T.S. Eliot – The Waste Land
It was a Wednesday, a week after your birthday, I waited from eight-fifteen till two. People pushed and passed, empty suits marching on with their empty lives as you remained absent from mine.
I walked around because my feet were cold, bought a latte and a light sandwich from the café on King William Street where we used to smoke and read Keats as shadows danced over our pages. I sent you another text or two, where are you? I love you, told you to wait if you got there first, but you never replied. I never got through.
The winter sun strained like golden splinters through the wire mesh sky, slush kicked up like white noise at my feet stained the pavements brown and wet. The 344 to Appold Street, remember the old lady who sat at the back over our shoulders? Her face stained by memories painted thickly, a black cardigan frayed at her wrists and her elbows, how she rocked and swayed, I didn’t mean to drown him she said, I really didn’t.
In our apartment that summer, it was new but not, like somebody else was there, a young man whose name was Richard who had gotten lost. The bathroom was big with dark carpets and an old cupboard in the corner that was locked and in the night we sang Hey Jude to get to sleep. In my room, third-storey, the crystal ashtray balancing at our side, the corridors were thin and narrow and we heard footsteps in the night.
And in the hospital, St. Thomas’s, How old are you? I said, twenty-five she said, it’ll be alright I said but you were already sleeping. We never stop learning she said and frowned at the charts they wouldn’t share. When you woke I fed you with a plastic fork that caught on pieces of dried skin on your lips that had been stained red from soup.
Does your family go back a long way? he asked. I don’t know maybe, I said, It has been said that the ancient kings shared our name in their native tongues. Do you think it’s true? he said. I’m not sure, I held my hands in front of me, my left much higher than my right, Over here are the old kings, and over here this is us, generations have diluted and separated us, there’s nothing much left anymore.
I walked the tunnels of the city and thought I passed you in the night, in the artificiality of life cast in a green and yellow glow, the cars stopped for us, I tried to hold you but the morning came and flooded the tunnel with cloths of light. I went back to work in my dreams, it’s easier to work and pay the bills in dreams than in a life that excludes you.
I rested my arms against the bridge, fingers pointing towards the river, I looked out over St. Magnus House where you used to work, picturing the blue, cloth-bound seat that held you, your stockinged legs, the simple black skirt you used to wear, a smile reflecting back as you typed our love letters, electronic memos sent over your extended lunch, I love you, I know, I love you too, as your scraped painted nails tip-tapped along the keys.
I thought I saw your face among the grey rushes, the face that buried itself to my shoulder that day. Flower, light, yellow in your hair, we’d picked up in the meadow, the light danced from petal to petal, a glow reflected in your ear, a honeyed sort of look that reflected our life the year before we drove across Europe, the year before everything turned unreal, I wanted you near, so we would share the pain and dilute it with love.
I will come back and wait for you again and again on London Bridge until the dead usher you back to me, pull me from this unreal sea and we meet somewhere across the silent waters. But like clockwork, sadness will arrive soon by the hour and wake me from this dream.