I find myself back in the cycle of dreaming about her. It helps, of course, bring me back to her, that the air is cool and the sun bright, and that I feel my age and indifference again.
I’m remembering the day I was sitting on the Fine Arts Building at college, kicking my legs over the later-condemned fire escape, smoking, peeking through the winter pecan trees, watching nothing. I was playing with the afternoon sun through my hair, wondering if I’d have to walk home, considering spending the night on the fire escape or hiding in the temporary philosophy classrooms, trying to remember what day of the week it was.
Evie pulled up, angling her car—a gift horse—into a parallel parking space across the street from campus. It was a small town—though not a particularly unusual car, it was the only one around. I looked at my watch; she was late to class or very early. I didn’t actually know her schedule, but it was the wrong time of day to be arriving at campus for a class.
Evie burst out of the car door, hurling things across the roof: the olive messenger bag, loose music, a can of ginger ale, her vintage silver basket purse, keys. I couldn’t see her feet, but I knew they turned
out, nearly fifth position, as she gathered it—lit cigarette and all—into her two very small bony hands.
It was all external symbol with her. Weighed down, swallowed in her coat, her clothes, ankles loose above her shoes, she shrank beneath all those physical and metaphysical burdens. That hair, thick sticky embroidery silk, twisted, pinned, wrapped in a scarf; her hair waited for me come to home and brush it while she strapped her wrists back again into the braces.
And her face, her tiny heart face and tremulous chin. The only person I ever knew who scowled more deeply, more often and also in her sleep. Eyes down, tiny heart face tilted, she crossed the street, passed under me and into the building. My little Evie admitted to almost no inner life at all. Alone in a room, she could, in fact cease to exist.
Offering no unreflected self, she made herself the perfect girl to love. Intensely receptive to the cues of her companions, she would latch onto what was attractive about you, reflect it, amplify it, not only in her delicate flesh and shining face, but in you. Her reconstruction of you—and herself—in this image was blinding. It was youth, the first time for all things itself.
Adolescence is infatuation with the person your crush believes you to be. Evie’s belief built entire worlds.
But she’d squeeze it, so tight, in those tiny little hands, and you did not want to be the person to tell her to loosen her grip. For her, you had to be perfect, and for her, you were. For as long as either could take it. Until someone turned on the light. Until someone blinked.
Until use and age rejected them.
That day, after she’d gone inside, I slipped through the studios, down to the practice rooms where her things were: her name on the door, blocked out until well late in the day. Knocked and went in, but she wasn’t there. I was too tired, too angry, too lonely to hang around the practice room. I dug through her bag, arranging some things into a little church on the piano bench. I thought about, but did not, leave a note. Then, I walked home.
Sometime after midnight when I realized I was still alone in the house, I crawled under the piano and went to sleep. I don’t recall how many days passed before I saw another person.
My time with Evie telescopes.
It slows down; it speeds up.
It freezes into the photographs which I took, solidifies into something random of hers: a ribbon, a glove, a ticket stub. In those days, I hid her things in a large glass candy jar, mixed in with detritus of my own.
My time with Evie spins through my head in those largely static pictures. Moments I am later convinced never happened. Memories I find myself correcting over time.
That first winter, one night, she wanted to swing. An unsolicited preference, and the entire household threw itself into its indulgence. The lights in that house had only two operating modes: all on, or all off. We were, in every respect, lit up like Christmas.
She couldn’t find her gloves. Damien and I were standing in the living room: his long black overcoat opened over layers of gray sweaters, his pants caught in his half-laced combat boots. My coat hung off my shoulders, but my boots were laced tight.
Evie stood at the foot of the stairs, like a child ready for the first day of school. In someone else’s coat and someone else’s sweater, and my shirt. Her mickey mouse docs.
I hung back while Damien fixed her coat, found her gloves in a hatbox in the downstairs bathroom closet. Her hair was loose and she shoved at it, but didn’t fix it. She stood on the sides of her feet while I took another hat from the stand and handed her mine.
And we went to the park.