If I go so far as to say that at this point I had a friend, the most it can possibly mean is that once a year, toward the end of it, I had to drive from wherever I was letting myself be lived, wherever I had given consent for my life to keep being done to me, and this friend-person had to drive from his own whereabouts, just so we could meet for lunch in a sandwich shop where, years earlier, while schooling together, we had flirted with each other impatiently, wrongheartedly. By then, things were always his idea. He was the one who kept talking as if there would always be room in the world for whatever he might say. I was merely the one who kept clearing space. The thing I was good at was keeping things sufficiently placeless for whoever’s turn came next.
Every year, he told me the same story–he had a double life and was going to have to do something big and final about it pretty soon. He explained that by day he sat at his engineering desk and threw together bridges and such for governments, and that by night he bogged himself down in department-store men’s rooms, adult bookstores, highway rest stops. Year after year, I listened to him tell me this.
So I said to this friend-person, “Apart from that, other than the as-per-usuals, what are we harping on?”
He repeated everything already said. There was no other matter for the facts to get wrapped around. In his voice was the enormous gloating noise of somebody standing up for his rights.
I made the mistake of looking at our waitress, who was setting plates down in front of us. It was a mistake because sometimes when you look at some one, especially someone young, you get too good a look. You see the life heaved messily, meagerly, into the person. You get a sense of the slow-traveling trains of thought, crossed out or memorized so far. The parts out front–the eyes; the teeth and tongue inside open, moving mouth–look cheap and detachable, unset, just barely staying put.
What I am saying is that through all this, all through this, I was only loosely in the midst of myself, already lapsing my way into whoever this waitress was, organizing myself within the dark of the body she was sticking up for herself inside.