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Remembering ``E''

So you're with her
Not with me
I hope she's sweet
So pretty

I was alone. For the third time in as many years moving boxes littered the floor of my apartment, musical scores slid from the top of the piano, and old photo albums lay strewn on my bed. A bottle of cheap red wine, a California Merlot that breathed well and had a biting, lingering aftertaste, sat open upon my desk next to the open laptop and box of index cards I had once used as an addressbook.

This time the new apartment could not be found a mere mile or two away. The previous moves had been vertical, within the same city, always to a better place. First to a larger room, and then to one where I didn't have to share a bathroom with someone whose concept of hygiene consisted of flushing. Most of the time. Now for something horizontal. Back to the coast, I sighed. The teaching job would pay the bills and not much more, but finally to leave behind the plain plains and flat-lining upper Midwest, where every child was above average, for the snappy salt air and fir trees of the Pacific Northwest inspired me to action. It wasn't home, but neither was an efficiency in a midwestern strip-malled college town.

Papers here, tax forms there, CDs in this case and mass market genre fiction to Goodwill. A brown portfolio caught my attention and I pulled it from a stack of binders and old TrapperKeepers. Fading watercolors and yellowing paper peeked out. Smeared pencil lines greeted me as I leafed through sheet after sheet. Arranged chronologically, they regressed from my most recent attempts at abstract relations of lines, shading, and color; to older sketches of trees, hands, feet, and apples; to naive landscapes and portraits. The last of my high school drawings stared back at me, it's dark charcoal eyes, wavy lines indicating strands of reddish-brown hair here and there placed across the forehead or nose, and softened chin reminded me of a time nearly forgotten when I used to laugh with my friends about where we would be in ten years.

Oh how lucky one man can be.

These eyes captured me and held my attention. Hair that had seemed plain compared to the teased, moussed and sprayed K-Mart monstrosities of the early nineties now expressed simple elegance. One line seemed too strong, but the smile I had recreated impressed me with its sincerity and openness. I grabbed for the yearbook I had just packed away, and thumbed through the pages until I reached the senior pictures. Each grinning girl and smug boy convinced me of their then-peaking youth; now eight years later, I knew based on each picture who lived in a trailer, who married within their first few semesters at BYU, and who was now a web-designer or consultant. But each was now older and muted. The portrait on my desk, however, had a timelessness to it, and for the first time in years I felt a longing.

I missed E. We never dated. Only she had intimidated me with her presense so much that I respected her as an equal. I never felt jealousy towards the boyfriends of any of my female friends, no matter whether we'd ever gone out or not, but I felt envy towards anyone who might have seen E. And I regretted not having taken a chance at optimistically interpretting her smiles, laughs, and glances.

Oh how lovely with your homecoming queen

An online search yielded nothing. An old letter from a teacher mentioned her abandoning her studies in Alaska and returning home for school, but timestamps that old are like the expiration date on a gallon of milk. So I returned to the portrait of her I had drawn during the class picnic. June 5th. 199--. I don't miss people; I feel their loss when they leave, but I know that over time I will fill the gap they have left. But for the first time I missed someone whom I had not seen in years, and I felt a longing that pulled at my heart as if I were a mere puppet.

I closed my eyes, sighed, with a trembling hand replaced the drawing, and packed the portfolio away into a faded brown box. Nostalgia is a luxurious self-torture.

Soon I'll be in Oregon.

--28 May, 2001

Notes: May of 2001 saw me spending hour after hour, day after day, locked away in my small apartment, and to amuse myself I wrote a number of short texts, several of which are in this collection. After having learned of the classmates.com website I looked through my senior yearbook and reflected upon some of the people I knew then; this text grew out of that experience, and was one of several that I posted at kuro5hin.org. While this text is entirely fictional, a ``historical model'' exists.