“OPPOSITE EACH OTHER” by WILLIAM GARCIA BIGELOW

We sit on a bed
Opposite each other
On the third floor of a building
Tucked back from the street
In the Lower East Side
In 2017

I ask you if you love me anymore
You tell me you feel differently

In 2015,
I see you for the first time
No, 2016
January
We’ve been talking for a month

We meet through an algorithm
Written in the early 21st century
Powered by a microprocessor
Made of sand
In a small machine
That we carry in our pockets

I type a message
Coded in 1s and 0s
That is transmitted via radio waves
To a tower
That collects and routes that information
To you

I ask if you like movies

We talk via text messages
And sometimes on the phone

I like your voice the first time I hear it
I hope you like my voice
Maybe I change it a little
Make it a voice people like

I like your voice the last time I hear it
Some time later

When I first see you
You are standing under an American Elm tree
In Tompkins Square Park
In the middle of winter

In the 1930s,
Many of these American Elms died of disease
But this one didn’t
And is now somewhat rare

In 1966,
“Hare Krishna” is chanted under this tree
For the first time outside of India
It is now viewed as a religious site

I did not know this at the time

I see you standing under this tree
And I am nervous
And you do not see me
Until I am approaching you

I am late
I am always late
To everything that causes me anxiety

I am wearing a new Suede jacket
And a hoodie,
You are wearing jeans
And a hunter-green coat
With fake fur around the hood

You’ve rolled a joint for our first date
I can’t roll anything
You tell me you are good at rolling

We burn the joint
But barely smoke it
Because it doesn’t pull
And I believe you are embarrassed
Even though I don’t mind
And am having a good time

My hands are cold
So you lend me your gloves
Later, I lose one
But we retrace our steps
And find it a block away

You poke fun at me
But I don’t mind

We get sandwiches
I ask if you want to go to your apartment
You tell me it’s across the street
But your roommate is busy with someone
And you don’t want to disturb him
I wonder if you don’t like me

We eat our sandwiches in the park
And smoke cigarettes

You keep your cigarettes
In a metallic cigarette case
That is currently beside my bed

You have to get home soon
Not to your apartment
But to your family
Upstate

You are going to take the subway to Grand Central Station
But I want more time with you
So we take a cab
But before that
While we are leaving the park
I tell you to wait
And I walk up to you
And kiss you
And tell you that I didn’t want to do that at the subway

We kiss for the entirety of the cab ride

I let you out at Grand Central
And you tell me that I’m the only person you are interested in
I think this is cute
And I am happy to have met you

I text my friend on the ride home

We see each other
A few times a week
For the next few months

You talk about movies
And music
And memories
And travel

I haven’t travelled much
Outside of the United States

You are sexually generous
And somewhat aggressive
But also compassionate
And not very sensual
Because you don’t fully understand your body
But still want to share it

I don’t stay the night
Because I am insecure

I walk to the subway at 4am
And get off at the wrong stop
And wait in Hoboken
And get home at 6:30am

Your roommates don’t like that I am around so often
You hope to get an apartment with no roommates next year
Which is where we sit
In 2017

I tell a coworker about you
She asks why I like you
I say I am not sure
Because I am uncomfortable sharing my tenderness towards you
I like your personality
And feel comfortable with you
And feel you are a close friend

Weeks after we meet
We lie in your bed
In the dark
In the early morning
And I ask you to be my girlfriend
And am embarrassed at how childish it sounds
But it makes you very happy
And I can see your eyes glint in the dark
And I kiss you again

We go on a trip to a cabin in “the gunks”
And we hike and run and explore
And smoke too much weed
As we always do

I think you are beautiful

One night, when it is late,
And I am drunk, we are having sex
And I call you the name of my ex
By accident
Not because I am looking backwards
Or feeling for her,
But because I have not felt intimate with anyone in a long time

You forgive me
And later tell me that you think you are falling for me
And although I feel the same
I am reticent to say anything
For a few more weeks
Until I tell you I love you
In Tompkins Square Park

I love you because you are kind
And gentle
And honest
And generous
And ambitious
And smart
And confused
And anxious
And mixed-up

During the summer,
I visit you in France
We drink vodka and orangina with lime
And get drunk together
And score hash at a bar
And watch shooting stars
And visit the beach
And eat pesto together at night

We skinny dip together
I’ve never done this before
I feel you as my family

I feel rejected by your family
And feel nervous,
So I stay away
In an attempt to not feel ridiculed

At one point, I put the blame for this on you
And this hurts you
And I apologize,
Realizing that you protected me and cared for me
The whole time

Early in the summer,
I am making a film
And then I am not
Because the lead actress cannot remember her lines

Leading up to the shoot,
I am scared, anxious,
I break down a few nights before
And leave you in my bed
And walk through the rain,
Smoking cigarettes,
At 3 in the morning

When the film falls through,
I lose faith in my ability and purpose
And find it difficult to recapture it

Maybe this hurts you more than me
I am not sure

We work on a short film togther
I think you do a better job than I do
The short is good
But I do not pay enough attention to it
Because I am disappointed
And it reminds me of my failures

This upsets you

Months later we start to fight
We’ve never fought before
And now we do
And we do not have the skills to deal with it

My mental illness acts up
And you take care of me
But it persists
And wears you down
Until you suffer alongside me

I act immaturely towards you
I make you question your standing in the relationship
I question my standing in the relationship
You hurt me and I hurt you

Later, you question your standing in the relationship
And it hurts worse than I expected

We struggle
And we go on another cabin trip,
Where we play chess by the woodstove,
And watch movies
And take photos
And once again, smoke too much weed

We fight often, while we are here
And we almost break up
And I tear my favorite sleeping shirt,
Which is soft and salmon
And my brain shuts down

I think of these memories and feel sad

We stay together
And work on listening and expressing ourselves
We want to stay together
I love you
And I believe you love me
I hope you still love me
We fight less, but still get into disagreements
And we have trouble
Emotionally discerning the two

We sit on a bed
Opposite each other
On the third floor of a building
Tucked back from the street
In the Lower East Side
In 2017

We share our memories