seeing elizabeth

The following piece was published on Tumblr on July 12, 2016.

the first time i saw her was at the top of the escalators outside kinokuniya, i was ten minutes late and overdressed. i had come from work, from a meeting i had no interest in, and she was floating in a soft sea of recently acquired grey clothing, flashes of colour creeping at her sleeves. she asked if she looked enough like a cancer-patient to gain sympathy worthy of an upgrade on her upcoming international flight, before laughing and hugging me both with equal warmth.

the third time i saw her was bonding over medical histories, emails quickly and lengthily and excitedly exchanged; we prodded at ourselves, exploring how foreign and intimate a body could simultaneously feel. i had barely seen her face, barely knew what colours inhabited her, and we said is this friendship and we said yes it is.

the twelfth time that we saw each other, or was it the first, i said i’m not sure if i’m in love and she said it’s okay, you don’t have to be. i said what if i just love differently and she said goodness, who doesn’t.

one time that i saw her i told her a secret and her face lit up and she said i’m so proud of you.

the seventh and ninth time i saw her we sat in a skinny cafe drinking latte. i remembered to take selfies, still blu-tacked to my wall. we argued about poetry and talked about travel and spoke for too long, accidentally spent two hours and all our coins. the second time we’d met, sitting in those dark metal chairs, laughing about our worst airport experiences, i asked to stroke her hair, to hold some of its colour for just a moment.

the twenty-eighth time i saw her was in a city neither of us lived in, in a cafe chosen at random. i’d just bought a poetry collection and cried into it, and we shared stories of looking for leases, her in melbourne, me in sydney. the cafe was so empty but we managed to fill it up with something, who knows what. maybe it was hope. i caught a tram back to the city and cried.

the eighteenth time i saw her i had just poured out my feelings and fears onto a page, just a giant cluster of hesitation for the future; and she held each dot point and doubt in her hands until they could find some kind of warmth.

the fifth time i saw her was last week, near the shore of a lake. a crowd of friends and family ate thai food on the floor and spoke of five million things, then all quietly nodded along to a conversation about accepting death. we found peace in the silent moments between conversations, between thoughts. she asked to touch my knee and i sat suspended and askew, offering up a distorted limb to her fingertips.

the twenty ninth, sixth, forty first, seventeenth time, i saw her through poems i sent probably way too late at night. my favourite response to any of them was still “Oh oh oh,” and there was more, but that’s only for me.

the second time that i saw her, i remember saying i love you, and is that okay, and can friends even say that.

the hundredth time, or thousandth time, we emailed deep into the night with ideas. a collaboration, a something, some words strung together. you posited words like formlessness, penetration, reconstruction, binding, dislocation. i spat back density, pressing, devoid, rape, greying, transitional. we tossed ‘the body as a foreign object’ back and forth between tongues until it sounded perfect, the void between us cut apart by two blue screens bridging that distance; i’ve still half that book somewhere.

the tenth time i saw her, first time i saw her, this one time i saw her atop some escalators, smiling, excited, queuing for ramen; her all in grey, me in floral colours but never even half as alive.

the last time i saw her i said i love you, and she said i love you, but who’s counting.

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