Last night, after she had handed me a neon cherry lollipop at the bus station; after I had sucked and cracked the candy into shards of a fiercely sweet memory; after I had purchased the cheapest cookies I could find; after I had flipped through magazines, ignorant of content, the nonchalant, unnaturally bright images and words like so much newspaper wrapped around housewares in a cardboard box; after I had pushed homeward, elbowed and ignored and always a stranger; after I had returned, prickly and combative, to an apartment overlooking a noisy hectic intersection in a country that, after three years, was still excitingly new and exhaustively foreign; after I had stared into the canal below my bedroom window, while seabirds screeched as they rose and dove and squabbled over stale breadcrumbs; after I had wolfed down half that pack of chocolate chip cookies; after I had belatedly realized that a chocolate chip cookie was a sign for home, for America, for the things that signified safety for a latch-key suburban kid, however mass-produced, fat-saturated, and artificially flavored these things were; after I had rinsed my gummy teeth with indifferently brewed coffee; after I had dutifully swallowed bite after bite of reheated potato mash; after I had filled and packed in the void, where once a dearest heart had drummed against my own fresh fist-sized bloom; after all of this had to happen, I sat down and turned on my laptop.
As its electronic life warmed my lap, I knew that I could not express a thought without a great expenditure of energy. Semicolons, those beloved signs of life digressing in reckless earnestness, would not come alive that night. My emotions were consigned to a strict budget.
For if I had expended any energy at that moment, I would have melted. All that was me would evacuate its borrowed body, gushing from the eyes first, then out of every pore; soon no evidence of my grief would have remained but bones, and hair, and nails. And those, too, would have melted.
That was the unavoidable outcome of examining that kind of love: love—startlingly specific, fine-boned, always brave, with one long white hair among so many dark ones--embraced in a queue among strangers; love boarding a southbound bus, with one last somber, dark-eyed glance over her shoulder; love on a plane high above an ocean, heading toward dawn on another continent.