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“‘Everything that comes together falls apart’” the Old Man said. “Everything. The chair I’m sitting on. It was built, and so it will fall apart. I’m gonna fall apart, probably before this chair. And you’re gonna fall apart. The cells and organs and systems that make you you— they cam together, grew together, and so much fall apart. The Buddha knew one thing science didn’t prove for millennia after his death: Entropy increases. Thinks fall apart.”
We are all going, I thought, and it applies to turtles and turtlenecks, Alaska the girl and Alaska the place, because nothing can last, not even the earth itself. the Buddha said that suffering was caused by desire, we’d learned, and that the cessation of desire meant the cessation of suffering. When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.
Someday no one will remember that she ever existed, I wrote in my notebook, and then, or that I did. Because memories fall apart, too. And then you’re left with nothing, left not even with a ghost but with its shadow. In the beginning, she had haunted me, haunted my dreams, but even now, just weeks later, she was slipping away, falling apart in my memory and every one else’s, dying again.
especially men who say they love me
But I love you in a pure and beautiful way, because sex isn’t the main thing I want from our relationship.
“I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together, in the most innocent of the phrase.”
I am several steps in front of him before I realize that the Colonel has fallen down. I turn around, and he is lying on his face. “We have to get up, Chip. We have to get up. We just have to get to the room.”
The Colonel turns his face from the ground to me and looks me dead in the eye and says, “I. Can’t. Breathe.”
But he can breathe, and I know this because he is hyperventilating, breathing, as if trying to blow air back into the dead. I pick him up, and he grans onto me and starts sobbing, again saying, “I’m so sorry,” over and over again. We have never hugged before, me and the Colonel, and there is nothing much to say, because he ought to be sorry, and I just put my hand on the back of his head and say the only true thing. “I’m sorry, too.”
“Yeah. So that’s it. You know what’s lame, Pudge? I really care about her. I mean, we were hopeless. Badly matched. But still. I mean, I said I loved her. I lost my virginity to her.”
“You lost her virginity to her?”
“Yeah. Yeah. I never told you that? She’s the only girl I’ve slept with. I don’t know. Even though we fought, like, ninety-four percent of the time, I’m really sad.”
“You’re really sad?”
“Sadder than I thought I’d be, anyway. I mean, I knew it was inevitable. We haven’t had a pleasant moment this whole year. Ever since I got here, I mean, we were just on each other relentlessly. I should have been nicer to her. I don’t know. It’s sad.”
“It is sad,” I repeated.
“I mean, it’s stupid to miss someone you didn’t even get along with. But, I don’t know, it was nice, you know, having someone you could always fight with.”
“Fighting,” I said, and then, confused, barely able to drive [on a video game], I added, “is nice.”
“Right. I don’t know what I’ll do now. I mean, it was nice to have her. I’m a mad guy, Pudge. What do I do with that?”
“You can fight with me,” I said. I put my controller down and leaned back on our foam couch and was asleep. As I drifted off, I heard the Colonel say, “I can’t be mad at you, you harmless skinny bastard.”
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