I sit down to see what messages I've gotten
from my adoring public
(this shouldn't take long)
click, click
zero new

hidden in the corner
it seems I saved some to read later
I used to do that all the time
"I'll read it tomorrow"
"I'll read it over the weekend"
the oldest one is dated five years ago

Bill from high school wants to know
what's the integral of the secant-cubed of x?
I always did hate trigonometry

apparently, watches are more affordable
than I had thought

I signed up for some political newsletter
whom will Obama choose for VP?

want to make some fast cash?
the answer is real estate

oh, now I remember
you factor secant-cubed into secant times secant-squared
and secant-squared equals one plus tangent-squared
let me tell Bill real quick

* * * * * * *

it's four in the morning
the birds are starting to chirp outside
I should be asleep
I sit down to check my messages
(this shouldn't take long)
click, click
one new

Bill answered me
ok, so you can factor it?
where do you go from here?

I'd like to say gently
"do it your own damn self,"
but I am too tired
I'll answer tomorrow

* * * * * * *

I am almost done reading through the old messages
just a few left

a message from Diana
I remember getting it
I don't remember reading it
strange that I wouldn't read it

now I remember.
I used to set them aside
to read them on sadder days
because they would cheer me up
but I must have been on a happy streak
just my luck

she graduated when I was a sophomore
but before that
I saw her all the time

she used to stare at her shoes
I used to stare at her
until she stared back

once you got to know her,
she was nothing like what she seemed

I happened upon her one day
alone on a stone bench
reading for philosophy class
I was never into philosophy

what are you reading? I asked

it's Pascal, she answered
the French guy

right. what does it say?

here, he's talking about
how it is impossible to love

I objected

no, really, she said
you love me, right?

I nodded

what do you love about me?

you are kind, I said
and funny
and humble
and patient
but strong when you have to be

so, she said,
what if I were none of those things?
what if I were rude and humorless
and vainglorious and impetuous
and I swayed to even the slightest wind?
would you still love me?

* * * * * * *

even in the quiet night
there is never truly quiet
the wind howls
or the rain murmurs
or the house settles
the sounds wend their way through my mind

when my mind is clear,
I dream of beautiful things
for which I have longed

when I worry,
I dream of beautiful things
that have flown away

* * * * * * *

early May of senior year
I am walking back to my dorm
in hand I have my cap and gown
wrapped in protective plastic

a stranger waves to me
I wave back

I get a nervous feeling
the feeling of being followed
but it is broad daylight
so I continue

then a voice comes from behind
"how quickly we forget"
Diana is standing there

you walked right by me, she says
didn't even know my face

now, looking at it squarely,
there is no mistaking it
but it has not aged well
it bears the mark of grief

you look great, I tell her

you lie lousy, she tells me

* * * * * * *

I invite her in
my roommates are throwing a party
with the same people
the same old tricks
Diana's face throws them off

I can't stay long, she says
I never used to drink, she says

three hours later,
she is talking about her boss
a shrewd businesswoman
(although Di used less flattering words)
I learn things
that I had hoped never to know

then she complains about her sister
who used to steal all her boyfriends

I put my arm around her shoulder
she begins to complain about her fiancé

as she complains,
I am reminded of the part
of the Declaration of Independence
where the colonists listed their grievances

but, she concludes, he is a good guy

really? I ask
how can you tell?

she chides me
you shouldn't make jokes like that
you're supposed to bring me another
she shakes the glass
ice rattles around
I've been waiting forever!

it's been three minutes

* * * * * * *

hi again, Diana wrote
I had a good time last night
as far as I can remember
thanks for letting me sleep in your bed
I hope the floor wasn't too uncomfortable

I thought about what you said
the parts that I remember
and you may have been right

let's see what else is right
and feels right
you know where to find me
yours, Di

reading the old message
I feel like a raider in a pyramid
struggling with hieroglyphs
fighting off an impending sense of doom

* * * * * * *

I am nearly done
only one old message is left
I had forgotten about it
I grab a stack of paper
and write down
integral of secant-cubed x dx equals
and I keep going

ten minutes go by and I have my answer
I'll let Bill know over the weekend

two weeks later I answer him
that was a good problem
even after five years
yes, I did it long-hand
you ought to be

it was possible after all
he is amused
but not all of them are possible

I reply to Bill one more time
give Di my best, I say
and treat her right

I do not expect an answer

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