The fatal flaw
Time, it’s a crooked bow.
At university I had a dream that I walked on your irises. They were brown and flecked with gold, and glassy. At the time I thought it was a possible portent that we should be together. I saw you, later at the Unitarian church, drenched with sweat, wearing a suit in the middle of a Midwest summer. Beer was sloshing on the floor making it slick and grubby. I don’t remember the band that was playing, but it was loud and you kept grabbing your friends and throwing them around. You were a force majeure, a chance occurrence, an unavoidable accident, and a circumstance beyond control. When you are young you are attracted to the acts of god, the hurricanes and tornadoes. You are invincible, deathless, and immortal.
Later I would meet your girlfriend. We went out to the local bar and she made fun of my thrift store dress. She said it looked like an old lady’s curtains. It probably did, but she said it so quickly, I didn’t know how to respond. It seemed like I was the only person who heard it. Conversation didn’t stop, and when I would try to say something your girlfriend would ignore my comments and let them drop cold on the floor of the bar. My boyfriend, your good friend, said that perhaps I had misunderstood, as if I was being over sensitive. Sadly, I was used to people being disrespectful to me.
I went to your wedding, and I was the one who shined your girlfriend’s patent leather shoes with Vaseline. After the ceremony we danced in your house. I offered to walk the dog and you said you would come, too. I swear you stopped me on the sidewalk, you in your suit a newly married man, and looked me straight in the eye and said, “you make me a better person.“
I smiled, we were alone. It felt like the most transgressive thing you could say to another woman on your wedding day. As if you were stating a vow to me. How could I be that person? I laughed it off; scared I had heard you wrong, that once again my reply would fall on the floor.
At my job in New York City, you started calling me at work. Did we pretend to have business to discuss? I was in the Flatiron building on the 14th floor, bored in my publishing job. In my cubicle I would almost flirt with you. One day you called to tell me that your wife said you couldn’t telephone me anymore. I was 23, or 24, and meaning didn’t hold the same weight it does now. Then, I could shrug and wonder what would come next. Now I use a magnifying glass and wonder what happened.
My relationship ended and we haven’t spoke in years. But do we ever really change? We intentionally forget, warp, and refuse to believe. We don’t trust the passing of time. We regenerate all of our cells. We are different organisms twenty years later. But I still think with my faux science, that our cellular memory is transferred, like film. I always return to the words celluloid memory. I had a dream about the dream of walking on your irises. It was a second-hand dream, a dream about a dream. I contemplated in my dream, an odd twenty years later, what the original dream meant. I watched the original dream like a movie in my current dream. And then I forget.
I looked at a picture I found of you, and then, in the background. A large photo of the Flatiron building separating Broadway and Fifth Ave. Why is it there? There are no signs, just decoupage where the past seeps in, a projection up against a dirty wall because time’s a crooked bow.