By Dan Leach
I read all the books you left behind. What? I couldn’t help it. You had, by then, stopped answering my calls and it was the closest thing I knew to hearing your voice again. Pathetic, I know, to think that I could find some part of you in a line by Carver or Munro. But, by then, I was not thinking clearly and each new sentence seemed to shine like a clue that, if studied hard enough, might lead me back to you.
I read them all in public, in coffee shops and cafes and on all those little benches scattered through downtown that nobody ever sits on. My arms would get sore from the angle at which I held them, an angle designed for you, just in case you happened to walk by. I wanted the sunlight to fall just so and the cover to look as lovely as an outstretched hand. I wanted those books to bring you back.
I thought about writing you a letter and leaving it on your car. And because he was your favorite, I would have somehow worked in a line from Murakami. I would have read his books and found the words to change your mind. Also, I would have somehow worked in all the apologies that I stockpiled, back when I thought we had more time. There are quite a few I never gave you.
I never wrote the letter. It seemed desperate and uncool. I just kept on reading your books, waiting in all the places that I thought you might walk past. That, to me, seemed the cool thing to do. Funny, isn’t it? The distinctions that we make.
It was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. That was the one that did it. In that café down on 25th, the one with the cheesecake that you loved. I was sitting by the window, drinking lukewarm coffee and waiting to hear your voice. That was when she found me. She tapped me on the shoulder and asked about your book. I told her it was one of my favorites and did not stop her when she sat down in your chair and shared with me, smiling like you never would, all the reasons why she loved it.