About the Author
I Was Here But Now I’m Not
It’s about time you moved out of this dungeon, Bill said, with the satisfaction of someone who had told me so. He leaned against the living room wall near a pyramid of packed boxes while I filled more. At 42 he had just joined a Utopian community and his smile, I thought, had become rather vacant. Joining the commune had solved all his problems. For Utopia he had a vasectomy and was being gestalted nightly. I hardly recognized him. He sported a beard, had lost weight, and would not hug me. Physical affection for anyone outside his new family, he explained, was strictly forbidden.
Bill’s right, the apartment is a dungeon. For years I had not noticed how dark and damp it is, except when he intermittently mentioned it. My other friends thought it fine, especially at a mere $362 under rent control. I had liked the place too. It was mine. I supposed that was what I really liked about it. When I first saw it something said “live here” and I did.
For five years through one window there were chickens cackling at eye level next door. For three years through the other ivy fell like a green shroud around us. For two years the man upstairs played a comforting piano. Those ten years counted for something. I knew the neighbors, the streets, and the undulations of the fog. I blessed it all because I lived here.
I hardly know Bill anymore. Once in the dark front bedroom we had rolled on a mattress on the floor and laughed a lot. That was when I had just moved in. He had loved me. I suppose he still does, or he wouldn’t be glad that I’ve been forced into light. Love is, in the long run, wanting the best for another. He knows I would never have left this place if I hadn’t been evicted. What first said “live here” changed to “you can’t leave.”
Bill seemed restless. He had no time to waste. He is busy in Utopia. I don’t ask him much about his new life, though I am curious in an intellectual sort of way. I can’t imagine Utopia. I want the old Bill back and it thoroughly shows on my face. But first things first. Right now I have other things to want. The boxes moved. Another place that says “live here.”
I’ve imagined one. Getting a picture in your mind is a first step, Bill says. So far it’s a blue house and has a tree near the porch. It has a family in it. We laugh a lot. We want the best for each other. That’s all.
How’s your mother doing? Bill asked suddenly. Although she visited me only once all the time I lived here she made a huge impression on him and he never fails to inquire after her. She was sleeping in the other room the night we had laughed under the covers. He remembers her as someone who resembles me.
She’s glad I’m moving, I said. Like you, she thinks this place is a dungeon, and she has always despised the neighborhood. She said she would pay me to leave. That made me angry, but she only wants the best for me, as she sees what best is.
Bill walked from room to room, pausing at a desk he had built for me years ago, tapping its top. He is so handy with wood.
I’ll take it back if you are going to leave it, he said.
In Utopia he is doing something different than being handy with wood. He is making computers. We in the community, he said, are into the future. Utopian technology, he calls it. I imagine his computer chips on my desk, rather than pens and paper. That desk in its corner had said “create here.” Bill had said that to me too. He had always wanted the best for me.
Where are the chickens? Bill asked suddenly. He had not noticed they were gone. Raccoons had killed them. And the ivy had been replaced by a fence. I only vaguely minded those changes. Working with what light there was I concentrated on what was less visible than a change of address. Only the inner apartment says “live here” with any conviction. And I had lived there. It is hard to explain that to Bill, who, being gestalted nightly, is becoming more didactic by the day. He talks about a driver’s seat and deciding which part of the self should be in it. My problem is, he says, that I have too many drivers for one seat. He has solved his problems, he says, by knowing who is in his.
Bill may have always been this way, opinionated, dogmatic, I hadn’t really noticed. I enjoyed his laughter under the covers and the desk he built for me to create with. That is my problem, he says. My images are confused. I enjoy little bits of bark in a forest I cannot define, nor do I try to.
I have to go, he said. He absolutely had to. But I should call him later to come pick up the desk, if I decide not to take it. He has a truck now and a free hour from Utopia between 5:00 and 6:00.
I saw him to the door, watching his familiar hand lift and cheerfully wave. He is so awfully cheerful these days. I don’t feel cheerful, but inexorably lonely.
I should have married Bill. He asked me to once with a passion he rarely displayed for anything other than food. I can’t remember why I said no. Perhaps if I had married him, he could have saved me from this loneliness. And I in turn could have saved him from Utopia. But perhaps not. Most likely not. No, probably not at all.
|© Laura Beausoleil, 2010|