CROSS-COUNTRY by Carl R Brush–ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN KISS MACHINE–THE GOOD-BYE ISSUE
Forget about me, Nate. I’ve been telling you that all the way from British Columbia to Quebec. I told you the day you chased me around the Vancouver Island Ferry so long I almost jumped into the Pacific to get away. I said it again in Banff the night you damn near broke your ass slipping and sliding down the icy hill yelling for me to come back. And again, just before you left me stranded outside the Cornerstone Bar in Moose Jaw. And I said it last night when our intimate French dinner in Montreal turned into a stinking row. Now I’m putting it in writing and taping it to the mirror where you’re sure to find it. Forget about me. Us. Period.
And forget about chasing me. I could be on a train to Vancouver or a bus to Winnipeg or hitchhiking to Stratford, Ontario. You’ll never know and don’t deserve to, so just forget about it. Oh, and you can forget about pleading with me to explain, to help you understand—that’s only a tactic to get me to say something you can use for a word-knife—Boo-hoo. Baby has needs? Need a lullaby with her bottle?—Remember that? Well, forget it.
Here’s a short list of other things you can forget about:
The thrill (that’s what you called it, Nate) of watching my long blonde hair tumble out from under my ski hat.
Your right hand on my left breast as we cuddle in bed on cold nights. In fact, both your hands can forget about both my breasts altogether.
The coffee I bring you in the morning and the nightcaps in the evening.
The heart-shaped notes and cards I leave in your pockets.
And you will have to forget your more exquisite daily provocations, like the constant references to my failed auditions (never the parts I got, let alone my performances) and the size-four skirt you bought (wrapped and ribboned) to “help me with my diet goals.”
And most important of all, forget the rhythm of our so-called love life—the over and again sturm und drang of separation, rift, and “heart-gashing loneliness”—you actually wrote that one. Forget also your stalking and pleading and pledging until I relent and we unite for another go-round. We’re not playing that any more.
And while you’re forgetting all that, I’ll do some forgetting, too. I’ll forget how to give in to your whining. I’ll forget how to sacrifice my own happiness on the altar of your emotional panhandling—Carol, I’m so sorry. Carol, I didn’t mean it. Carol, I won’t ever again.
God, now that I see it laid out on paper I wonder how you ever lured me into this trip in the first place. But never mind. Now that you’ve finished reading this, Nate, tear it up. All of it. The letter, the us that was. Forget about it all.
Forget, Carol? If you could see me now, standing on the frozen bank of the frozen St. Lawrence, you’d be mad enough to boil the ice off the river because I’m not destroying your letter, am I? No, I’m folding it. Carefully. And tucking it into my wallet. Right behind my driver’s license. Another memento of these theatrics for which I love you so dearly.
And if you could see me now, I’m sure you’d wonder what was going through my mind as I walk up the hill away from the river, but I wouldn’t tell you. I’d let you follow and figure it out for yourself, if you can.
Perhaps you’re thinking I’m depressed and heartbroken, perhaps contemplating a drinking binge or even suicide. Clichés from our past, my Carol. Your love for drama catching you up again.
I enter the train terminal. You’re in suspense. Will I take the bait? Will I try to follow you to one of those places whose names your letter dropped like come-hither endearments from your succulent lips?
Perhaps you’d act surprised when you saw that my ticket takes me east instead of west, but your astonishment would be all show. Like the skilled performer you are, you might, for a moment, convince even yourself that my purchase is the act of a confused mind, affirmation that you were right to abandon me. Us.
But I don’t have to search to find you, Carol, because eventually—no, soon, I think—we’ll meet. Seemingly by accident, at the very destination we had in mind when we started this journey. Give it any label you want—serendipity, unintelligent design, destiny. We’ll spot each other on the street, or perhaps in a coffee shop. Or maybe you’ll look down from the stage and see me in the audience. However it happens, I’ll join you, or you me, in St. John’s, our love’s Newfoundland. We’ll find ourselves, in your romantic words—surely you remember them, Carol—as close to the rising sun as we can get and still be on home soil.
So now, Carol, you watch me head toward track three where my coach awaits. You’ll vow never to follow. As you must. Then, as you also must, you’ll begin your own unwilling, unwitting voyage toward our new dawn.