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The Cold without Winter

By Christopher Caldwell

I don't always think of him. There are days, sometimes even weeks, that go by without me once thinking about the way his hair smelled. But some days just watching the steam from a cup of coffee waft upwards reminds me of the elegant lines of his fingers. On days like those I'm likely to forget my name, likely to forget anything but him. When you allow someone or something to become your life, where do you go when that life is over?

Last week I saw him at the pier and not once did I have the urge to forgive him. He was alone, wearing faded blue jeans, beat-up tennis shoes and a paint-splashed sweatshirt. Every bit as beautiful as I remembered him. He could not meet my gaze. He seemed to be buffeted by the crowds of noisy tourists, like a child's kite in a storm. My instinct should have been to rescue him. Instead, I watched him get pushed away and felt strangely relieved. It struck me as amusing that the boy who broke my heart could look so fragile.

Today I had coffee with Rena. I love just looking at Rena. Her generous earth-mother frame, titian colored ringlets and her rosebud soft lips make me feel comforted. I wish I could lay my head on one of her pillowy breasts and sleep for hours. Rena is my anchor, if it weren't for her I think I would've lost all humanity. But still, my newfound coldness caused her distress and the story of my encounter on the pier caused heavy lines to mar the graceful smoothness of her brow. She nibbled at her croissant as if meditating. Finally she sighed and said in a barely audible voice, "It wasn't so long ago when you'd rather die than hurt him."

"Yeah, well. That all changed after what he did." I said, perhaps more bitterly than I had intended. To her credit, Rena did not pursue the subject any further. Gingerly we moved onto other subjects, like art and literature and new brands of soda. Rena kissed me goodbye, then disappeared in a flurry of skirts and softly jingling bracelets.

The skies overhead were threatening rain. Because I do not own an umbrella, my normal saunter through the city streets was turned businessman brisk. A last minute dash into the lobby of my apartment building saved me from being drenched. The woman in the neighboring apartment was playing Billie Holiday. "Good Morning, Heartache" echoed eerily through my walls. I almost gave into tears once more. Weakness... He has always been my wound. He once was able to hurt me by frowning, then I would've gone to any length to make him happy. He had never hurt me intentionally, until that day. Before then, he had hurt me just by being beautiful, just by being my life. I sank into the familiar softness of my couch and allowed myself the dubious luxury of remembering that day.

I had been living with him for three months. I thought we were happy. He certainly seemed content, and most of the time I was happy just being around him. I loved being able to come home to him from my classes at university every afternoon. Our apartment was always an eclectic mess, his paintings took up most of the space in the living room, while my papers and books and various writing paraphernalia had conquered the bedroom, far beyond the space of my desk. I fancied myself a writer, although most of the scraps of paper on my desk were unimportant. Written on the insides of paper napkins from restaurants where I ate my lunches alone was my one treasure, my novel. I worked on it feverishly, but only in fast food restaurants or diners with paper napkins, and only alone. For two years I had worked on it in secret. It was reaching fruition. In a few days I would be able to pull those greasy napkins out of the drawer and bring my novel, my child into existence. I had never sold so much as a story, (he, on the other hand made a decent living out of selling his paintings to local galleries) but somehow I knew that this was going to be my one spark of genius, my one dazzling effort that would make my name live for posterity. Every Tuesday at a little after 6:00 p.m. I returned from University, my last class was over at 5:45, but it took me about fifteen minutes to walk home. On that day, however, Professor didn't show up for class, so I was home ninety minutes earlier than normal. I walked in to find a dreadful surprise. He was not in the living room sketching as normal, nor was he in the bathroom or kitchen. The door to our bedroom was closed. Furtively I crept over to it and pushed it open. He looked up at me in surprise. "Hello, wasn't expecting you home for a while," he said, sheepishly. I noticed my desk then, it was swept clean and he was in the process of arranging my books. I stared, aghast.

"What's going on," I demanded to know, fear sliding up my chest oily and insidious. I looked at my desk.

"I've been cleaning up the room, thought it would be a nice surprise. I've bought you new pencils, and I cleaned out your desk. Threw out some old greasy napkins you had in a drawer," he said with a near idiotic grin. Horror gripped me with rubbery fingers. "Where are the napkins?" I demanded to know.

"Where the fuck are they?" I barked in a voice that was not my own.

"They'd be in the outside trash, I took them out. Were they important?" he said almost whimpering. I could've murdered him then. The boy who was my heart, and I could've wrung his life away. I ran outside to the dumpster, hoping he had taken it out after the garbage made its twice-weekly trips to the dump. No such luck. I stared inside the virtually empty dumpster and began to cry. My spark, my child, forever lost.

I moved out the next week, I could no longer stand to look at him. I would not listen to friends who told me that I was foolish, that it was an accident. Even Rena could not convince me that I should return to him. I couldn't. The life with him had died with my novel. When a life is over, the one you were living for, where do you go?

--

Christopher Caldwell is a twenty-one-year-old who resides in the Los Angeles area, more information about him can be located at http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/9010 and he can be reached via sandalphon@geocities.com


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