A D Jameson, quaint and childish, tired ex-wife of a rodeo angel, owner of an antique tortoise-shell comb, nice-mannered, respectable, having been seen crawling quickly across the dinette set, destined to someday become a vice president at the bank, and whom you long ago bought and sold, is nodding off. If you let him, he’ll fall fast asleep on the unread page in your lap. He’s still wearing the camisole that you gave him, the one embroidered with his initials. He still has the cameo that you stuck in his Christmas stocking.
His hands were too clumsy. He’s sorry about how clumsy his hands were, the butter he handled you with for a while. He didn’t know better. He didn’t know otherwise in those days, in the obsolete past, about how his ascot became unfastened, about the way his suspenders snapped, about how his penny loafers were always scuffed and broken. He couldn’t help that his fedora was missing a feather, or that his appearance was rendered old-fashioned by passing years. He’s still amazed that you let him touch you, that you submitted to his caresses. He wasn’t amazed when you finally flinched and said, “OK now, man, that’s enough.” And when you left him without any warning, his feelings weren’t ruffled. His feathers weren’t left out of sorts in a huff.
Since then, he’s tried to become more refined. He’s tried to shape up. He might have become a rodeo dancer, or maybe a college graduate—we’ll never know. To hear the tales, he might have entered a program at Harvard, then finished the program. But we can’t be certain about those tales: when questioned, he tore up his diploma and ducked out the back.
Because he was feeling hungry for Thai food, he moved to Thailand. He stuck the two halves of his degree in a steamer trunk, and he set out at once. He learned where to go to get the freshest coffee in Bangkok, the freshest pad thai. He scouted the neighborhoods there for two years, just asking questions, just riding the buses. Just keeping his mouth shut, taking in heat and humidity. Just learning to keep both his buttery hands to his little old lonesome.
He missed you while living there, missed you terribly. He talked with his neighbors, and swam and rode every bus in Bangkok. He wrote an essay about how it felt to live in Thailand, and live there without you. He knew you were waiting for that essay, that you were checking your mailbox each morning. But he’d forgotten the look of the English language, its punctuation and letters. He got angry about how the characters looked on the page. He tore that essay in half every time he tried to write it, and crumpled those halves, and stuffed those torn and crumpled halves in his steamer trunk.
He tried to forget you. He took the liberty of buying you a coffee; he remembered how much you like coffee, and how you bought a cup every morning. He took the liberty of dropping a red and white peppermint in it; he remembered how much you like red and white, and how they filled your Christmas stocking. He’s kept that peppermint coffee warm for you ever since, inside a Thermos that he bought at a weekend market.
While he was in Thailand, he became friends with a passing gumball for a while. He befriended a passing tortoise, also. He ate the tortoise when it begged him to, when it cried and forced its chewy fins in his mouth. He placed the gumball inside a locket, a scuffed antique with a broken clasp, which he scotch-taped together and wears round his neck to this very day.
Now he lives in Chicago, has been spied living there for four years. He wasn’t corrupted, not very much; he isn’t easily corrupted. He still has the money that you lent him, the shiny new hundred. He’s turned down his many chances to spend it. He’s felt little pressure. He’s found he can get by with very little. He can get by on no more than a tortoise’s winter rations.
Ever since then, he’s been hanging around here, half-asleep, his hair combed, his eye out for your arrival. He’s still in love with you; he loves people just like you—kind souls who can handle his minor corruption. A little corruption might be precisely what you will need—you can’t be so certain.
As soon as he spies you, he’ll smile and wake up and say, “Hello and good morning to you.” The moment he sees your oblong face and remembers your name, he’ll fold his hands and bow and whisper, “Sawasdee krap.” He’ll say, “While sleeping, I wrote a book of short stories for you—accounts of the dreams that I had while I missed you, while living in Thailand. I hope that you like them.”
Until then, feel free to take a closer look at him. You can stare. You can take a long gander. He’s resting his head on that dream-laden book; he’s using its stories as a pillow. He knows that you’re destined to return at any moment; he’s foreseen it. He’s dreaming about you. His lips shape your name. He expects you to be back at any minute.