no letter deserve importance over any other. one day they’ll get it styled like that legally. i said fuck laws.

they looked at me and asked, do you want to come with?
i said, and what, miss the show?
they said, you’ll miss me.

on the stage just visible over the other queuers and through the cafe’s muggy storefront window—a single person, hands empty, swayed to the tune of unheard music. the most tender and dismissive of smiles played on his mauve-painted lips. he could sing, it was rumoured, the most poisonous of ballads. the disenchanted yearned to hear him, have him break their hearts to prove that they had hearts.

would i miss his show for them? i contemplated the fairness of such a trade.

sweeten the deal, i suggested,
to which they frowned, delicate brow furrowing; but you are the sweetest one here.

i haven’t been out of the house for weeks. i had been in bed, with a book, and i read a total of 5 pages in fourteen days - naturally, it was absalom, absalom! and the subject depressed me. i reminded myself that real literature is in the air and realer literature in life and actions still. so i tried to read something from their face and they said, the night is accelerating, becoming shorter by the second.

for the first time, i realized that there is light in their eyes, and that light belonged to me. i caused that light, although i looked a mess and a half. i never want to lose that light again.

i bit my lip and said, i know what you mean.

and so we were walking towards someplace they had in mind.

shyly they reached for my hand, but missed. their fingers enveloped my wrist and pressed their tips to my pulse point. their skin was dry like paper. their pull on me was cautious but defiantly firm.

through the crowds milling in the streets, we threaded a meandering path down to central park where the lights dimmed and the chatter of people softened to a background thrum. all the while they would glance back at me, the corners of their mouth would twitch as though they would smile, or tell me something, but they told me nothing so off we went past the iron-wrought gates.

they pointed out a bench and told me, here, i read your first letter, scribbled onto the back of the bowling alley receipt.

they chuckled softly at a particularly twisted tree, here, i hid from the picnickers to sketch your likeness onto parchment.

they touched a lamppost with their free hand, here, across six midnights, i read the library book you lent me, twice over.

and here, they murmured when we came upon the river that swirled through the forestry, i ask that you start our story.

2 Likes