by dschapman

Past tense

Front page of the paper. I laid about making jokes about class and sophistication. They flew over the heads of my audience. I rolled over and looked the beautiful woman in the eyes. I said, You have beautiful eyes. I wanted her then but I couldn’t take her; I didn’t know how. She was the most beautiful girl in the world. I tried to get her drunk. I tried to drink; I just made faces. I tried to wink; I blinked. I was trying not to smile; I couldn’t stop smiling. I buttoned my shirt up while making a joke about buttoning shirts up. It wasn’t a good joke. My hands were tied, my heart unhappy. I wanted to get drunk again. I wanted to be in Albania. Oh, to hell with it, after all – oh, we should have fucked that night, oh, we should be fucking… I clean my mouth out with soap and I apologize. I try to be decent. I make a joke about decency. It comes off – indecent. On the front page, and lit by the lamp swinging slowly. It swings above our heads – shadows here, then shadows there. I wanted to stare in to her eyes and describe how I knew that I loved her. I could have told her everything. I had so much to tell, I should have been telling her! But I looked away and said nothing. She was very, very beautiful. What are you supposed to do with a beauty like that? How are you supposed to act, to be treating her? It was not easy. It was not an easy struggle. But I decided: it is worth the struggle. I will do this – or I will fail, trying. I told myself I didn’t really like her, after all, and I imagined the ways I would learn in the future to hate her. But they were all lies; the illusion was hard to maintain, like a signal in a valley, and it wavered, and I lost it. And then I was talking to her, my eyes but mere inches from her eyes, and I wanted to move towards her and – I wanted to tell her I love you, I wanted to show how I mean, because I meant it. I had so much to show her! I could show her the world… but all the stupid jokes, that weren’t even funny, all of the silence, the chances to tell her the truth. “Our past is only our best approximations… everything is approximate…” They say, I said to her, that we aren’t even seeing most of our field of vision; we are simply filling it in with what we expect to be there. A mind is a terrible thing… How tunnel like is vision! How approximate, how ongoing – and we are only growing older.

Present tense

I didn’t mention my age. I am already embarrassed. I will never say my age again, if I can help it. I close my eyes and pretend I’m Warren Beatty. Danny Zuko. It could have been me! And why not me? Oh – I know why. It reminds me of a scene in The Outsiders. Or Swingers. Or Breaking Bad – it reminds of a bottle episode, a fly in a lab, and a very moving line: “I have lived – too – long.” If you like something, serialize it. If you love it, wring it dry. I have been hopelessly seduced… but not by a seducer. What are you supposed to do, with beautiful women like that? I am afraid to say anything, but that doesn’t stop me from saying things, all the strange things that I shouldn’t have said. And when I am at my most genuine, then do I truly darken, and turn grey in all another way, a way I needn’t share with her – not now, not like this. It is best to take things lightly, to disbelieve it at all. But it is even better to commit, with sincerity. But I will do what’s best. A whole new world… Haven’t you heard? I’m a hero! To those who know me. We have quite a lot to talk about it… I have seen the way you could be, seen the way you are, and all of them are wonderful. I would like to be there, for it all.. But no! I don’t mean marriage. I just mean love! No – I don’t mean love. Just something, something honest… I want to stand beside you. It would be good for us both… it would vindicate everything, everything up to this moment, and for both of us. Dive with me into my ether – and I will fly with you under the sun – VY canis majoris – a whole new world – for the taking! Let me take you – here and now! Let me show you something good – let me teach you beauty. I know of a beautiful world… it is my finest secret. I will show you, if you’ll let me. If you’ll trust me, take my hand – through the thorns and ivy –  (my, what beautiful hair you have – my, what beautiful eyes) in a beautiful dress and a beautiful button-down – let me take you to the valley! It could have been me. So will it?