The first night we saw each other, I was wearing red shorts. Someone told me that he was from England and that he was doing an artist residency program. He was going to be in town for the rest of the summer, like I was.
The first time we spoke, I think I was wearing the red shorts again. He threw a housewarming party, and I danced until I was one of the last ones there. My friend Lucie was the only person to join me for a while, but eventually he started dancing, too. He danced against walls and in jerks and thrashes, but he danced well.
One day I told him I was going to get my hair cut, and he took a “before” picture. On my birthday, he gave me a card that he’d made out of cardboard and images and duct tape and paint. On the front was the picture from before: me, a year younger, pouting about my too-long hair.
I made him zucchini bread when a co-worker gave me a bunch of zucchini. But he turned out to be a vegan, and I’d used eggs. I gave the bread to someone else.
We talked at my kitchen table one day for a project he was doing. Over strawberries that he’d brought and the carrots and hummus that were just about the only things in my fridge, we talked about my job, what had brought me there, the books we were reading. As I was rinsing a dish, he called out to ask if he could take a look at my bedroom. I replied yes, thinking of his card that was sitting upright on my bedside table.
On one of my days off, I went to Big Bend National Park with him. We hiked along Devil’s Den and up Emery Peak. We hiked for a long time but turned around before reaching the top. On the way back down, we encountered a rattlesnake. He got scary-close to it and took a picture of the rattle right before it slipped away underneath a rock.
He asked me to be part of another project he was doing. We spent sixteen hours together over three days working on a short film. Driving to the first filming location, he talked about the people in his life with whom he’d had fascinations: co-workers, friends, people who he didn’t know at all. “Sometimes I have fascinations with men,” he said just as we drove up to a Border Patrol station. As the disinterested cop glanced at my ID, I mulled over the word “fascinations.” Back in town at the end of the day, he and I hugged goodbye.
I’d known pretty much the whole time that he had a girlfriend of eleven and a half years. He’d told me a lot about her, and I knew she was coming to visit at the end of the summer. When she got there, I avoided meeting her for as long as possible. “Have you met Louise yet?” people asked me. “She’s really beautiful.” On her third day in town, I ran into the couple during my lunch break. She was beautiful. I wanted to tell her that I knew how guilty he felt about all the years that he'd spent away from her, going to school, not being with her. I wanted to tell her that I knew about the fascinations that he’d had with people outside of their relationship. I wanted to tell her that I knew the feeling of his eyes on me from across crowded rooms. But instead I told her that I liked her blouse.
The day I left, I woke up early. My coworker played a Tracy Chapman CD as we sped through the desert toward the airport. On the plane, I tried unsuccessfully to sleep. The plane landed in Providence, and I got a taxi. The driver and I rode in silence for about ten minutes, and then we rounded a corner of the highway. I could see the lights of downtown. “You been here before?” the taxi driver asked. “Yes,” I said. “I go to school here.” “Where are you coming from?” he asked. “Where’s home?” “I’m coming from Texas,” I responded. “But that’s not home.”
Back in Texas, I had left him a card with a Virginia Woolf quote written on it. Clarissa had a theory in those days—they had heaps of theories, always theories, as young people have. It was to explain the feeling they had of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known. For how could they know each other? You met every day; then not for six months, or years. It was unsatisfactory, they agreed, how little one knew people. But she said, sitting on the bus going up Shaftesbury Avenue, she felt herself everywhere; not “here, here, here”; and she tapped the back of the seat; but everywhere. She waved her hand, going up Shaftesbury Avenue. She was all that. So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out the people who completed them; even the places.