Isabelle’s column “Paper Scraps” explores the way memories come in pieces and how we put them together.
In between two tall mountains,
there’s a place they call lonesome.
Don’t see why they call it lonesome.
—Talkin’ Like You (Two Tall Mountains), Connie Converse
“Your hands feel like dried apricots” was the first thing you said to me and from then on I started
taking shorter baths.
The days that I don’t feel like leaving silently are extraordinary. Ringing in blush tones.
You always look at me way too long. I miss many things I said, and you said you wish
you could be everything that I miss: you are cans of sardines and broken glass, Japanese maple,
bay leaves, an 18-year addiction to redefining respect.
I don’t dry my hair — I don’t have the patience. Instead, I wring the strands out on our wooden
fire escape: quintessential Chicago architecture. A quick cavity sort of city. A ‘never going to feel
anything fully’ sort of city. Pick your poison and stick to it. Can’t be a martyr and a saint. But
you, you here, kiss my eyelashes and my clothes fall off.
I brush crumbs onto the floor. I give up on puzzles. No one actually likes monogamy, you said,
and I decided to build something out of wood.
This, here, is full of superficial adulation, sticky slivers of grins. Overly positive people
scare me. Please leave me alone, which means, stay right here quietly.
I can be alone with you because you’re lonely too. So stunning. When we dance, we don’t touch.
In this little life, we have a painting Lucca gave me when he decided he wanted to open a gallery.
You said it looks like a finger painting and I got mad and said it looks like a woman. So far
his gallery is just pile after pile of commissioned dog portraits because that’s where the rent is at.
We got pierogis and the orange beer with the bee on it or the honey kölsch as you say
and I learned how to spell kölsch. And I wore my nice coat, that dark lipstick from Ohio
because you said we were going out to the kind of dinner where you worry you’re gonna
stain everything involved.
We went to that Polish restaurant and got one of those grocery bags. With one of those
scary smiley faces on it and went to sit in the snow. We didn’t talk, my plum lip staining
the plastic spoon.
When I’m on my way I’ll keep my feet nice and quiet for you. Talking sweet to my dusty eyes,
you’d like to hear it too.
I like your shirt with the bear playing bass on it. Threadbare. I think I’m often a different type
of temperature. You used to follow me outside when inside was full of people and their bad
breath, buckling your knees over and over.
I told you about the half-combed hair. I’m not so good at yelling when I should but I am good
at card castles. Not houses of cards, the whole castle. You put the orange beer on top
and it stays standing.
Off to two tall mountains. Maybe see Connie Converse in her underwater Volkswagen Beetle.
So stunning, honey.
Just keep adding more vinegar and salt until it tastes good. Or lemon. I want to be very close
to you, mycologist wannabe. Growing faster after lightning storms.
To be a red door, a rug. To be this tall without you. We built a bench together that neither
of us will sit on. When we dance, we don’t touch. Fill our palms with fresh apricots.
One of these days, someday, I’ll exhale for you, clear waters.