Jim asked me whether I would slowly begin to hate him now that we’ve had our last sip of wine together, in the morning when I finally sober up and he runs out of money to call for another round.
I told him not to play dumb. I’m not one of those people who mistakenly claim the only way out of love is hatred. The question, though, was not to be taken literally. He wasn’t asking whether I would start hating him, rather – he wanted to know if I would stop loving. Perhaps therein lay an even greater tragedy? I didn’t answer.
Drinking and smoking together in a small room of a stranger’s apartment, we grew more obtuse by the minute. Time slowed down, it stretched between us like a rubber band. Whose fingers would burn with its cruel sting tomorrow? What would pain taste like?
Stale, sour grapes.
Choking in the smoke and smell of a goodbye, I wrapped myself in a blanket and found a dry spot of cement on the balcony. Jim followed. Two roads – two narrow voids outlined by glowing lamps – shot out in opposite directions, in the distance.
That way is West, I called dibs. Jim said he didn’t mind the East, he’d take it. One final concession.
He asked me whether I would begin to slowly forget about him, now that I will want to make space and roads for others in the absurd traffic jam of my longings.
I told him not to be stupid. Perhaps I might like to, but forgetting a whole year of my life in the gap between two days, however much I’ve had to drink, would be impossible. Yes, you will stay safe in the electric currents that make up the best and worst of who I am, my mind. You will be as young as the time I first met you, balancing a box of greasy fries on your knee and talking about Nietzsche.
Doubts silenced, he put his jacket on and made for the door. I tied a scarf around my neck. Mistaking the feel of itchy wool for a lump in the throat, I motioned for us to stay still. A minute more, then it would pass, this suffocating sadness would loosen its grip and I would once again be myself, without the threatening noose of history coiling around the new dawn. Jim took my hand in his and stroked it with his slender fingers.
It isn’t happiness, Christopher, I thought. It’s pain that’s only real when shared.
A minute passed, dividing the rest of our years. Alright.
That way’s the past, I called dibs. Find yourself another stretch of time to be without me. He chuckled and agreed.
By the time I woke up and found myself in yesterday, there was nothing I could do to fix my lapsus linguae. I went into the West, into the past. I crossed the Greenwich line, and I stopped time.