I could never really call you a part of my life, which was why I could never share Noah with you, although I could never share a person.
I always though I could tell a lot about people by the way they gave directions. For instance, I didn’t like people who talked in colors. Turn right at the blue house, keep going straight at the rusted green lamppost, reach the maroon bicycle. Instead I was attracted to the absentminded writers whose directions got me lost. Sure enough, my crumpled printed email read
"Pass the abandoned garden with the broken doll. Then you should see a bar with a pinwheel taped to the door. Turn left at the next corner at the street that doesn’t fit."
He didn’t realize that Houston was a Mecca of bars and open lots you could call gardens. Finally, I saw what he saw, that street that didn’t fit, in Clinton Street.
Noah made me nervous, but it wasn’t the anxiety of a first date, or a business meeting. It didn’t hit me with their walls of stomach pains; instead it was a well-known sheet of self-consciousness that I found, ironically, almost comforting.
Maybe I was just nervous to explain. Maybe I thought that any second you could happen upon a street that didn’t fit and there would be no time to explain. No, there wouldn’t even be anything to explain because the situation would just be so obvious. I’d be forgotten. I was ready to jump.
I pretended to read the menu even though I knew my stomach would only be able to handle coffee. Bitter and uncomplicated.
The lemon slice in Noah’s water made it your gin and tonic. The light sour scent I almost caught on your breath reminded me that I was a barrier.
Were you making me nervous? Noah became an unfamiliar being behind strong hands and soft blue cotton. One button undone, collar unironed.
You hadn’t been a security blanket under those garish red checks.
His hands lied. He was soft. I needed that right now. He looked like wind with tousled brown hair. Right now I didn’t need to fall back into my feelings for Noah. I needed him platonically. I needed the light in his eyes flickering behind gold-rimmed glasses.
He wasn’t the calm before the storm. The storm had passed. He had become the mocking blue skies traced with faint rainbows after I was already drenched. What kind of hurricane had you pushed me into?
"Lil," he said. Even his words sounded like a joke. “You’re awfully quiet.
Little did he know he redeemed you in that questions. The softness of the way you swallowed the ends of word with a trace of a non-native speaker. The harsh palatalization of others. The way you had insisted on my full Russian name. You know where I came from. And just like that, my rush of emotion, my full-blown hurricane dispersed. I was left with the ache of sorrow unvoiced pushed against the roof of my mouth.
"I’ll be fine," I said.