Miss You

It’s late at night. I should be in bed, asleep. Instead, with more writing to be done, I’m laying on top of the covers, my head propped up against the pillow, the phone cradled haphazardly under my ear. I can hear her talking in that small voice of hers, saying the house is warm, the window’s open, lights are off – in the distance, a dog barking. “You ever smelled orange blossoms?” she asks. I can’t remember if I have. Can’t remember ever being in an orange grove. Time I spent in the valley was years ago and I was running too fast to have stopped to smell the flowers. Those days seem as far away as the sound of her voice faint in my ear.

I stare at the ceiling, move the phone to my other hand, push the pillows back with my elbow. Her words are coming slower, she’s sounding sleepy, quieter, making our conversation seem more intimate. And that makes me want to be there with her, instead of here – alone in my room. Outside I can hear the wind blowing and knowing that it’s cold out there I wrap the quilt around me and roll over on my side.

As we talk, there are moments of silence, comfortable pauses, time for one another to appreciate what’s being said. I can hear her breathe, the static of the cell phone, the emotions between us playing out in sighs. She’s miles away. And I’m not going to see her for awhile. How long, I don’t know, but right now I can’t think about it. Reluctantly I tell her I have to go. I’ve writing to do, school assignments to finish, online conferences to attend. Her voice gets smaller. I close my eyes. A blurred image of her face darts through my memory as we say our goodbyes. Sitting up, I shut off my phone. The room around me appears stark, the desk lamp illuminating the emptiness. Seems like I’m always alone, like everyone’s some place else. Half the people that I know are either away, gone, or doing something else, somewhere else.

My laptop sits waiting for me, across the room, glowing on the desk, underneath the lamp. I’ve got too much work to do tonight. Rewrite an essay, finish my semester evaluations, complete this week’s poetry translation. “Le fem, le fem, le fem….” So goddamn French, so foreboding, so futile. I can barely translate my own thoughts into English. Why I have to try and make my clumsy 7th grade French into pretty poetry I’ll never know. Gonna make me a better writer my teacher says. Gonna drive me insane is more like it.

It’s after 2am, the apartment’s quiet. The roommates are asleep. Outside the traffic has died down, the local drunks have left the bars, gone to bed. Even the upstairs neighbor appears to be asleep, or maybe he’s just not home. A lone moped drives by my bedroom window, struggling to get up the hill, the sound of its groaning engine loud, assaulting my ears. Abruptly it stops, then there’s a crashing noise, followed by a shout, then silence. Didn’t make it all the way up the hill.

A quiet night in North Beach is a rare commodity, one that I’m not quite used to, the noise of the inner city having been my lullaby for most of my life. Yet, for me, nighttime doesn’t mean sleep, it doesn’t mean time to watch DVD’s or sit down with a good book. It just means more time for writing, doing my schoolwork, sitting at the computer. Only tonight, as midnight merges into morning and the work sits there undone, I stare at the screen. Instead of writing, I’m thinking of her. Wondering if she’s thinking of me. Is she asleep, the smell of orange blossoms still floating in the breeze through her open window?

On the computer screen a page of writing stares back at me. I reread the last few lines over and over again. With a slight hesitation, I type in two words.

miss you

Then stare at the screen again, fingers poised on the keyboard. Miss you is hardly relevant to what I was writing. Yet there it sits, in the middle of the page: alone, defiant, incongruous.

We had started our phone conversation talking about Miracle Whip and macaroni salad. I joked about her not eating, living only on oranges for the last three days. She made fun of me eating french fries with mayonnaise and then we both laughed at the scary foods of our childhood. Tuna salad, spam sandwiches, government cheese, fried baloney. We made sick jokes, gagging sounds and tried to gross each other out. When she laughed it tugged at my heart. When I ran out of things to say, it didn’t matter.

Sitting at my desk I can hear the wind blowing outside. On the computer screen, in front of me, highlighted in the middle of the page, are the words “miss you”. Before I hit delete I pinch the bridge of my nose, close my eyes, and think of orange blossoms.

10 Responses

  1. Melissa

    C’est beau, Patrick. Je m’ennuie de toi aussi. Je pense à toi constamment.

  2. lab munkay

    That was well worth the wait. Thanks for brushing aside the work to write that. I now must go eat an orange.

  3. Suzanne

    Orange blossom is a special scent. Perhaps I shouldn’t tell you that Jo Malone makes a lovely cologne of this exact fragrance; I wear it daily.

    Keep warm, Patrick.

  4. alpacadan

    your good dude!i ain’t lyin! love ya, alpacadan

  5. Green Glass Beads

    Chips and mayonnaise make me a happy girl. My heart is truly cheap. Missing someone is hard, but it is better being lonely with a reason than lonely without. Maybe my heart is made of stone. But I wish you continued ups (with some natural downs to remind you) and I hope you feel good.

  6. Cori

    a happy ending. 🙂

  7. SB Stokes

    Artfully crafted, Cheese. This piece is delicately rendered, ringing with subtle honesty and filled with tiny details that allow the reader a hint of the real beauty.

  8. JR's Thumbprints

    Nicely told story in the latest issue of Blood Orange Review. Just read it. “There’s a Crackhead in my Window.”

  9. Anonymous

    Nicely written, as always, and such a good example of the prevelence of how men of our generation totally suck at connecting with women who are available. It’s really getting old…”oh, I love her and wish I could be with her if it wasn’t for the distance / drug addiction/ husband/ fact that she doesn’t want me / blah, blah, etc., etc. How about a blog entry talking about how you’re working to overcome your intimacy issues? That would be interesting. Maybe by being with someone who actually likes you, (if you’re not too full of self-hate) and is available. Wish the men-children’s balls would drop in this fucking town so that one could have a half-way decent relationship.

  10. Ananda girl

    For me, reading a piece like this is about interpreting what is being offered. It evokes emotion… even the anonymous poster above me feels it in its own way. I guess it depends on our own experiences.

    Well done.