Dorothy Allison stands on the big stage and reads a passage from her book. It’s about tie dye t-shirts and it’s hilarious and scary and sad. When she’s done reading, she gets really quiet and just smiles at the crowd. She eventually says: Now, how much of that is true? You don’t know. Hell, I don’t even know. Well I mean, it’s true, it’s gotta be true, or else you’re just writing shit. But did it actually happen? She just smiles wider and shrugs her shoulders. Her voice lowers to a whisper. That’s fiction, she says. I’m feeling all fiction-y this morning so here’s some for you:
I can’t even remember his name.
He’s Irish, but with my American ear he could be British or Australian. But once he tells me that he’s Irish, Irish is all I hear.
He says he could hear faint twangs in the way I say certain words. Kind of Southern, he says.
His face is that of someone younger than me, I’m sure–blonde curls and watery blue eyes that are hungry to take in everything around him. He looks like most other boys except more curious, or maybe just young.
Fresh out of University, he says.
He lies back on my crash pad and I realize how intimate it is to touch a crash pad that isn’t your own. His ankle is crossed over the opposite knee. He has strong toes. He interlaces his hands behind his head. The sleeves on his shirt ride up, the valley between tricep and bicep deepens and shadows.
The mountain sun beams on his skin. He has closed his eyes and barely breathes, he is thinking of something. I wonder what. A faint smile moves his cheeks.
So you’re a writer, he asks, eyes still closed. That’s really cool. But I can’t imagine you’re making loads of cash.
I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen a load of cash, I say.
That widens his smile. No teeth yet, though. So it’s hard then, to make a living?
It would probably be hard if I was actually making a living. But I’m not. I stay at my Mom’s house for free. I guess my living isn’t that hard to make.
His smile bursts open wide. Teeth now, maybe even a filling. He opens his eyes and props himself up on his elbows and forearms. Yeah, I know. People always say it’s so expensive to travel. I can see the strands of green in his eyes. But it’s not. I barely spend anything.
Me either, I say.
He holds my gaze as he nods his head. He returns to his own mind. His eyes close again and he lies back on the crash pad.
I fall off a boulder problem. His hand lingers on my back ribs for that moment that doesn’t happen between friends or lovers that have been in a relationship for more than a year.
The moment sends me back to myself, and he feels me leave. I put a few people between us. He’s staring at me but looking at something else. Where’d you go? I can feel him wondering. I don’t answer. I spot my friend, he gets a drink of water. He beams out to me again, makes a few attempts to reestablish a connection. But I’m gone, and he knows. He tries to at least find the strand that held us together, but it’s light, and it’s far away now. It’s a spiderweb twisting in the wind. He goes back to himself.
Boyfriend, he concludes.
I tell him I have to go meet up with other friends. He nods like he saw that coming. He looks back into my eyes. It’s a shame we met so late in my stay here, he says. I’m leaving in just a few days to go to New Zealand. I wonder why we didn’t bump into each other earlier.
Maybe the world isn’t so small after all, I say.
That makes him laugh. Such a writer, he shakes his head. I walk away, we don’t hug.
Bye, he says. My back is to him but I can hear a wide smile in his voice, and that he’s standing really still.
Bye, I say, waving once. After a few steps, I look over my shoulder, and he’s already running down the trail.