“And every whisper, every sigh/Eats at this heart of mine” sings Florence Welch in “Sweet Nothing.” The song is about failed love, the most recurrent and best thing that popular music can go on about. And the words of lost lovers hurt. They hurt so much. But, goddamnit, the whispering that goes on in your own mind eats at your heart just the same.
I watch. This girl across the way looks like my ex girlfriend, but I see women that look just like my ex girlfriend dozens of times a day. She is sitting next to a guy with a beard, which is the kind of guy my ex girlfriend would be sitting next to. This fluffy-haired goofball is smoking a pipe. A pipe! It seems like all the white people of a certain stripe know each other. They bring up a sport that can only be played at college and all of a sudden they have people in common. The guy sitting next to me is fingering the book he is reading. I swear he is making love to the pages of that book with his hands. But that’s only because he doesn’t really want to read. He wants people to notice he is reading. He wants people to ask him what he is reading. He wants to talk about reading much more than he wants to read. He wants any reason to stop pretending he is reading. Everyone is using adverbs all wrong. A hair band on the wrist is the most attractive jewelry any woman could ever wear. There are Eastern European peasants here, except they’re probably not Eastern European peasants. Now people are presenting their tribal bona fides. Over there people talk about politics in groups in which they know everyone will agree. Actually, people mostly say things they expect others to agree with. Some men talk about bicycles. Other people talk about collectives. Other people talk about websites. Others talk about “the energy” of this or that. I look at people’s shoes. I feel all alone. I turn everything I see into a narrative. Last night my mom told me a story. She lies about everything. Once she told people that I was a diplomatic attaché in Ecuador. At the time, I worked in a grocery store lifting 40 lb. boxes all day, every day. She once told my cousin that I was going to have a kid. That was like six years before my daughter was born. She told me how when she told her sister that I had gotten a Ph.D. from Stanford she heard her say, “She dreams that her son had a Ph.D.” She was indignant, but I understood why her sister was a little unbelieving. But last night she told me that her mother and her grandmother are buried together and that she often goes to their graves and tells them that she loves them even if they gave her away when she was three days old (which really is true). Tears fell out of her eyes. As I heard the story, I imagined how I would tell it.