A man sits on a stool in the middle of his darkening apartment. He has been here since he arrived home and found a letter from his girlfriend saying she left him for another guy. The man’s briefcase and the bag of groceries for dinner are still by the door.
The man loved his girlfriend. He loved that when he thought of her he thought of a porcelain doll safe on a shelf, out of reach of little girls. He loved the way she rolled over in the morning to look out the window, blinking into the pale light. He loved that she smelled like a cool, sheltered lagoon in summer.
I will miss these things, the man thought.
But then it occurred to him that he wasn’t sad. I should be sad…not being sad isn’t normal, he thought.
So he sat himself on a stool in the middle of his apartment, reserved to remain there until he remembered a time he felt sad. That sadness would then, hopefully, send him into despair over his girlfriend.
There he sat on his stool, the sun just beginning set.
But as the man waited, hoping for sadness, he could think of nothing but joy. He specifically remembered the time his father drove him out to the beach and parked the car near the water.
He remembered looking out at a sky of hot nude pearl. The water was motionless. The beach empty under the gulls. He remembered lying near the water, digging his toes into the sand. His father sat next to him, talking about the women he once met – a fortune-teller. “She was elderly, a widow,” he’d said. “I felt some disgust when I first saw her. She had the look of a leper – her wrinkled skin spotted with sores. Even now, I’m filled with disgust,” he said. “But, at the time, I had had a stroke of ill-luck. I had fallen in love with a woman and I wanted someone to set me free from the dream.” As he spoke, he looked out over with water with a deepening despair. And the man, as a little boy, watching his father, thought that he would, if necessary to avoid the despair of love, never leave his father’s home. And this gave him a sense of security and joy.
I have had to come so far in order to understand it all, the man on his stool thinks.
And here he remains, even when the sun falls below the horizon.
He will fall asleep on his stool, slumped over his knees.
At six in the morning, the shuffling of the man’s upstairs neighbor will wake him.
The man will move to his bed where he will fall into a fitful sleep. He will dream of his apartment, how it looks out over the crooked, sunny street. He will, in his dream, shutter his apartment to lock in the darkness. In the darkness he will write a poem about how the beach and sea share a boundary, yet never come together. Then he will stand next to the door, poem in hand, waiting for his girlfriend to return.