Hers was a face that I had never known. She was in my life already, yet so quiet and small that I never picked her out in the crowd.
Then, after, it was as though she was following me – or maybe I followed her and never knew. But suddenly, this figment appeared everyday: crossing the street in the rain, touching her fingertips to her forehead behind a glass plane, big eyes at the sink. I wondered if she knew who I was or somehow recognized me in the way that I now could recall her.
It happened during a time that we agreed to be simple. Commitment felt heavy only in the way it does for those made to be alone, but fearful of loneliness. I was still living with my partner at the time (although both had acknowledged that it was over) and he was still holding his torches. Although he was willing to breath heavy in my ear, and I to give him names “Puppy”, neither one of us were willing to celebrate obligation to the other.
This was the first time I told myself that I would never speak to him again. It stands out in my mind more so because of her – this ghost who became an active presence in my life. I see similarities between our faces unwillingly. Not that we look anything alike. Not like we ever would.
Yet, neither one of us have an easy smile, which can make strangers look like sisters. Then when the smiles do come it’s no relief: mine still somehow stern and hers toothy and nervous.
I felt bad for the girl after mourning myself. Certainly no virgin, but still young and certainly drunk – an open mouth in the haze. He left her alone in the middle of the night to go sleep in his car, while I clung to the body of someone else. I can imagine her skinny bruised legs, her stillness beneath him – almost holding her breath. Where could she look?
He told me later, after I finished crying (when I had to speak to him, after no talking, no looking for days) that he didn’t cum and the night wasn’t the passion-filled fuck-fest that I had imagined. Of course not, but still, as though his ejaculation would be the only thing that would solidify the betrayal – I wasn’t able to shake her nightmare clinging to my sadness.
I wish that it changed the experience of seeing her. Some days I wish I could tell her that I know: chide her inadequacies. But mostly I want her to cry; I want to cry with her – for being fools, because this is what women know: we’re fools for another.