I had this dream last night. I was at your house. Your house had a musty basement, which turned out to be the garage. I was talking to your mom, while trying hard to remember if I knew if that space existed before. I felt an ache for your mom that made me miss her even as we were talking and kept wondering why I hadn’t visited her more often. You were somewhere upstairs and it felt to me like my missing her was an extension of how your absence in my life these days erodes me. I feel like a part of me is beginning to die.
It has been so many years since I last saw you. There have been a couple of missed calls and forgotten text messages. That’s all there’s been to exchanges between us. I know there was a time when I said: You just pick up the phone and dial the number if you really want to talk to someone—it’s that simple. And it is what I believed, too. But, apparently, it’s not that simple. I might have called you up every day if it were. Every day I think of you and your nurturing soul and the love you’ve given me. But is it even about what we gave each other? I think, no. I think love is simply about nothing. Love is the huge suffering that grows and grows within you like cancer when the one you love isn’t within your reach. Sometimes it’s not even about physical reach, but just a deep longing that makes us miss people, even when they are close enough to touch.
I wonder what you have been up to these days. I’m assuming work keeps you busy. I’m assuming you spend a lot of time with your new friends and it makes me glad to think you’ve always been able to make friends every new place you go. Because friendship is one of the things I’ve always wished for you. Friendship, love and healing. I’ve sometimes thought sexual healing might be the thing you need, too. And then I begin to wish you’d met a man who knew exactly how to put your throbbing temples to rest and touch your bad knee at the right spot, so your toes do not curl and cringe in pain.
How much we always want for those we love. Sometimes, there’s a faint jealousy beginning to brim over the pit of my gut when I think about the others who get to be with you. But this is just me. I’m responsible for not being around you more. I keep myself away. So, it isn’t your fault, really.
Every day, there are things I want to tell you about myself. There are days I feel like I’m trying to deal with my sanity—to preserve it. It’s mostly on days when I feel like my head is filled with noise. All kinds of sounds, really. Some days, I just rent a hotel room in the busiest part of town and lie in bed, listening to the sounds of the city. There’s a strange abandonment about hotel rooms. The white bedclothes always have a grimy feel to them. The curtains, too. The toilets are extra clean from every day scrubbing but give you the feel of a place that’s been overused. Then there’s the furniture—always solitary. Like they were left untouched, even by the people who owned the rooms for brief periods, sometimes mere hours. It’s the desk and the chair that gives me that kind of impression. The towel always seems threadbare with scrubbing the backs of strangers. And always, I feel as though trapped in the room are the sighs, tears, laughter and longings of strangers who have been there before me.
Last week, I lay in bed in this certain room in the city, feeling the energy of strangers around me. And you know what that energy is? It’s solitude. I heard a man on the street talk to someone on the cell-phone. He was standing right under my window, asking someone to hurry up because he was running out of patience. I heard vehicles pass, honking. Voices. Feet. The sound of a pressure-cooker whistling somewhere.
I can’t tell you how paralysed I felt at that moment. My eyes would open and shut like I had no control over them, and I’d drift in and out of sleep. And I thought I was never going to be able to leave that room. Most of my days are like that now. I remain in bed, paralysed. At home, Ma will always make sure I get out of bed before I stay in there forever. But in a hotel room, she isn’t around to come and tell me to get out of bed. It might be the reason I have started lying in bed alone in hotel rooms, letting my disparaging thoughts have their way with me. It’s a kind of refuge.
The most awkward moment is when I walk into the lobby and ask for a room. And then later, when I leave. I always wonder if they think I’m a prostitute. They must. But once I’m inside the room, my world is my own and mine alone, so I try not to mind the looks the men at the reception throw at me.
Once though, I did pretend I was a prostitute. I thought, what did it matter? At least I’d have an imaginary companion. And I wanted that freedom, you know? You know how Margaret Mitchell says until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is? And it does seem to me that with enough courage, you can do without a reputation.
I wonder if you approve or disapprove of my new hobby. But I have little to look forward to in life and I keep trying to find things that suck me in because it feels like the only way I can keep going forward.
Sometimes I wonder what if you and I really had been in love like people thought we were. What if I had touched you without thinking you were a girl and not a boy and without reminding myself I’ve always been attracted to men? What if I had told you I had that dream once, where we were in bed, your chin against my forehead and my face buried above your breasts? You might have never spoken to me again. You might have thought my thoughts were too scary. But that afternoon in your room so many years ago, when we lay in the summer’s heat reading our own books, I had an urge to press my lips to yours and tell you not to worry so much about your mom. I’d visit her every day even if you left this country to begin a life away from home.
I don’t know why I started writing this letter to you. It’s just as garbled as my head has been these days. And just like all the phone calls to you pending inside my head, this letter too will be left unsent.
But since I might never send it, I want to tell you that I love you. And if I could fix these distances between us and erase the awkward moments of silences we’ve shared over the years, I’d be the one loving you more than those men you never loved and the ones you loved without being loved in return.
And since I’m trashing this letter, you should also know that I’m writing it from the solitude of my hotel room. And Suzanne Vega starts to sing inside my head: Solitude stands in the doorway and it’s like she knows exactly what thoughts run through my mind. I’m struck once again by her black silhouette and her long cool stare and her silence because the darkness has started to be my comfort and the noise traveling up to my room from the streets lets me know I’m not gone yet. And I suddenly remember each time we’ve met and she turns to me with her hand extended and there’s no other friend in my life who’s been as faithful as her.
She says I’ve come to set the twisted thing straight. She says I’ve come to brighten this dark hour and I feel myself falling in. Maybe I’m just sleepy; my eyes are falling into her hall of darkness.
I’ll see you when I see you.