I try to remember not to let people into my special places.
And by people, I mean those ill-fated to stay.
Soon those secret hiding spots, intimate sanctuaries, and usual adventure places are filled with the memories of them, long after they leave. You see the ghost of their body where they put their coffee, talked with a sales associate, put their arm around you, snapped a photo, or had an argument. Something that once belonged to you and an ambiguous public has now been shared by a figure who left marks you couldn’t see at first.
Your relationship corrupts. The inevitable happens, and soon they are either a fuzzy stamp in your memory or a grinding itch every time the wind brings the echo of their voice. You try to white-out their presence from the period they inhabited but the story does not make sense.
And those places are tainted with the stain of their presence until it fades from memory. Your drink becomes more bitter, the trees don’t look as green as they used to.
I remember looking back at Huntington Library, realizing after a dismal experience, I would never be able to see it in the same way again. Alone, those shadows haunt you. You can try to find replacements to fill in the gaps, but they only smudge their vestiges instead of erase them. You can never replace people with people.
Today I hold the cup of coffee in my hands, and am startled, by how a place I had gone for nearly a year suddenly started to look different. It was as if a stranger had entered and took away parts of it from me. Where he stood. What he took. The people he laughed with, they once were only yours.
A visceral reaction plagues my head and I feel sick, and suddenly aware of my vulnerable solitude. I am lost within a circle of people, as their worlds go on, but mine trips as it stops to ponder. Embarrassed, I decide to make a getaway.
I sip the coffee, but do not finish it, and leave the book back on the shelf where it remains, gleaming and mocking in the late afternoon light, in my memories.