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Jake used to sit in his room on the other end of the house and sing. He was always a very loud kid and it took a long time to figure out that I loved him, because I am very quiet. It is taking a long time to undo.

My God, it's been so long. Never dreamed you'd return. I changed by not changin at all.

He is squinting at a photo album. He couldn't remember what had happened to the hat he wore in one of the photos, or what had even happened the few nights before the party when he dressed as a woman (but refused to shave his goatee) and drank and insisted on kissing his lipstick off on everyone, including me, even though I was busy kissing his best friend at the time, and was famously photographed in the act, in fact. The photo with the now-missing hat is one of a puzzle-like collage of pictures of hands and eyes and the backs of heads in the fort we built in the living room. We are 20 and absurdly sober, hunkering under blankets and tilted couches. It's one of my favorite parts of the year.

Jake looks up and squints. I can't tell if he is sweating or crying. If they are tears they are like those of someone who has been gassed or who has been slicing onions all day. His face is red. Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name. I ask him to tell me what he remembers about that night. It's half abstract (I was confused; there was all the energy it was being sucked out of me); he rarely speaks in concretes or specifics so I'm happy to learn he has any left, like names. I am putting my laundry away, because it has grown up around me like a swamp of clothes.

Memories like fingerprints are slowly raising. He tells me what he swears he had forgotten until just now, like that he lived in Oklahoma and it was weird. I ask if he's writing any of this down. He says sort of, he should more. That's such a shrink question. I can't believe he lets me get away with it.

After I have gone to bed he finds me and asks me to sleep with him. I tell him no.

I have slept with him before. I have to explain that something happened. Hearts and thoughts they fade. Back when he lived on the other end of the house it seemed he was singing the same song every time I passed his room. Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away. I knew the song, but I didn't even remember that I had the album until tonight, which is almost eight years after I bought it. I changed by not changin at all.

Something happened, mid-winter; something broke. He'd been boisterous. He'd played guitar slow and loud and sung atonally in the foyer for hours. He told everyone he loved them as they left the house, people he had met, people he hadn't. He annoyed me just as he endeared me. I wish I'd seen the place, but no one's ever taken me. And then bad acid, bad women, bad web propaganda she'd sent us as a joke. So if he speaks he speaks in abstractions, in terms of us and them. He squints to see things I do not see, gesticulates to watch his fluttering hands, bursts into random laughter and doesn't even know for himself what's funny. It's textbook.

I say, Jake, if I told you to see a doctor, would you see a doctor? I know he doesn't like the question. He says he is fine. I say that is a predictable response. I am shaking because I see he has singled me out for something; he is vested up and carrying his backpack and I wonder if he wants me to run away with him. I ask if there's anything I can do for him or give him. He says nothing I haven't already, that I already give him love. It's not that I don't love him but that I don't know whether to believe him. I know for instance that I am a selfish person. I also know that he is sick and I tell him so. The last time I was singled out as a healer, I dropped the ball. I can't stop shaking. The mystic and the madman are bedfellows, but they are not twins. But he still wants me to come to bed with him. For the past several months I have been trying to think of a way to be nice without terrifying him; I don't want to be one of Them. I just want to scream hello. I'm not sure I want to be one of Us either.

Once, just before the break, he asks if I understand that time is an illusion. If there is no past and there is no future, then it really wouldn't matter if I kissed you right now, would it? I agree. He says, are you saying that because you believe it or because you believe it or because you want to be kissed? I giggle and ruin the moment, thank God. We've had a lot of these moments, but I want to keep them perfect and intact. Any sort of consummation would blow it, which we both know.

Me you wouldn't recall for I'm not my former. The other good thing is he tunes my guitar and asks me to cut his hair. I have to remember all of this because he calls a lot of people Nazis and because he once flicked a lighter in my face.

I am desperate to sew this all together into something warming and cohesive. When he hid himself in his room I was frantic. I am just as frantic when he comes to visit me; I can't stop shaking or busying myself with laundry. Sometimes he is not as weird as I think he is. True love has nothing to do with the illusion of sex, he said last week, but this week I say, porn book reports, that's a good idea, and he giggles from a point this time and says yes, that's a good idea. I just want to scream hello .... But now here you are, and here I am. Sometimes I shake because I won't see him again after this term; I mean, the odds are bad. At spring break I couldn't sit down without a certain puppy and cat appearing in my lap, knocking it out of control. Both of whom are dead now, the former as of this week. Maybe they felt it coming and were frantic to get the last of me. I had a dog I used to hold with the same consciousness. I would tell myself to remember what it felt like for when the dog died. I am frantic to make this into a story, to be altered by it, to make it important. I am praying to love unconditionally without going mad myself, a danger that is never far from sight. Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away. The best I can hope for is a photograph, a fossil; if I get greedy a reunion, a recovery figure in my fantasies too. Never dreamed you'd return. But now here you are, and here I am. To the tune of the song he used to sing in the room on the other end of the house. This is the sound of me letting go.

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