Matthew Wallenstein: Departure

Illustration by Matthew Wallenstein

By Matthew Wallenstein
Pittsburgh Current Columnist

This was a while before Corona took over, when life was staid in different ways. She let me pick her up from work like I used to. It was raining. My car was still dirty like it had always been and it still embarrassed me and I still didn’t clean it.

We started in, just saying a few easy things. Our words shuffling along. I was thinking of our feet on rocks between railroad ties when we used to break bottles on the tracks. I had things I wanted to ask and she had things she wanted to ask but neither of us did anything about it but sit there.

I pulled the car over, maybe a half mile from her house. It kept on raining. I had all these ideas in my head of what was supposed to happen. The rain going on harder.

“Remember New Years when we were going to walk down to the water and have sex under the railroad bridge at midnight, but you fell asleep at 11?” I said.

“You probably fell asleep.”

“No, you did. I just let you sleep, I didn’t want to wake you up. And there was that guy outside yelling at his wife over the megaphone. It woke you up and we just lay there listening to them and laughing. He was on that megaphone and just kept criticizing her and she must have been right there next to him because we could hear her just as easily when she said You sound like an asshole. And he said I don’t care if I sound like an asshole. And he just kept on going telling her why he was mad at her, saying good, I hope they do hear me, everyone should know you’re lousy. Fireworks going off, and him on the porch talking into that megaphone like he was at a protest. Barking right in her face.”

Our words, each word, like tiny bugs chewing on dust. She looked at my hand every time I moved it, every time I adjusted something or reached for my water. I wanted to be reaching for her hand. I drove her home. I gave her my hat because it was still raining. She left it on the seat.

I wanted to do better, I wanted to tell her all of the things that brought me there, but that would have been unfair too. She told me once that I just wait a couple years and write things down and act like I’m sorry, which I understood. But I was sorry.

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