All My Loving
(Published in The Weekly Knob)
I wrote song lyrics on the back of paper receipts and tucked them into the armpit of her windshield wipers.
The first time, I hid behind other parked cars and watched as she exited her apartment building. She wore a yellow dress and her hair was plaited in a long braid that reached her lower back and she found the note on the windshield immediately. She pulled it out, read it, smiled, and looked around, but the parking lot was empty.
“And then while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my loving to you.”
She left her apartment at different times in the morning, but I had nothing else to do, so I waited in the parking lot, crouching behind other cars, until she appeared, sometimes at 7, sometimes at 10. She knew where to find the notes. I never wrote more than a few lines on the receipts, but she read slowly, or perhaps she read the words multiple times, because she always stood there for a minute or longer. Or perhaps the time I spent looking at her past the shadows and masses of other automobiles felt elongated because of how fervently I wished the distance to be reduced.
I had moved within a couple blocks of her apartment a few weeks ago. I had seen her first at Safeway, her arms filled with peaches and summer squash and snap peas, and I had ducked quickly into the canned goods aisle to avoid choking on the impossible thundering of my heart. It had been many years since I had last spoken to her, but I was unmistakably sure that it was her. By the time my heart rate had slowed, she was gone.
But then a few days later I found her car, parked a few blocks away, and I knew it was the same small silver hatchback shoved into the most impossible of parking spaces, and I grinned as I traced with my gaze the familiar scratch of yellow paint on the passenger side door, the shallow dent on the rear fender, the license plate number I had forgotten but then remembered with a vicious surge of memory. It was then that I realized that although I was a man with very few possessions, my pockets were filled with grocery store and bookstore receipts I was too regretful to throw away. That is when I wrote her the first song lyric.
“I held her close but she faded in the night
Like a poem I meant to write.”
The lyrics were harmless and insinuated nothing. They were words and music that I found beautiful in their own right. And she never seemed to suspect anything. Perhaps she thought that strangers were going around leaving notes under the windshields of random cars in the city. She never checked under other cars’ windshields. She always drove with the windows down, and I always heard leaking from her car speakers the original song whose lyrics I had handwritten on a small piece of paper and tucked under her wipers. She always knew what songs I was referencing. And of course. I chose them on purpose and with great care.
“Well it started out just like a dream
And like a dream I knew
That what we had would have to end.”
I knew she was looking forward to the song lyrics. On the first Saturday, she exited her apartment in her pajamas, checked the windshield, read the lyrics excitedly, then went back inside without using the car.
Did she know it was me? I never let her know that I had moved to the city, but I hoped that she would suspect, from the exquisitely chosen taste in songs. I will never know, because after ten days of leaving song lyrics, I saw her exiting her apartment with another man. It was 8 on a Wednesday morning and the infamous Seattle drizzle wet the pavement and filled the clouds with a silvery glow. They rushed from the door, dressed for work, refusing to use an umbrella. He had dark hair and a white smile and his arm was wrapped tightly around her shoulders and she laughed loudly and easily and they walked together to her car. She did not check the windshield today. She slid quickly into the driver’s seat and turned on the wipers. I watched as the rain melted the words onto the glass and turned the paper to watery pulp.
“But when we meet again, introduced as friends,
Please don’t let on that you knew me when
I was hungry and it was your world.”
She drove away with the windows tightly closed. I looked away as she drove past so I would not have to look at him. I waited for her to turn left at the traffic light, then stood up slowly. I stood there in the rain for a minute, the time it would have taken her to read the note. Then I walked home and emptied my pockets of all of the receipts in the nearest recycling bin.