Record 7: Palo Alto, CA, Thursday, July 5th, 2012. Day.
I’m sitting alone in my apartment, on the Ikea futon. I’m staring into my laptop, typing 1s and 0s like the rest of my 20-something dude friends. This calms me.
I lose focus and realize it’s been weeks since Hadley: the girl that no one but me will ever love. She used to sleep next to me with her hands on my waist, her ribcage pressed flat against my back. In the mornings we’d stay in bed and smoke cigarettes and answer each other’s questions. She’d make toast while I’d pretend to sleep. I’d render her .mov files. She’d pretend not to notice. The volume on the stereo would get louder and Hadley would say that she was in love with the day’s song: “better than Wednesday’s, but the bass is too deep for a Thursday.” We’d sit and listen. We’d close our eyes. When I’d open mine, she’d be gone.
Our morning routine.
She would come home early most days and tell me to stop napping. A lot of times I’d have to remind her about the very meticulously prescribed doses of Seroquel I have to take. “It makes me tired,” I would tell her and she’d nod like she understood, and ask me to make dinner.
I wasn’t a great cook, and I’m still not. “It’s delicious,” she would say after I made lasagna because I was very good with Italian food. When our wine was finished we’d go out to the bars where we got drinks that were cocktails and we’d wake up the next day with glitter on our eyelids. We did this four nights a week, and I’d regain consciousness in the bathroom studying my reflection in the mirror and pulling eyelashes out and placing them in a tidy row on the side of the sink. Hadley always noticed, but never said anything.
“Let’s move away.” She told me after one of our shimmery nights out. She wanted to run away from the government that doesn’t take care of us anymore. She wanted to avoid the revolution and escape cafés and their Internet passwords and wear clothes that were baggy and not super tight all the time, because, in the east, there was an enlightenment and everyone was motivated and skilled.
She wanted to be a part of the new people because she was afraid of getting old. I told her this was a stupid idea and she glared at me across our plastic kitchen table and pulled out a handful of my eyelashes from her pocket. “I put up with this,” She said. “I’m sorry,” I told her and she instructed me not to pity myself since it was unattractive. Hadley sighed, exasperated, and laid her forehead on the dinner table, so I did the same. “Are you in love?” She asked me, her eyes fixated on the stained tile floor. I told her that love isn’t real, but she only asked me again. “Are you in love?” “We need to mop the floor,” I told her. “Not if we move out,” She said. “What are you afraid of?” I didn’t respond. “There’s nothing for you here, except me. And I’m going to leave.”
I sat in the living room while Hadley packed, frantically, in our bedroom for St. Paul. She only had one suitcase. “Put your laptop in a carry-on bag!” I yelled from the couch. She’d lost her precious laptop before. Last time, after she landed in Minnesota to visit her grandma she unzipped her black leather Tumi to find a slip of computer paper on top of her ROYGBIV colored ‘vintage’ t-shirts, with “LOL” written in purple crayon in place of her laptop. She cried to me on the phone. “That took me months to cut,” she whined, gasping for breath.
It was true. She’d been editing old super-8 footage of her grandmother for her 89th birthday; montages of Veera raising Hadley’s mother in a snowy cocoon of monochromatic white. Fur sweaters and old sedans. Cigarette smoke and mahogany coffee tables, all shrouded in a grainy nostalgia playing back at two-hundred frames per second.
“Did you call the airport?” I asked, and she hung up. Our subsequent phone dates she spent describing the intricate aesthetics of a 1960s Minnesota that she’d come to know for the last few months.
When she got home after the trip, we had sex for the last time. She grinned regretfully. “I can’t take this anymore.” “What?” I asked. She held her breath. “What are you talking about?” Her face reddened. “I’m a slut.” Or she had been, until we both changed our Facebook statuses to ‘In a Relationship.’ That was two years ago, before I deactivated my account. The Internet still identifies my marital status as ‘Single.’ And I’m not on any dating websites. She stood up and went to the bathroom. I watched her shower from my fetal position on the bed, and when she was out and dry, I was gone.
She never messaged or called. Neither did I. The distance we shared was mutual, and I wasn’t going to be the first to compromise.
It was her.
She came over and acted drunk. She told me about the internships in San Francisco. The post grad-school dropout ennui. I told her that, since she was very drunk, she could stay in my bed and not drive home. I was fine sleeping on the couch.
“Let’s share the bed,” she suggested and I said that we didn’t have love, and the Ikea futon is made of very fine pleather anyway. “Comfortable pleather?” She asked and I said yes. “Let’s share the pleather couch.” She said. I stood my ground, and I’m still proud that I did.
I had my pleather. Hadley didn’t have me.
I shake my head to and fro, and the nostalgia is over.
I type a 1. I type a 0.
And my mind goes blank.