In September Salma is convinced that people get the illness they desire. “It’s ok if you want to do the emotional labor, if you can only be yourself by losing yourself,” she says. Irigaray wrote somewhere that self-sacrificial and male-devoted culture is passed down from mother to daughter. “But you’re not your mother,” Salma says. Sometimes, I’m not sure. It depends on the season.
Alec says that in Spanish “te quiero” stands somewhere between “I like you” and “I love you.” It doesn’t really translate into English. What about “I’m really into you?” “Not really” he says. “And ‘te amo’?” “‘Te amo’ means ‘I love you’ mi bella.” In September Alec tells me that he loves me. He says, “I love you mi bella.” I reply with something untranslatable like “me too.”
“I’m coming to you,” I text. Gaby watches me dart out the front door. “Querida...” she says. On my bike, I drive straight into variously sized potholes and cavities, trying my best to dodge glass shards from a car accident. “Cuidado!” shouts a boy standing by the traffic light connecting Jefferson to Broadway. I bike past Rite Aid and Golden Krust. A man in a white suit is having a conversation with himself. He seems disappointed. In a neon-lit restaurant, a couple exchanges burger bites. Next to them, there’s an empty stroller.
“I’m here, come down,” I text Alec. My phone says that my message has been delivered. I trust it. I sit on the brick colored stoop and begin to wait. Before I jumped on my bike, Alec said that he was home and that he wasn’t coming to me this evening. “I’m coming to you,” I texted back. “I need to see you before you leave.” He hasn’t answered since. A young man in a jogging suit walks out of Alec’s building. I’m tempted to sneak in, walk up to the fourth floor, and knock on his door, but the idea of not having a last resort in case he doesn’t open terrifies me.
I ask the young man if he has a cigarette. “I don’t smoke.” I offer a dollar. “Get the fuck out of here,” he snaps. Twenty minutes later, I text Alec “I’m leaving” but linger for another twenty. Back home, I stare at my screen for an indeterminate amount of time. In the morning, at 11am, I receive a text from Alec saying that he just saw my message. He ran out of batteries on the subway and went to the cemetery for a walk. “But you said you were at home,” I text back. “How could your phone have died in the subway if you were at home?”
Gaby says that perhaps, as he was coming out of the subway, he went home to pick up something, maybe his headphones, texted me, and only then ran out of power. “It’s possible,” she says.
By the end of the day, we both agree that when Alec texted “I’m home,” he was lying. He might have been on the subway with a fully charged phone. Or in a bar, with a fully charged phone. Most certainly, he wasn’t at the cemetery—that sounds like an excuse someone would make up in a story. If his battery ran out, it most likely happened toward the end of the evening, when he was already piss drunk, or lost, or god knows what or where. We’re almost certain, however, that he received the message that said that I was coming to him and decided to ignore it.
Alec says that it bothers him to think of me sitting outside, lingering on his stoop. Had he known, he would never have left me waiting. He sounds honest, almost genuine. I know he is lying but I believe him. I begin contemplating the fact that Alec can both be bothered by the thought of me waiting outside and also let me wait, but how can I express this in a single sentence and sound sane?