When he told me he didn’t want to sleep with me anymore, the trees seemed to split open. We were lying on our backs in the park, forearms touching, looking up at the leaves. That morning, I’d woken in his bed and lay still while he set the snooze and held me for exactly thirty minutes before leaping from the sheets as though I’d never been in them.
“You mean, ever again?” I asked.
“I mean,” he paused, narrowing his eyes as though he were reading from a far-off teleprompter, “I don’t want to continue the physical part of this relationship.”
Somewhere on the outskirts of the park, an ice cream truck passed, its tone becoming lower and lower as it faded into the distance. There was something I needed to tell him, but it was as though I were holding a glass egg in my mouth. If I bit, it would shatter. We turned onto our stomachs and he pointed at a small hole in the ground.
“What do you think lives in there?” he asked. “Ghosts?”
I could feel my heartbeat amplified in the earth. I kept holding that glass egg in my mouth, tempted to bite, but there he was, smiling right at me.
“Worm-ghosts,” I told him. Together we stared at the pinprick of darkness.
We walked to the reservoir at the other end of the park. Usually, the reservoir provides most of the drinking water for the neighborhood, but earlier that week someone had been caught peeing in it so the city had drained it, leaving an empty cement pit. I’d brought a book with me, Moominvalley in November, a book that he’d told me about weeks ago while we lay on a blanket in his backyard, drinking wine. It was his favorite, he’d said. Though I don’t normally like reading children’s books, I bought it right away, hoping to discover what he saw in it. He asked me to read to him. I sat cross-legged and he rested his head in my lap. I began:
Early one morning in Moominvalley, Snufkin woke up in his tent with the feeling
………………………that autumn had come and that it was time to break camp.
He shifted his head a bit. I read slowly, not wanting our time together to end. He laughed at all the parts I didn’t quite understand. The story continued:
It’s nice to gather together everything you possess as close to you as possible, to store up your warmth
………………and your thoughts and burrow yourself into a deep hole inside, a core of safety
………………where you can defend what is important and precious and your very own.
Without warning, he sat upright and said he should go, that he was feeling hungry. I waited a bit to see what he might suggest—maybe we’d get tacos or try the new pizza place down the street.
“I’m think I’m gonna go home and eat a peanut butter sandwich,” he told me, then paused. “Alone.”
I watched him bike away. The sun was so low in the sky that it seemed to swallow him whole. I finished the chapter aloud as though he could still hear it:
………………..Snufkin walked faster and faster staring into the forest. Then
………………..the door of the last house opened a chink and a very old voice cried:
………………..‘Where are you off to?’
……………….‘I don’t know,’ Snufkin replied.
………………..The door shut again and Snufkin entered his forest, with a
………………..hundred miles of silence ahead of him.