The love of books
is for children
who glimpse in them
a life to come, but
I have come
to that life and
with the love of books.
This is my life,
in poems of dwindled time.
There is no other world.
--Robert Haas, from "Songs to Survive the Summer."
She waits for something to change, for the planet to snap back into place.
The seasons roll over, cartwheeling into earlier and earlier darkness, taking the way it was further into the way it is and the way it will be.
What is the way it is? What is the way it will be? What happened to her heart? How were these invisible wounds acquired?
The touch, once so familiar, is now harder and harder to remember. Old routines become untangled, the strands of the entanglement scattered.
All night long a world she has never understood and cannot see chuckles and hums outside her windows.
She gets up in the morning and dresses so carefully, spends a long time in front of the mirror, turning, scrutinizing, critical. Probably nothing she might do would matter; no one would do anything but look right through her. She hoped each day to be noticed, to feel herself observed, alive to another. Seen.
It was increasingly embarrassing to be still looking, to find herself loitering in the self-help and relationships section of the bookstore. More painful still that she actually bought the stuff. What did it say that she'd go to such trouble to hide these books in her apartment as if they were pornography, fully aware that there was no one she was hiding them from?
She'd had exactly one date in the last year, and the memory of that awkward, almost completely silent evening left her anxious and queasy. What should she have said that she hadn't? What might she have done differently? What --or who-- did the man see when he looked at her across the table?
It didn't matter. The man had been what her mother would call a drip.
The trees will shed their leaves. The moon will wax and wane. The stars will recede, yet blaze all the more brightly, as if trying to keep the cold at bay.
Something will rustle in the walls. The creek where they once walked together all those years ago will soon enough be paralyzed by ice.
She lies awake. The din of a wedding party somewhere in the neighborhood slowly disappears and the night settles once again to silence, a silence that will eventually and mercifully be drowned out by the idling of the furnace.
Another jet clears the city, and is gone.