"Propinquity in Four Parts" by Regina Mogilevskaya
There is whiskey in my cup and everyone’s mouths are moving, just not in my direction. I’m about to take a sip when someone sits on my lap and orders a beer. They drop a spare penny between my legs and knock my knee with theirs on the way out. The whiskey in my glass has been replaced with sour air, oozing out of the rim in diptych waves for fun. The music, with all its sweaty percussion, suddenly comes to a sharp silence but no one has noticed. They twirl and twirl. Grind their hips with the smoke. Extra fine, just so.
There’s a seat that’s mine and it’s directly in between Foster Wallace and Updike, all the way to the back. Wasserstein tries to prod her way in, and Tan too. I wouldn’t be surprised if the filthy carpeting has an imprint of my spine. I have, after all, been here for three and a half years. The shelves are endless. There are miles of them, stacked like stones waiting to be skipped. I hear voices as if I’m wearing headphones, but the man slurping his rigatoni in the stack adjacent to mine is as loud as if he were planting sloppy kisses on my ear. I only see his lips in the middle of two books on film criticism, and the very tip of his head below three Updike’s missing their plastic covers. The man blows his nose and takes another forkful. I close my eyes.
I’m pretty sure you won’t call, but I am wearing a new pair of jeans, a new jacket, and the scarf you said you liked. I realize that there are a million things I could be doing right now. I even got up at 7:30 to go to the gym in case you called around ten. But ten passed. Then eleven. Now twelve. It’s six minutes to one and I’m pretty sure I won’t be hearing from you. We’ve said goodbye twice in less than one week and still, that hasn’t been enough. “It’s not that I wait for you, it’s that my arms are doors I cannot close.” Or some shit.
You know, you are what it feels like to swallow tears in a public place. The way it’s been over a year of pushing and pulling, drunken and sober thrills, quiet cigarette contemplations on the porch, falling into bed in Boston and thinking about you in Brooklyn. I’ve shed and re-shed more layers than I thought I had. My skin is missing and I was just wondering if you’ve seen it maybe. Maybe someplace.
I could get kidnapped, you know. My mom was ten minutes late picking me up, but really I only pretended to mind. Cold drops of rain landed on my shoulder and snaked down the length of my arm, rolling smoothly into the left pant pocket where I was keeping my hand warm. With one headphone in and the other dangling down my neck, I heard distant chords chiming in one ear, the steady whirr of cars in the other.
The Garden State Parkway surrounded me on either side, all orange lights and leftover puddles and cracking radios, tired gas pedals. I put both hands in my pockets.
For a split second of a moment, it was the world I needed it to be.