Even when it was still open my feet sometimes left tracks in the dust between the shelves of that little used bookstore downtown. It’s gone now, don’t bother looking for it, but before it closed I found what follows written on a piece of notebook paper. It fell from the pages of a heavy book I as looking at, I don’t remember the title, something about gardening or cooking, and at first I took it for a page come loose from the binding. I opened the book to put it back, looked at the top of the piece of paper for a page number and instead saw blue lines and handwriting.
Do your collarbones still taste like the stars?
Has anyone ever told you that? Because it’s true and has been for all the empty years in between here and there. I wonder if you even still live in that big house at the end of Sparrow Lane, its white sides and lattice guarded by a line of oak trees. Those hours spent slicked with sweat and ignoring mosquitoes in your room, summer hours between noon and three in the afternoon. Your mother left for tea at noon, your father got home from the office at three and you tied that red scarf to the rail of the balcony outside your room to let me know the coast was clear.
I still have the scar on my knee from when I spilled racing to you on a backway street. You gathered me inside and cleaned it with something from the medicine cabinet and I tried not to wince. We fell upon each other afterward, my still-bleeding knee staining your bedspread, clumsy and eager and younger than I can imagine looking back now.
I hid my bike in the bushes behind your house and you balanced a heavy book on the edge of a table by the door with a teacup on top of it.
An early warning system. We thought we were very clever.
Today when I visited my knuckles fell shy of the door. I am not a boy any longer like I was the day when the door opened and the book fell and the cup shattered on the kitchen floor. You flew into your clothes, I flew out to the balcony and over the side, landing rough and tumbled toward my Schwinn.
I never saw your red scarf again that summer or any after.
Are those sheets still stained with my blood?
At a bookstore in town I bought a heavy book, tucked this note between its pages and left it on the porch of your house. Susie did you find it? Did you read it? Will I ever see you again?
I could find my old bike, you could find that red scarf and we could do our damndest to charm away the afternoons and make three hours seem like a blink.
I slipped the note back between the pages and put the book back on the shelf. Maybe Susie found it.