to wish this

Our lives and the strangers I pass in this quiet town with thoughts that stretch thousands of miles to others that I love with certainty. My life with each foot forward and circumstance now neatly arranged as a stack of loose paper tapped on a desktop and placed lightly. Her life and where I left it and where she maybe might be remembering me right now. Or not.

This story is a clear one-sided account, and I’d advise you to leave more than half of your mind untouched by any hard and fast opinions that result. Perhaps read these words as you might the headlines in a foreign newspaper. I’m the man you last saw staring straight ahead and smoking slowly at a late night diner. Should you be the sort to strike up a talk with me about it, I’d tell it as true as I knew, but you’d know from my voice and my manner about the gaps, and possibly what they say about me.

She sang just the greatest lullaby once, and no, not to our own kid (we never had any), but to my niece on a night with thunder. I was watching through the door to our room and across the hall into the next. Her voice carried well, and I’ve never loved anything quite as much as that on that night, and her, then.

She’s a singer, but the way a crowd gets won by her heart and clear intensity can’t compare to the love in her voice that night with my niece. She’s sung towards me, once, with miles of fresh air and on this huge rock above a river and her guitar, but again a difference I could see and feel between her eyes for her lover and the instinct that arose to quiet my sister’s little girl.

It’s hard to say what people love and why. I can lapse into believing she’s only ever loved her ideal man, her composite that changes along with the tone of her songs. I’ve told others I’ve felt myself her subject, and resented this. Secretly though, I felt a part of something. I may only have been a frame to hang her wishes from, but right now I’d give anything to hear what she’s singing now.

We met on an unfinished roof. A friend of mine was framing a house on the Gulf of Mexico, and to his credit, he saw the spot as perfect for Sunday sunset and a cooler full of Heineken. He called me, and at first I resisted his insistence I join him and his beach buddies, as I wasn’t in the mood. The call ended with a “maybe” on my end, and before long I was driving there without knowing why. It’s the kind of offhand freak decision you end up wondering a lot about later on.

(unfinished text as of October 1994)