Say You'll Remember Me
Say You’ll Remember Me
I can see the end as it begins
Of course it’s not going to be forever.
That’s what she tells herself, sitting on the steps outside her apartment, waiting for him. It’s not going to be forever.
It’s only been a few weeks, and for all intents and purposes the relationship is really No Big Deal (he hasn’t even tried to sleep with her)—and yet, she feels she needs it, needs the reminder that nothing lasts forever.
(He took her hand in his last weekend while walking her back to her door, and right before he left he turned it over and kissed her lingeringly on the palm, and she had to stand a moment alone in her hallway to catch her breath.)
Nothing lasts forever, and no doubt they’ve only got a few good months in them before he inevitably finds out about her or gets sick of skirting around her baggage or reveals a deep-seated problem with alcohol—
But for the moment, she decides, shaking back the sleeve of her sweater, checking her watch (6:28)—for the moment, she’s going to enjoy it.
She stares down the street, watching for him, wondering if in a year from now he’s going to remember her: if in a year he’ll catch sight of someone with green eyes or hair pulled back away from their face or even her habit of pursing her lips and creasing the corners of her eyebrows and swallow—if the sight of a pale face or a cardigan buttoned all the way up will make him stop what he’s doing and think how he should call her sometime.
(He won’t, of course, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that this lives for him in some way, that every so often he’ll hear about Virginia Woolf or smell lavender candles or hear a tea kettle screaming and it’ll jolt him back to her, back to how she wore her hair or maybe something she said)
She toys absently with a loose strand of hair—carefully cuffs both sleeves and straightens her sweater. Swallows.
(“You always look so serious,” he said once, coming out of a movie. “Like you’re writing an essay or something.”
She remembers trying to laugh—to tamp down the heat rising along her neck, touching her cheekbones.
“I-I guess I’m just kind of serious generally.”
He didn’t say anything for a moment; he just took her hand in his as they crossed the street and swung it slightly, obviously thinking.
“I like that,” he said at last, quietly. “Suits you.”
And then, grinning a little (her pulse stammering against the orange-y twilight):
“And it gives you a little romance, y’know? Kind of an allure, ‘f you know what I mean.”)
He walks back to his car, his pulse thundering in his ears.
(Nothing lasts forever, as anyone can tell him, but man when this one goes badly—and how can it not, when she’s so young and so lovely and so beyond him in every possible way—when this one goes badly, as he says, it’s going to take him down)
He fumbles in his pants pocket, looking for his car fob—absently clicks the unlock button once0—twice—three times. It’s not smart, of course, to get caught up in someone this way (she came running out to the car and his breath stuttered at the sherbet pink of her cheeks, the loose strand of her hair)—it’s not smart, but it’s where he’s at, and he may as well be honest.
It’s lucky for him that she’s the way that she is (uptight isn’t the word but it’s in that family) and hasn’t asked him to come upstairs or stay the night or whatever polite euphemism people use these days for extramarital sex—lucky because if she had, it’s a fucking toss-up whether he could have looked her in the face and said no, sorry, that wasn’t the way he liked to do things. It’s lucky for him that she doesn’t initiate things like kissing too often, because tonight she did—pulling him in just outside her door, her hand wandering up the back of his neck—and his ears are still ringing from it.
He sits there for a moment, keeping the door cracked, letting himself breathe.
Obviously it’s not gonna be a forever thing; there’s no point in fooling himself about that. He’s gonna try his damndest like he always does, but Isabelle is so serious and thoughtful and sharp, and there’s no way she’s not gonna catch on sooner or later, and that’s gonna be that.
His best hope, he thinks, is to give her something to remember him by—something to come back to.
His best hope is that in a year—two years—three—she’s going to smell strong coffee or see wildflowers growing in the cracks of the concrete and see him, just for a moment: taped-up glasses, lopsided smile, beat up windbreaker. She’ll see him, just for a second, and he won’t have done all of this (sitting in his car stammering through all the ways he could ask her out) in vain.
It seems a little egotistical, of course—a little trumped-up and dramatic—but it’s what he wants…or at least the next best thing.
(What he wants, of course, is to date her indefinitely, to drink coffee across from her into infinity, but he has to be reasonable).
Herb clears his throat. Takes a slow, deep breath and puts the key in the ignition.
So maybe it’s not going to be forever, but at the very least she might see that little Indian place off the service road and remember his hand on her back, the sun glinting off the edge of his glasses—
And that’s going to have to be enough.
Later that week, he comes over to watch The Conjuring (she feels rather than sees him wince when things start to get gruesome), and for a few minutes they just sit there in the dark, his shoulder brushing hers, not looking at each other.
(She is so close to him and he’s not sure what the hell the ghosts onscreen are doing, but he can track every inhale, every twitch of her shoulders, and he has to grab at his pantsleg to stop himself from compulsively touching her.)
“I-I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before,” she says, as onscreen the family look in horror at their dead dog. “Um…if you don’t like it, we can always turn it off…”
But Herb just shakes his head. Still doesn’t look at her.
“Um, no,” he says, and his voice sounds just the slightest bit tight. “This is uh…this’s fine.”
(Neither of them say anything, and he abruptly decides that life is too short to spend sitting on the sofa watching The Conjuring and not touching his girlfriend—puts his arm around her. Isabelle sighs a little; he can feel her turning to look up at him, leaning her temple against his neck. He swallows.
“Hey,” he says, and even to him his voice sounds a little shaky. Isabelle laughs.
He smells like he always does, like coffee and clean laundry, and he must have sensed somehow how badly she wanted him to put his arm around her, and she should be ashamed but she isn’t—not really.
(Don’t forget about me, he wants to tell her, making himself savor the silk of her skin under his fingertips, the rustle of her hair. Don’t forget about me)
“I like your shirt,” she murmurs, if only to say something that isn’t I like you a lot. Herb chuckles.
“Yeah,” she says, hoping he can’t feel her flush against the dark. “Looks nice.”
Herb just laughs again—turns slightly and buries his face in her hair for a moment.
“You flirting with me, Vanhouver?”
(Her hair smells like vanilla, and he worries it’s gonna haunt him for the rest of his life.
“Yeah,” she says, and it’s lucky she can’t see his face. “I guess I am.”)
“Yeah,” she says, if only because in a year when he’s not there she’s going to regret not giving him this—to regret not ceding something. “I guess I am.”
Herb doesn’t say anything for a moment; she can hear his pulse stutter. The hand on her back falters—just for a second—and she hopes suddenly he remembers this, remembers her twilit and giggling and looking up at him instead of at her shoes or her hands or whatever else she tends to focus on when things start to get too real.
(She’s staring up at him, eyes bright and laughing, and for a moment all he can do is look back at her, wishing there was something he could say to keep this moment forever like a snapshot—
But there’s not, and anyway it’s too early, and he just mumbles see, I knew it—leans in to kiss her mouth. Isabelle sighs again; her mouth parts, and he feels her hands on his neck, in his hair.
“Oh,” she says, the words blurred against his mouth—and this is getting too good now to leave, and he would give anything to know she’s going to think about him once this is over.)
He’s going to remember her, she tells herself, as he pulls away to kiss her lower lip, the corners of her mouth. He’s going to remember this after he leaves her—he has to.
(The TV is illuminating her nose, the tips of her lashes, and the sight of it makes his chest ache)
“You’re lovely,” he murmurs, his nose almost touching hers. Onscreen, there’s a scream and what sounds like a gash; she flushes. Swallows.
I like you so much, she wants to say, I really like you, please don’t do what I think you’re going to—
But there’s no point going into that now, and she just swallows again. Clears her throat.
(His hand is still on her back, and he keeps it there, trying to memorize the curve of her shoulderblades, the divots in her spine.)
“I um—I’m gonna make some more tea,” she says, keeping her voice neat and crisp—but he’s never going to come back to her now, and the thought is like a cramp in her stomach.
(Don’t forget about me, he wants to tell her, watching her get up and go into the kitchen and oh, man, it’s going to suck when all he has are the pictures in his phone. Don’t forget about me.)