For a couple of weeks, I try to keep moving: waitressing, word count, running in Central Park at least once a day. In part, it’s the rush of accomplishment and seeing my body shed the extra pounds, creating definition where there used to be none. But also, every time I slow down and sit on the couch, or lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, I’m miserable. The old standby habit of distracting myself online is impossible. I see photos of Calvin everywhere on Twitter and Facebook. On buses and at the subway station. Discarded Playbills litter the street.
He’s texted a few times—once because he forgot some sheet music here, and he picked it up when I wasn’t home. On four other occasions, he’s texted to check in, and each time I answered the question directly, no more:
How are you surviving this first week apart?
I sent you six months’ worth of rent. Did you get it?
Yes, I got your check, thank you.
I haven’t seen you at the theater in weeks. Where are you working?
I got a new job. I’m working at Friedman’s.
Will you have dinner with me on Monday?
I’m sorry, I can’t. I work Monday nights.
This last one was sent only four days ago, and it wasn’t a lie—I do work Mondays. But my new manager is nice, and likes that I work hard and don’t complain; I’m sure I could have asked to swap nights with someone. The thing is, there isn’t anything particularly romantic in Calvin’s messages; as ever, my problem is that I have no idea how to read him. I worry that if we start talking more, this new, improved version of Holland will fall apart, because I’ll want him back more than I’ll want her to stay.
I do give myself a few minutes every day to think about him; I’m not completely dead inside, and I don’t have that kind of self-control anyway: Sony Music rerecorded the soundtrack with Ramón and Calvin.
It is glorious.
When the afternoon lunch crowd is slow, I’ll ask the head chef, José, to put the soundtrack on in the kitchen. I’ll go to the dark corner with a glass of ice water and press it to my forehead while I listen to “Lost to Me.” The sound of Calvin’s guitar—the hopeful opening chords that surge into an anxious, feverish rhythm later in the song—seems to reverberate inside my skull.
I know how those notes sound when they’re coming from across the room, from across the bed. I know how they sound hummed contentedly into my ear with the warm curl of his body all along my back. I flush hot with the need to cry, and roll the cold glass along my forehead—back, and forth, and back, and forth—and try instead to think about my essay and my new job. Emotion takes over in a different way; loss is tinged with pride, and I can go back out and wait my tables and earn enough to pay my rent all on my own for the first time in my life.
At one in the afternoon on a Wednesday, I finish the essay.
The cursor blinks at me, both patient and expectant. But there are no more words for this particular story. I haven’t gone back and read it in its entirety, but when I do, I realize that it’s more than just about music—it’s about Calvin specifically, and my own journey after meeting him, and how pure, sublime talent transcends everything else, no matter where you find it. It’s about how the clatter of trains and sour smells of the station dissolved away when he played, and the way the audience similarly disappears now when he’s onstage. It’s about the pride in having discovered someone and done something to make sure his talent didn’t stay hidden forever.
It’s a love letter—there’s no hiding that—but the oddest thing is that I’m pretty sure it’s a love letter to myself.
Like firing a homemade rocket into the sky and hoping it reaches Jupiter, I send my essay off to the New Yorker. In fact, I laugh when I put a stamp on it because the idea that I could be published there is hilarious—but what do I have to lose? I’ve never been published anywhere close to this level of prestige. It’s easy to imagine an editor—a man so cerebral he cares nothing about appearances, has tea stains on papers all over his desk, and uses words like hiraeth, sonorous, and denouement in casual conversation—opening my submission and tossing it with a dismissive groan over his shoulder, where it lands in a pile of other delusionally ambitious essays. I say a quietly sarcastic “Go get ’em, tiger!” when I drop it in the mailbox.
But then, three weeks later, I think I stop breathing for a full ten minutes when I receive a letter saying that it’s been accepted.
I walk around my apartment, holding the editorial letter, rereading it out loud. I want to call Jeff and Robert, of course, but I have to push past the Calvin cobwebs in my thoughts to get there. This article is about us, and not only do I need to get his permission to publish it, I want him to read it, simply because I want him to see.
To see me.
But strangely, I think he always has. And calling him after five weeks of silence is easier said than done.
I go for a quick run to work through my excited/nervous energy.
I call Davis, who makes me deaf in my left ear with his enthusiasm.
I take a shower, and make a sandwich, and do some laundry.
Step up, Hollsy, Jeff says in my head.
When I look at the clock, it’s only three. I haven’t wasted the entire day, and I can’t procrastinate any longer: Calvin should be free.
The phone rings once, twice, and he picks up halfway through the third.