When he met her and they liked each other a great deal, he heard things better, and in his eyes the lines of the physical world were sharper than before. He was smarter, he was more aware, and he thought of new things to do with his days. He considered activities which before had been vaguely…
In every bar there’s someone sitting alone and absolutely absorbed by whatever he’s seeing in the glass in front of him, a glass that looks ordinary, with something clear or dark inside it, something partially drunk but never completely gone. Everything’s there: all the plans that came to nothing, the stupid love affairs, and the terrifying ones, the ones where actual happiness opened like a hole beneath his feet and he fell in, then lay helpless while the dirt rained down a little at a time to bury him. And his friends are there, cracking open six-packs, raising the bottles, the click of their meeting like the sound of a pool cue nicking a ball, the wrong ball, that now edges, black and shining, toward the waiting pocket. But it stops short, and at the bar the lone drinker signals for another. Now the relatives are floating up with their failures, with cancer, with plateloads of guilt and a little laughter, too, and even beauty—some afternoon from childhood, a lake, a ball game, a book of stories, a few flurries of snow that thicken and gradually cover the earth until the whole world’s gone white and quiet, until there’s hardly a world at all, no traffic, no money or butchery or sex, just a blessed peace that seems final but isn’t. And finally the glass that contains and spills this stuff continually while the drinker hunches before it, while the bartender gathers up empties, gives back the drinker’s own face. Who knows what it looks like; who cares whether or not it was young once, or ever lovely, who gives a shit about some drunk rising to stagger toward the bathroom, some man or woman or even lost angel who recklessly threw it all over—heaven, the ether, the celestial works—and said, Fuck it, I want to be human? Who believes in angels, anyway? Who has time for anything but their own pleasures and sorrows, for the few good people they’ve managed to gather around them against the uncertainty, against afternoons of sitting alone in some bar with a name like the Embers or the Ninth Inning or the Wishing Well? Forget that loser. Just tell me who’s buying, who’s paying; Christ but I’m thirsty, and I want to tell you something, come close I want to whisper it, to pour the words burning into you, the same words for each one of you, listen, it’s simple, I’m saying it now, while I’m still sober, while I’m not about to weep bitterly into my own glass, while you’re still here—don’t go yet, stay, stay, give me your shoulder to lean against, steady me, don’t let me drop, I’m so in love with you I can’t stand up.
If I were a cinnamon peeler I would ride your bed and leave the yellow bark dust on your pillow.
Your breasts and shoulders would reek you could never walk through markets without the profession of my fingers floating over you. The blind would stumble certain of whom they approached though you might bathe under rain gutters, monsoon.
Here on the upper thigh at this smooth pasture neighbor to your hair or the crease that cuts your back. This ankle. You will be known among strangers as the cinnamon peeler’s wife.
I could hardly glance at you before marriage never touch you — your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers. I buried my hands in saffron, disguised them over smoking tar, helped the honey gatherers…
When we swam once I touched you in water and our bodies remained free, you could hold me and be blind of smell. You climbed the bank and said
this is how you touch other women the grasscutter’s wife, the lime burner’s daughter. And you searched your arms for the missing perfume. and knew what good is it to be the lime burner’s daughter left with no trace as if not spoken to in an act of love as if wounded without the pleasure of scar.
You touched your belly to my hands in the dry air and said I am the cinnamon peeler’s wife. Smell me.
…Your name like a song I sing to myself, your name like a box where I keep my love, your name like a nest in the tree of love, your name like a boat in the sea of love — O now we’re in the sea of love!…
Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read to the end just to find out who killed the cook. Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark, in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication. Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot, the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones that crimped your toes, don’t regret those. Not the nights you called god names and cursed your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch, chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness. You were meant to inhale those smoky nights over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches. You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still you end up here. Regret none of it, not one of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing, when the lights from the carnival rides were the only stars you believed in, loving them for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved. You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake, ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.
“We laughed and laughed, together and separately, out loud and silently, we were determined to ignore whatever needed to be ignored, to build a new world from nothing if nothing in our world could be salvaged, it was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about my life at all.”
— extremely loud and incredibly close, jonathan safran foer