I’m gone, and if you needed proof, you’ll find my driver’s license all cut up in your sock drawer.
You didn’t believe me four months ago when I said it was temporary. “No, you’ll change your mind once you meet the others,” you said. “They’re nice – not like your old friends. They’ll like you.”
And at first they were. We had fun, you know. I thought I had met my soul-mate. We shared a love of French philosophy, Dutch Old Masters, and Italian sports cars. You in your white sundress that day on the beach, clutching your hat to your head against the breeze which threatened to blow it out into the bay beyond Cap d’Antilles. The sun sparkling on the water, reflecting the blue of your eyes. It was then I knew I loved you – loved your face, your body, your mind. We spoke that night late of the essence of being, of wanting, of desire, of knowing and surety. You dropped chocolates one by one into my mouth as I lay there quoting Sarte, laughing at me as I mangled his complex French, misquoting hilariously to the point where I had granted dormice the dignity of essence.
You gave me the complete bound works of Cassini on car design, which you saw me eyeing in that used bookstore in Berkeley Square. We listened to the chimes of Big Ben and shared a lunch on the quay, and I marveled then – as I still do – at the lean, long lines of the cars, the blues and yellows and whites all proclaiming fun and youth and happiness. We went to the sport car dealership and pretended we’d be rich enough some day to buy a car off the lot, perhaps a Lamborghini or a Renault, rich enough to pay cash without another care in the world.
And then you became rich – or rich enough. Your uncle Pierre – long-lost and long unknown – died, leaving you the family fortune. Not that you’d be flying to Sao Paulo for lunch and skiing at Gstaad by moonlight, you said, but enough to breeze along the canals of Venice or idle through the canopied walks along the Seine. Come with me, you said, let’s be free and just do what we always wanted.
But then the counting started, and the fights, and the long, long discussions about saving and investing and money, money, money. How everything cost something. Where we used to scrounge around the Tivoli fountain for coins while the Italian cohort was distracted, now you had ATMs to worry about and wallets and cashier’s checks and IDs. Everywhere an ID. Passports for hotels, for bank accounts, for passages through border crossings. Everywhere you became more chained to your life here and your riches and your wealth and your possessions. You packed and saved and held where once we were carefree and daring, leaving behind silly souvenirs because we knew, we knew that memories are the best souvenirs.
And last night we fought over the silliest of things – whether to have one more bottle of Cloquet ’98. We had several empty bottles already. Perhaps we should not have had the third. But it was a lovely evening, soft, warm, dreamy with moonlight. The light behind the cathedral from the candles rising into the air. It was magical in Warsaw, and we talked of the future. And then you asked the waiter for the price of the Cloquet. The first time you’d ever brought that into a conversation. Money. Riches. Prices. What something cost and not what is was worth. I was upset, I agree. But you and your focus on the future, on the vagaries of chance and fortune. I wanted to live for now, as we’d always done. And then you got up, spilling the wine onto my lap, daring me to follow you. But I did not.
You cried that night. I could tell when I got in, late, smelling of beer and cigarettes. I was angry, yes, but I wanted it to go back to what it was. And then there was the bill – the bill – for our evening, with my share circled in red.
I don’t need your riches and your fortunes and your possessions and your IDs. Your silly connections to this world, the identity you’ve chosen for yourself, a person that no longer includes me.
And so I will return to the carefree life we once had. You can find all that you hold dear in the cabinet. My driver’s license, in pieces, next to the socks you made me wear.
by Stephen J. Matlock Posted with permission
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What an intriguing first sentence! I enjoyed the verb tense you used throughout, giving the air of nostalgia and loss. This would make a wonderful animated short.
I agree the image would work well on film.