The Breakdown of Love
“You must tell me if you ever feel unloved,” he whispered as he ran his fingers through her hair. They had known each other for only three days, yet something extraordinary had happened. They had lived through the process before, and were wary of releasing the familiar aphrodisiacs into the air. Their flesh was heavy with the smells, tastes, and memories of former affections.
“If you ever feel unloved, you will tell me, ok?”
“Ok,” she said.
She promised, unable to imagine feeling unloved by him, the most affectionate man she had ever known. For the past six days, his hands had been fixed to some part of her body. They had met in Paris, in arrondissement 13, at the Hotel Belambra on Rue Corvisart. They had been introduced to each other through email by one of his friends, Sam, who was trying to help Demetrious break with his past. Sam had met Teresa at a conference that had been convened to honour her husband, who had died three years earlier in a car crash. Although she would never forget him, she told Sam over too many glasses of wine, she was ready to move on, to find another man. The problem was, there was no one to fall in love with, no one not already committed. “Well,” said Sam, “I have a friend in the same situation, who is looking for love.”
Sam’s friend was a Greek man named Demetrious, father of one. He was a recent divorcée. Demetrious was also a friend of her friend Jessica. Hence they were connected by two degrees of separation. Sam told Demetrious that his friend had a friend whom he might want to meet. “She’s in your same situation,” he said, smiling suggestively.
“You’re a match made in heaven,” Jessica whispered in Teresa’s ear as she escorted her to the train station. “I predict you’ll be drawn to each other and will never let go.”
Had she been given a selection of men to choose from, he would not have been her first choice. He was a civil servant in a vast European bureaucracy, and a theoretical physicist by training. What could be less promising than a man who had no practical use or need for art? She had had her fill of scientists in her private life. As a class, they struck her as emotionally tepid, narrow-minded, vulgar, and unable to speak about anything not directly relevant to their field of expertise.
Even worse: he had abandoned his research after receiving his PhD. So he entered the civil service, binding his future to the state. A bureaucrat! A sell-out! How could they possibly connect? His job brought in a good income and job security, but it could never give his life meaning. Her vocation paid badly, and sometimes made her miserable, yet enriched the meaning of her existence. What if he hates what I love? she mused. Or hates the fact that I love them? What if he’s intimidated by me, as men tend to be? Notwithstanding her doubts, Teresa persisted. She agreed to meet him in Paris. She lived in the UK, so it had to be a weekend journey.
When she arrived at the hotel, she rang him up at the reception. He came down to meet her. They greeted each other like old friends. Breakfast extended into lunch. Lunch soon became a dinner they hoped would last forever. The conversation stretched like a train traversing the mountains, with no end in sight. They had so much to say! Demetrious could not summon the courage to kiss her on the first night, although he wanted to. He pecked her goodnight and they parted to their separate rooms.
She stayed up late that night, excited. Her skin felt as if it was being pricked by needles, in an oddly pleasurable way. Something was about to happen, to her, to him, to their lives. She appreciated the delay; it gave her time to savour the anticipation, and to wait for his kiss. It only goes downhill after that, she told herself, weary with memories of the past lovers from her pre-marriage years.
Early on the morning of their second day together, immediately after breakfast, he asked if he could come to her room. He started telling her about a novel he was reading, Stoner by John Williams, an American novel from the 1960s that had been neglected during the author’s lifetime and forgotten until its recent rediscovery, in a French translation, in 2013. Teresa was intrigued by Demetrious’ European take on American fiction, as he rehearsed the novel’s plot. Then suddenly, he stopped in mid-sentence and kissed her on the lips. From that moment onwards, her body felt in one way or another grafted to his.
After the breakfast that became a kiss, they continued talking all through the afternoon and deep into the night. They canvassed the city, oblivious to their surroundings. After hours of walking along the Seine, they arrived at Shakespeare & Co, the bookstore that had hosted Joyce and Hemingway. They entered and began to share every book they had ever read, sitting side by side on a dilapidated sofa in the back room on the second story as they picked books off the shelves.
They spent two days wandering around the catacombs and in and out of the Pantheon. The alleys and boulevards of Paris were recast in the images of their beloved writers, poets, and filmmakers. Rue Lepic became the plays of Chekhov. Rue Saint-Antoine were absorbed into the novels of Dostoevsky. Rue des Rosiers merged with the films of Krzysztof Kieślowski. As they meandered down narrow alleys, he invited her to travel back with him to Brussels, to pass the rest of the vacation with him in his recently acquired home. “My house is huge!” he exclaimed. “I’ll create a room just for you for when you want to be alone.”
It was winter vacation for them both. His son was spending the Christmas break with his mother, so they could extend their date across the entire Christmas holiday and celebrate the New Year together. 2015 had been a year of partings and deaths. 2016 would be—they hoped—a year of union.
They took the Thalys train from Paris to his Brussels home, their legs pressed against each other for the entire journey. The sensation of touching in that way, with unabating intensity and ever increasing intimacy, was a distant memory for them both. He accompanied her to his library, and proudly pointed to three oak bookshelves, carved into the wall, filled with an assortment of DVDs, Blu-rays, and even old videos. His collection of films as well as of books was vast, covering all times, places, and genres. On the opposite wall was a small library of books about film, organised by country.
The third row of the middle bookshelf was dedicated to the films of his favourite director, Fritz Lang. Demetrious told her about Lang’s escape to Hollywood during the Third Reich, on the very day that he had been offered the position of head of the national German film studio by Joseph Goebbels himself. Lang’s wife refused to accompany her husband and chose instead to remain behind with the Nazi regime.
“What do you say we organise a mini-film festival in honour of your visit?” he suggested. “To celebrate New Years, 2016?”
She smiled as he wrapped his arms around her. “You’re always full of good ideas.”
“Is that a yes?” he asked, and kissed her on the lips.
She kissed him back. His tongue dug into her mouth, and soon they were passionately making out on the sofa.
The mini-film festival was to be held in the basement, which doubled as a screening room. On the first night, they watched two films, one from Lang’s German period and one from after his migration to America. During the second film, she gently caressed his penis until it was entirely erect. It became a pattern. Sometimes they would continue watching the movie to the end, and sometimes they would stop right there and make love.
The night when he insisted that she tell him if she ever felt unloved was the third day of their film festival. M from the German period had been followed by You Only Live Once from Lang’s American era. They ate bougatsa, a cream-filled Greek pie, together and licked the lemon sauce topping off each other’s lips.
They went to bed that night as they had done on each of their days in Paris: in each other’s arms. He woke up sweating, wrapped his arms even more tightly around her, and wrapped his legs around hers. The combination of conversation and physical intimacy brought tears to her eyes. Her body had hungered for such contact for too many years.
On the fourth night of the festival, they switched from Fritz Lang to Demetrious’ second favourite director, Lars von Trier. The first film they watched, Nymphomaniac, took three full nights to watch because it kept getting interrupted by their passionate lovemaking.
Soon after she was widowed, she had fallen in love with a married man who had not loved her back. When she told him of her feelings, he said, in somewhat mechanical fashion that his affections were elsewhere committed. Nothing she could do, he informed her, would ever change that. She was ashamed to admit it, but it was true: her feelings for a married man who had not loved her back had devastated her even more than the death of her husband and the end of her thirteen-year marriage. During these same years, Demetrious had been raising a child with a woman who revealed suddenly, one month before giving birth, that she wanted a divorce. She explained that she had stopped loving him. On the day when she gave birth, she repelled his embraces and told him she hated the sound of his voice. Teresa’s hunger for bodily contact was to him a revelation. Several times amid their lovemaking he found himself on the verge of tears.
One difference between them became more and more evident with each conversation: he was tone-deaf to poetry. After they had catalogued all the novels, plays, and short stories they had ever read, she asked him about the poets. “Aren’t there any poets you love to read?” she said. “About poetry, you will have to teach me,” he answered. “It’s a mystery to me why people devote themselves so intensely to this art. Poetry is like gardening. It doesn’t do any harm. But what good does it do? Who needs it?”
Words were her life, and poetry her sustenance. She felt a twinge of pain as he spoke, but it soon became submerged with other emotions as they indulged their shared passions.
Five days into her visit, she found herself repeating every day, as if it were a poem: this is as close to paradise as it gets / as much like Eden as the earth permits. She felt blessed, and on the path to happiness. After a year long of drought in her emotional existence, she had rediscovered the meaning of love.
A week after this interlude in the passage of time, she went home to Exeter, a small ancient city in the southwest where she had moved three months earlier in order to take up a position at the local arts council. Back in Exeter, she resumed her day-to-day tasks: reviewing grant applications, scheduling poetry readings, and community outreach. She began to regret that she had lived three hours from London, the city that seemed to her the place where she most belonged. Although Exeter had much to offer, it was provincial and somewhat narrow. Living in London would have meant a direct train to Brussels and greater proximity to her beloved.
Weeks became months. They spoke every night, for at an hour or more, recounting every moment of their divided lives. How they slept, what they ate, what they wore, the commute to and from work, the contents of their conversations with family and friends: everything was shared, until, inevitably, certain details were slowly, but systematically, omitted. The parts she omitted tended to be those most revealing of her inner life. That life mattered less to him than did the places where she shopped, the number of hours she spent teaching, what she ate for lunch, and the make of the refrigerator in which she stored her food. By contrast with Demetrious, she did not relish sharing such trivialities. With every hour of interrogation, she felt increasingly alienated from the man she wanted to love.
The phone conversations were his initiative. She sensed they were important to him. He wanted to “do things together,” as he put it, and it seemed that daily phone conversations were a necessary element in this togetherness. Flattered by his persistence and the loyalty it implied, she duly complied with his demands on her patience and time. In this way, she came to dread their nightly conference calls. She lost sleep while forcing herself to think of what she would say to him the next time they spoke. She began to dread his calls. But she did not want to threaten their relationship at such an early stage of gestation. Besides, she worried that she might come to regret distancing herself from the one person in her life who felt the need to talk to her on a daily basis, whether or not she enjoyed it.
After three weeks of such strained exchanges, and partly to introduce a new rhythm to their interactions, they decided to reconvene in London. She had a training course coming up on the topic of engaging with government, and the Duke of York Theatre was staging a French play that had received rave reviews, called “The Father.” A theatre connoisseur, Demetrious was eager to see it. He bought his Eurostar tickets and requested a few days of leave from work for the beginning of the week. She extended the hotel booking to double occupancy. They spoke with anticipation about this second rendezvous, hoping it would revive their Paris feeling, if in a different key.
Just as for their first meeting in Paris, she arrived two hours late. Along the way, she had told herself that her delay wouldn’t matter much. He would be able to go directly to their hotel, and they would meet there instead of in the centre of London as planned. She had underestimated the effects of her lateness. He greeted her complaining about the hours he had lost with his son as a result of her tardiness. She tried to soothe his wounds by touching him tenderly in the places that triggered a reaction from his body, while they were in Paris and Brussels. He turned away from her violently.
The night they spent together was full of acrimony. The thrill of being together that had made her skin tingle while in Paris seemed to be beyond retrieval. The first challenge was deciding where to eat. Every restaurant that appealed to her was too low-class for him.
“You’re so cheap!” He accused her of being cheap. “You have no appreciation for the good things in life!”
Finally, in order to mitigate the conflict, she decided to agree to any restaurant he suggested. After all, he had come to London to see her, and she didn’t want to spoil his visit with an argument.
Her silence made him even angrier.
“I’m going,” he said.
“Going where?” she asked in fear.
“Just going!” he said. “Stop asking questions!”
She reached out, instinctively to touch him, but withdrew when she saw the anger on his face. What had she done wrong? She trailed him distantly as he raged down the streets. Finally, she gave up.
“I’ll meet you at the entrance to the theatre on Moor Lane at a quarter past seven,” she yelled at him, hoping he would hear.
The show started at 7:30. To her surprise, he arrived on time, at 7:15, apparently recovered from his rage. His face was blank, but at least his voice was calm. He gently, if somewhat mechanically, grasped her hand.
As they mounted the stairs to their seats, she wondered to herself: Where did it go, that passion for him that was going to change my life? What made it die?
The play was short and intense. It told the story of an aging man stricken with Alzheimer’s. Each time the father saw his daughter it was as if she were a different person, partnered with a different man. The situation deteriorated with every new scene.
Ultimately the daughter decided to transfer her father to a nursing home in Paris. Before she parted with her father forever, she promised to visit him every week from London.
Demetrious and Teresa sat in the front row. They held hands even though their palms were cold. She became tense with fear when the play ended because it meant that they would have to start speaking again. She feared that they had run out of words. Three months of love, going on four, and they had nothing left to say to each other.
After the show ended, they filed out and stopped for a quick dinner at Jamie Oliver’s, an Italian restaurant just around the corner.
They survived dinner without an argument even though their Paris romance seemed a distant dream. They did not hold hands on the tube ride back to the hotel. Every word seemed to poison the evening air, so they mostly kept silent while walking, with several inches between their bodies. How unlike that late night they spent, hand in hand, walking along the Seine!
They fell to sleep on opposite sides of the bed. It was the first sexless night they had spent together over the three months of their acquaintance. When Demetrious started snoring, she rolled over and faced him: “I want to tell you something,” she whispered in his ear.
His snoring ceased. He turned his face away from her. “What?”
“I fantasize about other men when I masturbate. I can only have an orgasm when I think of men other than you.”
“Why did you tell me that?” he asked.
“I’m worried what this means for us.”
He turned his entire body away from her and was soon snoring so loudly that she had to cover her head with a pillow to mute the sound of his mucus blocking the air. She wondered whether he was faking it. Could anyone be so rude for real?
They awoke the next morning uncertain how they would spend their day together. London theatres were closed on Sunday. After arguing for several hours in bed about where to go, they finally agreed on simply exploring the city. They walked through Hampstead and up along St. John’s Wood to Maresfield Gardens. Unexpectedly, they ended up in front of the house where Sigmund Freud had spent his final years after leaving Vienna, and here his daughter Anna had passed the remaining decades of her life. A plaque announced the house as the Freud Museum, open seven days a week. The museum would have excited her on any other occasion, but she was depressed by her companion. Every moment they passed together seemed to release new toxins into the air. They walked back to the tube in silence.
Then came the battle over where to eat dinner. Finally, he burst out with a critique delivered at high decibel. “All you care about is your career and money!” he shouted. “I’ve had enough! I’m through!”
He stomped away, leaving Teresa watching him, her jacket wrapped tight around her suddenly diminished body. She felt small and defenceless, and feared returning to the hotel at night alone. As she moved forward into the night, she tried to persuade herself that their argument was a blessing in disguise. To say that they were getting on each other’s nerves would have been a wild understatement. Hatred was brewing. They were driving each other crazy, and were more miserable together than apart. Simple decisions, like where to have dinner, put them on the edge. Every argument generated more violence, and it increasingly seemed like the only way they could get along was by not speaking to each other at all.
When he entered their hotel room around eleven at night, she turned her face towards the window and opened her laptop. He sat down on a corner of the bed and set about searching through his email while she typed feverishly. Thirty minutes passed with them both transfixed by their computers.
Finally, he said: “Can you please stop typing? I need to get some sleep.”
She kept punching the keyboard with her fingertips. He stood up and repeated his words. She continued typing. He stared at her for thirty seconds, as if waiting for her to stop, and then lunged towards her, threatening to destroy her laptop and to call the police.
“This is my room,” he insisted. “I paid for it with my credit card! I will kick you out onto the street!” He continued yelling as she kept her eyes glued to the laptop screen. “You look just like a horse, with your ugly eyes fixed straight ahead of you, never noticing what happened around. Wake up, you selfish bitch!”
He concluded the diatribe by announcing: “It’s finished. Meeting you was the biggest mistake of my life. I’m booking a room and leaving you alone tonight. I’m saying goodbye. Have a good life.”
She was in shock. They could not conjure within herself the feelings she expected she would feel when breaking up. She couldn’t recall what it felt like to meet him for the first time. She couldn’t compel herself to fear his absence from her life. Instead: she became consumed with practicalities: How will I explain the end of this relationship to my friends? she wondered. She thought about her books. How will I return them to Exeter? Do I have to have to hire a moving company? Will he ship them back? Finally, she stopped the flow of practical questions with a bigger one: Do I love him? She asked herself. How can I know? What is love? He’s the one who’s breaking up with me.
Demetrious continued to shout at her. She had long ceased tried to understand him. She played mute, until finally she interrupted his tirade: “You relish insulting me.”
The words sounded hopelessly weak as soon as they escaped her mouth. Her timidity could not compete with his aggression. Then she realised that what mattered in an argument was not what one said, so much as how loudly one could say it. She receded into her shell and turned away from him.
Finally, he fell silent. She approached him in bed. They fell together into a drowsiness that augured the beginning of sleep. She tried touching the backside of his knees, as a kind of experiment, to see whether he had really meant what he said, and whether he was serious about breaking up. He remained still. She could not tell whether this was because he was sleeping or whether he had really intended to end their relationship. She would have liked to know the answer. Even if he didn’t intend to break up, she reasoned, even if thinks we can be together after this argument, I cannot agree. Staying with him would mean accepting this violence. Loving him is self-abuse. I am no masochist. I must refuse.
When they woke up the next morning, she began packing. She was moving to the more luxurious hotel booked by the training organization. She presumed he would book another night in the hotel where they were now. She presumed that they were on the verge of a break-up.
She packed for fifteen minutes while he fiddled away on his laptop, on the pretence of booking night for himself in the hotel, alone. Such a booking would have signalled the end to their relationship. And yet when she had finished packing and sat down next to him, he seemed to have made no progress with his booking. What was preventing him? Did he stand by the words he had hurled at her the night before?
She could not say. When she sat down next to him, he looked at her calmly, his deer-brown eyes gaping open, seething innocence. It was impossible to associate the violence of last night with those eyes. These were the eyes she fell in love with: gentle as a deer, soft, and open to anything and anyone. They were empty of acrimony. She wished she had never had to witness his eyes in any other way.
They lay down together and talked. The conversation covered world events—the Iranian elections, Brexit, the US Presidency—all the while avoiding the events of the night before. Then they touched. He took off his clothes. They made love as they had done in Paris and Brussels, as if nothing and no one existed at that moment outside each other’s bodies.
“I want you to have an orgasm,” he whispered in her ear. “Coming with me inside you is your task. I won’t come until you do.”
When they finished, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders and said: “Let’s go to your hotel.” The argument from the night before receded into the shadows, as if it had been a dream.
That night, for the first time she they had arrived in London, they didn’t argue about where they would eat. They had lunch at a sushi place nearby, just off Russell Square, and then went to Skoobs, London’s largest used bookstore. Here they did exactly as they had done in Paris, the city of their love. They skimmed the shelves for books, comparing notes along the way, asking each other for advice on what to buy, and making lists of the many hundreds of books they wanted to read. While engaged in this activity, they seemed made for each other: the worlds’ two most impassioned book collected. It was like Paris all over again.
They had almost given up on finding a production for that evening when Demetrious suggested that they look at the playlist for Almeida, a theatre off West End and in the heart of the Angel district. Demetrious checked online. Uncle Vanya was on that evening. Two seats were available, both behind a thick pillar. At least they would be able to sit together, he thought to himself. Chekhov had brought them together in Paris, and now, he hopes, he would bring them together again, in London. She called the theatre and booked their seats.
The show had been negatively reviewed in The Guardian due to it its length, but she didn’t care. She loved Chekhov. The longer the better, she thought to herself. It may be the last time I see him. They rushed to the theatre hand in hand, and sat down behind the pillars. He whispered to her between the acts, praising the acting. She nodded vigorously to every word he said. He bought ice cream for them both, extravagant as always, two cups for every intermission: salted caramel, raspberry, vanilla bean, and hazelnut.
She could tell how pleased he was with the performance by the way he leaned back in his chair, his deer-brown eyes awash in peace. After the show, there was a question-and-answer session with the actors. They sat through it quietly, holding each other’s hands. Desire was engulfing them again, turning the violence of the preceding night into a dream and giving their reunion the appearance of reality. The real and the imaginary had become inverted, thanks to Chekhov.
“One thing I always notice about Chekhov plays,” Demetrious said during a brief pause in the question and answers, “is that the characters are always in love with the wrong people. Whether it’s Sonya and Michael or Vanya and Elena, these people don’t know what’s good for them, so they end up hurting themselves.”
When the question and answer session ended, he stared deep into her eyes and then kissed her. It was the first time they had kissed in that way since Paris, the first time they had forgotten their surroundings. Yet all the time a part of her knew that her passion was of limited duration. What had started between them would soon end. She could not allow herself to be further abused, or to risk further abuse. They might see each other again, but the next time they encountered each other, it would not mean what it had meant before. They would be strangers to each other.
They had lived through the birth and death of love. Any feelings that might return would always be mingled with that night of acrimony and hate. The hate that had become real for the first time the night before changed everything forever. Violence had introduced a new reality that she could not ignore.
They returned immediately to the hotel, hungry for each other’s body. They spent that night together naked, intimate, free of all strains. As he had done earlier that day, he insisted that she had to orgasm first, and refused to come until she did. He did not want sex just for the sake of his pleasure, he said. He wanted to become part of her sexual dreams.
When they had slept together in the past, she would usually lay by his side for an hour until he fell asleep. Then she would go to the restroom or another adjoining room where she would work for a few hours longer on her laptop, often until dawn. She could only work in isolation, far away from him, even if it meant passing the night sitting on the toilet. Then, once the sun began to shine, she would set her alarm, return to bed, and finally fall asleep, after he had already turned his back to her.
This night was different. It was the last night they would spend together and she wanted every moment to last. She did not go to the bathroom, and consequently did not set her alarm. Instead, she fell asleep in his arms.
They woke up two hours late. He had missed his train. She had missed the first session in her training course. Following an initial wave of panic, she realised that she would not be able to say farewell with the tender gestures she had dreamed of as she lay in his arms on the preceding night. By the time opened her eyes he was already on the computer, searching frantically for a new ticket on the Eurostar back to Brussels. From past experience with him in stressful situations, she knew that it was better not to speak. She picked up her bag, whispered: “See you soon,” and simply left. She had avoided the awkwardness of parting by not saying goodbye. But it was a lie. She knew she would never see him again, though she was not sure if he understood.
For most of the walk to Euston station she stared at the ground, afraid of what she would see if she lifted her eyes. The sight of young lovers at the edges of her vision was particularly painful. “Love,” she said aloud, “What a joke.”
The performance the night before had stirred memories of all her past encounters with Chekhov. She knew his stories better than his plays. She recalled one story in particular, “Lady with a Lapdog,” that she had read during her first year at the university. The story resonated at many different levels, even though she had never had an affair of the kind described in the story between Gurov and Anna Sergeevna. What struck her most about the story was its division between real life, conducted under the cover of night and in secret, and fake life, which defines our work days, our professional relations, everything we do in daylight hours. Most of the world only know about the second half, even when our minds inhabit the first. For Chekhov’s hero Gurov, his real life took place only when he was with his beloved Anna. Yet their love was burdened by duplicity: it contravened society’s laws and violated conventional morality. He was cheating on his wife, betraying his marriage. When she arrived at Euston Station, Teresa decided to read “Lady with a Lapdog” again. Even if the story could not tell her what to do next, it would help her to face the breakdown of her love with Demetrious.
As Teresa waited for the train that would take her to the training course, she reflected on the catastrophic holiday she had spent—or rather, squandered—with Demetrious. Why do we hurt the ones we love? she asked herself, feeling like character in a Chekhov play. Why do we insult them in ways we would never insult strangers? How can words be so full of hate?
She boarded the first car, searched for a vacant seat, and sat down. The italics in her head seemed to her to mark the birth of a story. About what precisely, she did not know, but she guessed that Chekhov would figure in it somewhere. The story would be about Chekhov as interpreted by Demetrious, Chekhov read through the eyes of her former lover. Although he had been blind to so many movements of her heart, they also shared many passions in common. Chekhov was one of them. She spent the remainder of the ride on the Victoria line imagining how her lover would tell the end of their relationship, once he figured out that she would never see him again. How would he describe her decision to leave him that morning in the hotel room, without even saying goodbye?
Henceforth, Teresa decided, Demetrious would become a character in her imaginary adaptation of a Chekhov play. She would become Sonya, Uncle Vanya’s niece, who had wagered all her hopes in the peace that would follow after her death. Sonya was destined to become a spinster, and to manage the family the estate alone. She would set Demetrious free, free to find himself, free to find love. She would seek these same things for herself, without ever expecting to find them. It’s the search that counts, she reflected, paraphrasing Sonya, not what you find when you reach the end of the road. If she remained alone after searching all her life, she would at least know that, once upon a time, she had known love. She had known love with a stranger in Paris, before their relationship was domesticated by everyday existence. Their souls had merged as intensely as had their bodies, while walking hand in hand along the Seine.
She would never forget his deer-brown eyes, or his tender plea, just a few days into their acquaintance, that she tell him if she ever felt unloved. Of course, she never did tell him. How could she have said such a thing, even if she felt it? During those first heady days of their acquaintance his time had belonged to her and her time had belonged to him. They had shared together moments that could not be repeated, ever, by anyone. Those moments belonged to another chapter in her life, a chapter in a book that was reaching its close. The present did not erase the past. Goodbye, Demetrious, she whispered, kissing the air. She stood up to change trains.
Rebecca Gould’s poetry and poetry in translation has recently appeared in The Hudson Review, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, South Bank Poetry, Notre Dame Review, and Empty Mirror. Her fiction has appeared in Postcolonial Text and the edited collection Lovers’ Lies (Arachne Press, 2013). She is the author of Writers and Rebels (Yale University Press, 2016), and translator of After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016), as well as co-translator of the forthcoming High Tide of the Eyes: Poems by Bijan Elahi (The Operating System). She teaches at the University of Birmingham.