sometimes it stays in your spinal column for years.

I sit on my bed, writing about a cafeteria in heaven, Alan Jackson playing from my laptop speakers. My body is in England, my imagination in another dimension. But suddenly, for whatever reason, I’m walking down 4th Avenue toward Astor Place in New York, passing the brownstones, barbershops, and laundromats, on a brisk November afternoon.

I turn left at the black cube- this memory plays out behind my conscious thoughts as I write about something entirely different- and enter the St. Marks Ale House. The scene passes from daylight into nighttime; I sit across from an HVAC technician, on our fourth or fifth date. Televisions play in each corner of the pub, speakers play loud rock music, the long table behind me sits half a dozen laughing people, and more sit at the bar. But the man leaning towards me, with his shaved head and large square-fingered hands, he and I don’t notice anything except the warmth of the air between our mouths.

My memory hops forward with increasing speed as I become consciously aware of it: my sudden exit from the bar, the tempting yet terminal text messages that followed, the winter nights in an apartment with far too few lamps to shut out the darkness outside. The months between then and now.

I sit up straight, blinking away from my computer screen, startled by my sense of longing. But sweet as the HVAC tech was, I don’t long for him. I long for the city. Even in the depths of winter, it warmed you with possibility. Who knew who you’d meet the next day?

Here, the house is silent, and I return to writing about a cafeteria in heaven.

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