Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Outside of what used to be Mona's bedroom, but was now a guest room, was a large oak tree that she and I used to climb. We would get as close to the top as we could, then smoke cigarettes or the occasional joint, watch the squirrels, and hang out away from everyone.

Two years ago Mona decided it was time to chase after something she wasn't sure existed. With one suitcase, hundreds of goodbyes, and my heart, she left Tampa for New York. Over those last two years Mona turned up on occasion. A few days around Christmas, a week in the summer, three days after the birth of her nephew. She would never call me before hand, preferring to randomly appear. A bar where she knew I'd be at, a party I was likely to attend. Most of the time it was late at night or early in the morning when she knew I was asleep. She still had the key to my apartment I'd given her four years ago. Quietly she'd let herself in, walk on bare feet down the hall removing her clothes as she went. Her scent reached me just before she slid under the blankets, and the warmth that my life lacked with her absence returned.

When I got to the house, I was happy to see her brothers beat to shit F-150 in the driveway. He'd been driving it since Mona and I met. At the time we were still in high school and it was tough for Mona and I to find any privacy. I would sneak out of the house and come down to Mona's house, she would be outside waiting for me. We'd jump into the cab of the truck and have a quickie.

I walked around the side of house toward the back where the tree was. I had no idea what I was doing here. I knew Mona had been in town for a few days, but she hadn't called or come to see me. I was worried that she'd found someone, another guy that was something more than a hook-up or short lived fling. When I reached the tree, I scratched the rough bark until I could feel it splinter and lodge itself under my nails. I panicked and was about to make a run for it, when I heard a voice from above.

“Who's down there? Oliver, is that you?”

“Yes.” I whisper-shouted up into the branches.

“Come on up.”

I climbed up to where Mona was sitting. “What are you doing here?” She asked me.

“What are you doing up here?” I asked.

“I've been sitting in this tree since I was a kid. You didn't answer my questions.”

“I don't know. It's been a weird couple of days . . . and . . . I don't know. I should go.”

“Wait. Don't leave. I saw you at Ernesto's party.”

“Why didn't you say anything?”

“Honestly, I've been avoiding you since I got back into town.”


“I've been thinking about you. Not just in the way I usually do. I don't know, it's been weird.”

“Okay . . . How have you been thinking about me that's so different?”

“I've just been thinking about how much I love being around you, but how much I hate coming back here.”

“Oh.” I replied.

“Really? Oh? That's the best you've got.”

“Sorry. I'm just not sure what you're getting at.”

“Are you happy still being in Tampa?”

“Happy? I wouldn't say I'm happy, more like complacent.”

“You remember that time when we were sitting up here and that squirrel fell out of the tree?”

“Of course. There were like three or four of them running around in the upper branches and one jumped but the branch was strong enough to support his weight and down he went, landing with sickening thud. And you asked if we had gotten stoned, I just laughed at you.”

“Then you climbed down from the tree and headed toward the squirrel that I was sure was dead. But you were afraid to startle it, so you moved slow and easy. Then you got about a foot away, straightened up, and stared at the motionless little squirrel.”

“That's right. Then you asked me if it was dead. And I was like, 'No, it's twitching.'”

“Like a spasm?” I asked you.

“More like it's dreaming. Then the squirrel rolled, got on its feet and took off running, climbing back into the tree.”

“Yeah that was funny. I remember how we told everybody about it and no one else thought it was funny at all.”

“I want you to come to New York.”

“Like come visit you sometime.”

“Honestly . . . I want you to come live with me. I want us to be together. Like really together. No more of this separation with occasional hook-ups.”

I studied Mona's eyes to make sure she was being sincere. When the moment came, I tried to speak but nothing came out. She sensed my hesitancy and smiled. Those eyes, that smile, the deluge.

“I've been in love with you since we were sixteen and we spent that afternoon driving around in the rain listening to Blonde on Blonde. Your hair was short and dyed the color of merlot. You were wearing a green plaid button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up and you had six rings on your fingers. One of them is the one you still have on your right index finger.”
Mona and I came down from the tree, made love in the room that used to be hers, but was now a guest room. She told me all about New York, how exciting it was to live there, and despite the fact that she'd met tons of people and there were people form Tampa she'd known most of her life, she was still lonely.

Before she headed back to the city, she came by my apartment and packed up a box of my favorite books and all the old notebooks I'd been writing in since I was fifteen. Together we took them to the post office and mailed them to her apartment in Brooklyn.

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