Part of me hopes he reads this, and the rest of me knows it doesn't matter either way. It's 9 p.m., and I'm sitting on my little back porch as the sun goes down. The sky's turning an orange-purple the color of my favorite fireworks, that urban mingling of dwindling twilight and streetlight. It's the middle of June, and I'm still wearing a hooded sweatshirt waiting for the months-long heat wave to settle in. I'm in no rush. I brought a candle outside, and a cup of tea, and my iPod is singing soul through my window screen and into the flickering light. The porch — more like a gangway, painted a dusty teal and dotted with other people's planters and chairs — looks out over the alley. Everyone's porches around here do, so when it gets dark and people have their lights on, I can see inside. Most of the apartments are pretty bare, and there isn't much going on tonight. Someone lit a cigarette a few buildings over; he's the only person I've seen, inside or out.
Soul reminds me of the Knight — the horns and the beats and the caramel voices. It reminds me of everything about him. And everything sort of reminds me of him lately. Riding my bike home from work earlier this week, I passed him as he was parallel parking on the street near my alley. For half a second, we were closer than we have been in what feels like forever — he might have hit me if he hadn't turned to look — then I swerved around him, dipped into the alley and stared blankly at my back gate, dazed.
Soul is where it stops. Besides those accidental brushes, it's as close as I can get. He won't even speak to me, and that's not a bad thing, I guess. I don't really want to talk to him. Don't want to be with him. I just miss his music. In the morning, waiting for me to get ready for work, he played the same Neil Young riff over and over; it was calming. And he used to play "Little Martha" for me when I couldn't fall asleep — even when I was listless and distraught over us. He gave me a guitar and tried to teach me, pick up where he left off the night we met. (He warned me never to fall in love with a guitar player. I didn't listen.) The guitar's in my coat closet. There are ways of finding things out — from friends, from signs, from brief indulgent glimpses at Facebook. I could probably sneak into the Old Town School on Sunday, undetected, and watch from the balcony as he plays Astral Weeks. But that was charming only when we were starting out (a friend and I came to his Bob Dylan tribute show and laughed at his tight, striped-corduroy "tribute pants"). Now, it would be any number of things: creepy, pathetic, masochistic, soul-crushing?
Somehow, more than a year after we split up and I moved out, another wave of complete bewilderment has hit. What will another relationship look like? How can another relationship even come into being? Is this going to last forever? I know it won't.
Ghosts are souls with unfinished business. Is that what I am? And if so, what's my business? I can only hope that something will come along to banish the haunt and make way for the living when it's time to give up my ghost for good. If there's anything I've learned in the past year, it's that you can't force it. So I'll just sit here and let my speakers do the crying for me.
And cigarette guy's back, just an orange flicker in the dark.