Paris, Je T'aime

When I get home, the gas is off. The gas is still off. I am prepared for this. I put rice in the rice cooker, and I open a can of beans. When the rice has cooked, I heat the beans for one minute in the blue bowl (the big one, not the little one), in the microwave, making sure to stop it periodically to stir. When it is done, I put half of the rice into the bowl and mix it around, saving the other half for tomorrow.

I go into my room and close the door behind me. I sit down to watch "Paris, Je T'aime." I become mesmerized. I find the stories each concise, captivating, and I fall in and out of love as the characters do. The feelings are new feelings, but old feelings. Feelings long since forgotten but consistently remembered, sometimes fondly.

By the end, I am immobilized. I find it so complete, so perfect, that I smile. My lips curl and my eyes narrow. When there is no where else for the corners of my mouth to go, when they've hit a wall, there is still more to be done, more ground to be covered. Emotion wells up from my stomach, up through my windpipe, and it sits at the back of my throat. My breathing becomes shallow, and my eyes well up with tears. Slowly the warm, salty water fills my eyes, until the surface tension is too much to bear, too much to hold back, and then all at once the tears are across, down, down my face. Some beckon at my pursed lips, others can't be bothered and stream down to the edge of my jawline. Some seem to be caught in a moment of hesitation, but the warm waves that spring from my eyelids dash in behind them to push onward! onward!

Soon my smile has gone, but the tears persist. I find I cannot stop them. I am no longer happy, no longer in love, even with a fantasy. As the credits roll and the characters slip away, the worlds they inhabit wither and vanish, I am left with the wellspring of my sadness. The things I find so terribly real have found an opportunity, as the gates of vulnerability have suddenly been flung open, and they seize upon me like Roman soldiers, no man too great to sacrifice himself for the good of his cause, to give of his whole self. Images flash across my consciousness, each too fleeting to be held for a moment. This is my release. There can only be so much to take, so much to be had, and I have had that.

All through this, I can only think of one thing. I must call Sarah. I desperately want, need to call Sarah to tell her that I love her. Nothing makes more sense in this moment of honesty, the madness of verity from the mouth of fiction; it would not matter what she said. It would only matter that she has said it because of my proclamation. Only then can I truly feel accomplished, justified, avenged!

But I have no number at which to reach Sarah, save for her old number here in the United States. I call it. Even an old voicemail box greeting would be enough for me. But the number has been disconnected, and only a recorded man's voice is on the other line.

"The number you have called is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this message in error, please hang up and try the number again."

Yes, I have reached it in error! There has been some mistake. I have made some mistake. I have made it so many times! I want to fix that mistake now. I am ready to fix that mistake. So I pick up the phone and I dial Sarah's number again. And again. Over and over, I call Sarah. To tell her what I've been doing, to tell her about the movie, to complain that my gas is out, to tell her I love her, to ask her to come to Los Angeles to see me. I call her once for every mistake, and each time the man tells me to call again if I feel I've reached him in error, if there has been an error. Soon, the man stops answering. There is just silence. There are no more mistakes to be made, and no more mistakes for which to make up.

So, quietly, I turn off the lights. Quietly still, I slip off all of my clothes, as though I were trying to hide my presence. As though I were attempting not to wake a sleeping brother. Naked, I feel small, smaller than I am. Like a shaved dog. It is cold in my room, even colder outside. Clutching myself, I crawl onto my bed, under the covers. The orange light from outside pours in and leans against my walls, against my frame in my bedding. My mind, my eyes, all is quiet. All is calm. This is the first time I've been to bed before ten in ages.