where the writers are
City Lights

"City Lights"

it was late december in 2007.

months before, you, dear girl, had read something i'd written online and we began exchanging messages. it was flirtatious, but only carefully so, as we were both in long distance relationships and i was contemplating moving to socal, and you, to europe.

you wanted to meet me and said time was very short for you. i sensed the urgency and agreed to see you, so we met up in north beach for an in-person chat and drinks.

three hours were spent talking and that awful "what if" began growing in the back of my mind, nagging away. we walked the length of columbus and back, and at times my hand met the small of your back as we weaved through the tourists. 

another bar, another round of drinks, and the acknowledgement came; you shared the "what if" with me. but here, at the beginning of it all, the clock was ticking. you said you were moving away the next day and that's why it was so important that we spent this evening together.

"i want to give you something," you said, and had me follow you into city lights books, where you said, "don't look at what i'm getting, ok?"

i nodded and you made your way directly to one shelf. you knew exactly what you were looking for.

i watched you make your purchase and tuck the bag under your arm. a lock of your long dark hair drifted onto your cheek.  you smiled at the cashier as you brushed it aside, and your smile was a brian wilson tune.

our time was running short, and you said the things i hoped you would, because there was no danger--not with you leaving--only hope.

i walked you to your train and you held my arm tightly. i had the feeling one gets when seeing off a life long love at the airport, some desperate madness to say, "don't go."
of course, i said nothing.

you kissed me just then when i was lost inside a second of fractured thought, and your lips were cold and i wanted more as the air heaved the windy sigh of your approaching train. 
i held you briefly, and stammered something useless, when you pulled away, pressing the little paper bag into my hands.

though i received some electronic postcards from your new life in paris, with news and photos of marriage and motherhood, of divorce and depression, of moving on, of "what if," before time took you fully into its clutches, i would never see you again.

you were gone, leaving me lipstick-stained on the platform, with Neruda in my palm. i opened the pages to where a bookmark was placed (by you? the bookstore cashier?). 
the poem began, "tonight i can write the saddest lines..."

i went home and did just that.