They made lists of the things they did not want to forget about one another. She wrote hers in blue marker; she preferred the thick, effortless lines and the smell that lingered on the paper long after the ink dried. He wrote his in pencil, always cherishing the option to erase, alter, begin again. They sat across from each other at the kitchen table whose wood had splintered each of them countless times since they’d moved in one year before. The lease was up in a week. They needed to hurry.
He did not want her to watch him as he wrote. He crouched over his paper, using his left arm as a barricade, like he did in middle school to keep others from cheating. (Sometimes he would adjust his arm so the cute girl next to him could see. She was no longer the cute girl that he would let cheat.) She didn’t mind if he saw what she wrote; in fact, she felt the comfort of his watching her. She jotted down, “The way it felt when I could feel you watching me.” Her handwriting was too small, too loopy for a marker to be sensible, and the ink spread out to meet the other sides of A’s and O’s. The dots on the I’s reached down (or was it the stems that reached up?); they met in the middle, turning into a capital I, resisting her belittlement.
She addressed her list items to him (e.g. “The way you feel when I’m laying behind you.”). He wrote his as though it were a report, a detached evaluation of some employee (e.g. “She strongly supported my art and offered thoughtful criticisms and praise for my paintings.”).
The original agreement was to make copies, seal them in envelopes and swap. He had decided not to read her list, and took part in the process as a necessary purging of his own softened thoughts toward her, one last session of dwelling before he could move on. He didn’t expect that he’d paint her figure in the backgrounds of his paintings for years to come.
She relished the anticipation of reading his list, of having something concrete to reference when the days that followed would drag out or unrelated circumstances deflated her. She did not expect that she’d fall asleep with this paper in her hands, use it as a bookmark when traveling, that it would influence the parts of her she displayed more prominently to the world.
They sat at the table for an hour and a half, chewing their respective lips. When they were through, satisfied with the lists they’d made, the nuances they’d articulated, and the memories they’d rehashed, they made copies and sealed each one in those old-timey envelopes bordered in red and blue dashes.
He said neither “Goodbye” nor “I’ll miss you” before he left, just stuffed the envelope into his breast pocket, smiled the half smile that she’d included in her list and walked out the front door.