The story is about me, I suppose, but it’s not a true story … at least I don’t think it is. I’m in this cabin … I always am in this same cabin and there is a faint knock on the door. I open the door and you’re standing there in the doorway. I say what I said to you and you respond the way you responded. I ask you to sit down and I tell you this story.
You claim you don’t recognize me. You probably don’t. There’s no reason why you would in this god-forsaken universe. But I know you. I’ve always known you … the last time … the time before that … and the time before that too. And every time I am hopelessly … but wait … I’m getting ahead of myself.
I continue with the story. You listen to the end. I’ll say that for you. You always do. You say how flattered you are to be the heroine in my story, but then you begin to look around you for the door, the window. There is doubt and the beginning of fear in your eyes. I can’t stand it, that I’m causing it, and I look away. Would you like a cup of coffee, I ask. Sometimes you say yes, sometimes no. This time you said yes. I walk over to the coffee pot, light the fire under it, spoon the grounds into two cups, and stare at the mirror, wondering whether you will still be in your chair by the time I return with the two coffee cups. You’re there or you’re not. If you’re not, then you are just outside the cabin walking slowly towards the cliff and I catch up with you and tell you there’s an easier, safer way to get down the mountain to the town. I’ll show you the way, I say. You remember the difficulty coming up the mountain and agree reluctantly to be guided by me. We walk without words until we reach the edge overlooking the gently down-sloping path meandering over the grassy mountain side. A breeze wafts up the slope, carrying the pungency of fallen leaves and over-ripe fruit. You become aware of the clicking of cicadas in a distant strand of trees and turn your lovely face in that direction. My arms ache to enclose you within them, as though they were wings folded around you. But …
But sometimes you stay in your chair. I set the coffee cup on the side table beside you. I sit down on my chair opposite you and try to keep my coffee cup from trembling. We sip at our coffees in silence. Would you like to hear more, I ask. More of what, you ask. More of the story, I answer. Go on, you say.
I jump to the end of the story. There’s not much more time. Time for what? Time for you to fall in love with me. Time for me to fall in love with you? It always comes as such a shock to you … more than anything else I say to you today. Although the thing I’ve yet to say that should have been the climax of my story, you react to that as though it were mere dénouement.
You don’t waste much time, you say. You always say that. What should I expect? You’re half my age. You’re lovely, you’re bright, and you’ve got your … These things take time to unfold, to evolve. You search your mind for every pertinent platitude you’ve ever learned, as though it were your wisdom, as though it could somehow extricate us from the terrible spiraling involution we are stuck in. You can’t rush these things, you continue saying. I feel dizzy, you say, and reach for your coffee cup but your hand brushes the side of the cup at the wrong angle. The cup is pushed over the edge of the table, spilling the coffee on the floor.
Don’t worry about it, I say. It’s interesting how every time, some details change and some remain constant. The coffee cup is always pushed over the edge. Do you want me to make you another cup of coffee, I ask. No, you say. Your eyes dart around the room, the door, the window. I hate that. I know, I’ve said it before. I still hate that moment.
You run out of platitudes to say. You run out of words to say. You have no feelings for me. Empty. Empty Dempty sat on a wall. Empty Dempty had a great fall. I don’t know when it happens or if it happens. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I never know. What happens, you ask. You begin to fall in love with me. Why do I fall in love with you, you ask. I don’t know. I never do. I ask you each time it happens why you fall in love with me. Why do you ask? So that I can use it next time to make you love me quicker, I explain sadly. Why is it so important to you for me to love you quicker, you ask. Because there’s so little time left for us to be in love, I answer.
Why is there so little time for us to be in love, you ask. Because you always die at dawn the next day. How do I die, you ask. I don’t know, I say, it’s always different. It’s always unexpected. It’s always heart-wrenching. It’s always gruesome. Do you kill me, you ask, your Isaac eyes staring into my Abraham heart. No, I say. It’s never me. Never me. I try to save you. I try to anticipate, but I never succeed.
Do you make me love you quicker each time, you ask. No, I answer. Every time the reason is different.