We were sitting on the green in front of the museum, beside the holes they scooped out to look like dinosaur footprints, when you said you wanted to be a writer. I remember that evening, and it remembers me. Howls and scratches the walls when I forget to feed it.
We’d been in the museum, surrounded by bones and dust and precious things. You were writing in that little black notepad. I wanted so badly to see inside, but you wouldn’t let me. I thought perhaps it scared you. We were scared of most things in those days.
Out on the grass, there were these little midges. They drifted up, hit the sun, caught light in the most devastating way. It was hot and slow. The kind of summer that traps you, like amber traps insects.
You said you wanted to be a writer and I asked about your book. You were going to write it with your friend, remember? Before it all went bad.
I’m not writing that anymore, you said.
I asked if I could read the next one, once it was done. You said I could. (Turns out, it was never done.)
I asked if you missed them and you said, don’t be silly. People leave.
After that, I asked what you found attractive. You said, in a mind, indulgence. In a body, economy. I am sorry to confess, those two words built me.
I asked what economy meant. You said, strong back muscles. Then you said, it’s not easy to write. Most days I don’t write at all. But when I do, it’s like heatstroke. It’s like I’m drunk on something. I don’t know how that works chemically. Maybe I’m in love.
We often had two conversations at once. I consoled myself that this was twice as many as most people.
All that day, we’d been reading about fossils. The fossil isn’t the animal. It’s just the mud. A cell dies and deflates like a popped balloon and the mud slips into the gap it leaves behind. And eventually, there’s more mud than bone. And eventually, there’s no bone at all.
When you weren’t there, I wrote about you. And the more time you left me, the more time I had to write. Until there was none of you left at all.
I’m in my room, or the café, or the museum, and I’m hallucinating you. Sometimes it feels like I’m painting with oils and sometimes like I’m scribbling on the walls of a padded cell. I’m playing with dolls and all of them smell like you. Perhaps they used to be yours.
The Earth is just mud. It’s in the negative spaces, the scoopings out, where most of the living gets done.
On that day, I asked what you wrote about. You said you didn’t write about anything. It’s the other way around. You write, and the world comes into being. The world takes the shape of its container. I’m beginning to suspect that you were very sad.
The question is always, how did we end up here? The first thing you have to write is your own creation myth. I’ll squeeze in a few jokes, you said. We can’t take ourselves too seriously.