I’ve built a fortress of pillows, to hide behind it from the sun. The summer solstice is right around the corner, the nights too bright for sleeping.
His hair is short and dark, his nose perfectly straight. What is it called, a Roman nose? I think of all the busts of ancient Romans I’ve seen, big-nosed senators and generals, no, it can’t be right. I think that’s what the Romans used to call a Greek nose, he says. Yeah, that’s it. What, you’ve got a bump here? Yeah, like a normal person. We trace each other’s noses with our fingers, and laugh at them.
The windows are open, the blinds are flapping, the sunlight flashes through the room.
The sounds of his native language surface at times through his English, long, lazy, Portuguese vocals, an occasional nasalisation. I catch myself tuning him out, analysing his phonemes.
I dream of my supervisor, that she’s persuaded me to go back to research, linguistics, perhaps phonetics. I go around the well known corridors of my old institute, they’re darker than I remember, stacks of papers in my hands, the top one handwritten, I don’t recognise the hand. I keep losing the sheets on the ground, I’m trying to gather them, I’m dropping them as I do. In the dream, I feel clumsy, I feel inadequate, I feel like I did in the last months before I quit my PhD, that was with another supervisor, I never dream of him.
I wake up, I regret wasting this rare meeting with her on such a stupid dream. She died two years ago, I miss her.
I meet friends I used to love, who haven’t had the time. I spend hours with them, the weather is shifty, clouds are fluffy and white, and then dark and heavy, and then there are no clouds at all, the sun is blinding, they feel like strangers. I go back home, I pull down the blinds, I play Paper Mario.
I listen to old love songs — Et si tu n’existais pas, dis-moi pourquoi j’existerais? — I don’t speak French, but I understand it at this level, one cannot not understand, it’s a love song, after all — Pour traîner dans un monde sans toi, sans espoir et sans regrets…
I re-read the saddest books I know of, Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go”, to break my heart even more, and then “Klara and the Sun”, to ensure that the process of the heartbreak is thoroughly and completely done. After Klara and the Sun, not much heart left to break.
I go to sleep, alone, snuggled behind the pillow fortress.
I dream of the Adriatic Sea. I wake up, lying on the back, I turn my head, the tears run down my face, they had gathered into two small pools around my eyes while I was sleeping. I don’t remember the dream being sad, just the impossibly blue colour of the sea, the sun rays through pine needles, the smell of the red soil.
I walk to the lake, I squint at the sun, the sun glares back.