The lone book she gave me was one that she made: a scrapbook commemorating our trip to Europe. That sounds strange, I suppose, though it wasn’t. I was the reader between us, and where books were concerned it was I who did the giving.
We’d been broken up for a year when she mailed me a copy of this photograph, “Book Kiss.” [visible on photographer Charles Shotwell’s page here.]
“I saw this and wished I was your girlfriend solely for the purpose of buying it for you.”
There was more: nine blue lines pressed from a gel pen. I sat on the fire escape and pictured her in her low-ceilinged apartment, folding the page, prepping the envelope.
I should claim that I wept and went inside to find the scrapbook. That I sped, bagless, to the airport, to catch the next Chicago-bound flight. That she wasn’t home, so I waited in the rain, and when at last she appeared, wearing blue boots I didn’t recognize, her hair pinned back, her face flushed as though she’d been running, I felt whole for the first time in my life. But it wouldn’t be true.
We say it’s complicated, but it never is. It’s that we feel we can do better, be happier. And we move on.
I stared for some time at the books, read again and again her note, then tucked it back into the envelope. I sat in the heat and watched the traffic. It was August 2005.
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