I have one
memory of him. No I have two, really, perhaps three. Memory, it
comes and goes. It is constructed of, besides things we actually
remember, those things we want to remember, those things we need
to remember. So I might have four or five, more or less. But why
is it the more I remember, the more I remember? Does it matter how
many memories I have, how many are distinct or correct? I have memories,
memories collected and distilled, memories that started three summers
ago, memories of Bryan Milo.
My "one" memory of him, the one I immediately
recall, call to mind, see, the one I know I have and will always
keep without having to remember, is of Bryan Milo hunched over a
book at a cubicle on the second floor of Stapleton Library. He had
been there, probably, all day. He had been there, definitely, throughout
the duration of our Irish literature class. I had missed him that
day, looked forward to seeing him, swallowed my disappointment,
endured the tedium alone. As I strolled through the stacks and aisles,
after class, I happened upon him where he was, hunched over, reading.
I approached unnoticed, he was so absorbed. (But who is to say he
would have noticed if he weren't?)
I started, quite delighted and surprised. I assuredly did not imagine
it possible to find him in the library after his absence, not that
I was looking. "You missed class . . ."
He looked up from his book at the sound
of his name, smiled sheepishly, or not quite so sheepishly as mischievously,
not quite so mischievously as one who is so utterly unaware of his
offense that his smile, his look, was innocent. "Yeah, I started
reading this book and it was just so interesting, it seemed a lot
more important than coming to class . . ."
Truculence for a book, for a quiet read
tucked away behind compressed wood, below florescent lights. Such
an answer was apropos for him, what I would have expected, would
have liked to expect. Such an answer was attractive; it intensified
my desire to know him. But summer classes, seating arrangements,
schedules, and stress, these things would just not allow this to
But Bryan Milo, who is he? Where did he
come from? Still I do not exactly know. He stepped out of one space
into my own. He was sitting there when I arrived into it myself:
220 Leonard Hall. Excitement crept in through the corners of my
eyes, as I entered the room. Not intending to do so, probably not
even noticing me, he solicited attention unsolicited (I had not
asked or intended to be aware of him; he did not ask or intend to
be the subject of awareness) and impossible (comparable to the long-distance
relationship in which I cloistered myself). I didn't know it then,
but now, when I compare it to other memories of other men, men I
never noticed, men who noticed me, I know I noticed him.
And I have not often attended to such notices that slip and slide
between physicality and those things unaccounted for. I knew I observed
him but immediately accounted it only to fascination, to distraction,
to hope, as I critiqued the dusty, mousy brown hair that framed
and fell over his forehead and the clothing, nothing stylish, nothing
of note in a crowd or empty classroom, nothing distinguishing, unless
we say, the practical brown (or black) round-nose leather shoes
that housed his feet and the sweater, possibly maroon, with a hole
somewhere toward the elbow, that draped his frame.
But I didn't need to know what he wore,
didn't care, didn't exactly notice and on that account my description
mirrors both our concern to his stylistic flair. Shall we sum it
and the memory up as nondescript, indistinct? I do not remember
what he wore besides his shoes and sweater, but I can see him, sitting
at a desk, one leg crossed over the other, the sun at his back,
scribbling notes on a roll of cashier paper, not saying much even
when pointedly asked.
What was he writing and why was he writing
it on that?
These were just two questions I had of
Bryan Milo. Two questions. No answers. I couldn't help watching
him, searching, struggling quite amiably for some truth. He was
something indescribable, mysterious, magnetic. I'm not sure if these
things were him or methat just another thing I wanted to find
out. So I sat next to him when I could, took him cheddar cheese
Goldfish crackers, and generally ignored the fact that I was ignoring
him because I wanted to do quite the opposite.
Unfortunately, Bryan Milo provided few
answers that summer and I have very few today. Of the cashier's
tape, just something he was trying, like skipping class to read
a book, like wearing a maroon sweater during the height of summer.
I had almost forgotten him, almost forgotten my memoriesexcept
the onewhen the phone rang last Friday and the voice on the
other line was his. And, almost four years later, the attraction
that once crept in through my eyes, whispered in through my ears.
I remembered then, almost four years later, just weeks before, it
had held me in its arms. And I wondered, wouldn't you, if it would
not somehow manage to steal into my heart.
So he caught me off-guard, again, even
though I knew my space would collide with his. I had waited, two
large, heavy, upright black pulleys at my side, in an artificial
night. Darkness had fallen but the glow of the streetlights, the
stream of headlights, the wattage that spilled through the windows
of the airport's glass walls made patches of the night, cast shadows,
made the landscape fuzzy, hazy, irritatingly warm and aglow, as
people, luggage, and cars milled, moved, motored through the scene.
Drained, I longed just for darkness, longed even more for Bryan's
arrival. My weary eyes scanned each vehicle looking for the dark
SUV that had once collected and carried me to this very address,
one night in December after the summer I had met him. He had given
me a ride home. I watched and waited, wondered if I would actually
know him, especially after mistaking someone else for him in the
arrival's hall. I wondered, I waited, I watched.
This time, he noticed me, but only because
he had to. He had pulled onto the opposite side of the street, out
of the traffic, stepped out of his car, a green BMW coupe, and called
my name. Spotting him, I moved with the milling travelers in the
direction of familiar, the someone who has come to rescue you, as
it were, from the lost and found. That's how I feel, sometimes,
waiting to be collected, waiting to go home, watching as everyone
else who was once lost, is found. Crossing the street, I left a
piece of luggage behind me, dragged the other closer to his car.
He seemed more anxious about my bag as I approached; it was heavy
and I was happy to release it to him with only a quick hello and
half hug before turning heel for the other. But these gestures,
they were proper, both considerations of protocol, politeness, and
good breeding, what friends do when they meet after a long time,
We shoved and squeezed my luggage into
the trunk and back seat of his car respectively and were on our
way. The darkness I longed for flooded in through the windows. I
was hungry and tired and cold or hot as my sweater and the air conditioner
went on and off. I really had not much to say except nothing, so
the conversation flickered on and off, too, and up and down, like
my companion's air conditioner, my sweater, my body temperature,
Indiana, PA, was not that far away but
we arrived upon it faster than I would have expected, faster than
I would have liked. Shortly after we were shoving and squeezing
my luggage into his car we were squeezing and shoving it out again;
my shoulders and back strained at the job. He deposited me, as he
had before, upon a quiet, dark emptiness. That December he deserted
me to an airport; this night he deserted me to a seemingly empty
house. Its contents asleep, I felt just as alone now as I had then.
Taking our leave, we hugged again. His arms closed around me; his
head nestled into the crook of my neck. He held me, rested against
and into my body, as if he were breathing me in, trying to remember
something he had forgotten, or to remember something he wouldn't
forget. As I waited in his embrace, I wondered what he was doing,
what he was osmotically absorbing from me, of me. This goodbye
I thought would be as quick as our hello. But as I stood there,
folded into his body, enveloped by his arms, I became anxious that
this wait I had not expected would end. And it did as he gently
released me. We slowly stepped apart and looked into the other's
eyes. My face near his, I could have kissed him, longed to kiss
him, almost . . . doesn't count.
This moment, just like any other, just
like all others, evaporated as quickly as it condensed. We didn't
stand there all night. We didn't say anything profound. We didn't
even kiss. I wish we had. I wish we had done one of those
things. As I lugged my bags over the cobbled path and into the house,
he slowly backed out of the drive and disappeared into the night.
We both disappeared into that night. I thought, maybe he'll call.
But he never did, until now.
"Hello, Nicole. How are you . . ." this
call commenced with the casual, usual chit chat, until he said,
"I want to see. When can I come?"
"Whenever, you decide, my schedule
is pretty flexible, especially after the 11th." I thought,
he isn't serious; I'm not even taking him seriously. Let him show
up. Then I'll believe it. This train ran through my head as he spoke
nostalgically of touring Indiana, IUP, his favorite haunts, and
seeing me. But that wasn't the Friday he called. The Friday he called,
he called twice, three times even, maybe more. "I woke up with this
urgency to see you. When can I come?"the same voice on the
phone, the same question in my ear.
"Well . . . you can come on Saturday or
Sunday. But the campus will probably be closed. It's up to you.
Make a decision," my voice trailed off as I listened to him thinking.
"OK, I'm going to think about it and call
you back." We hung up and I thought, Really? He called backreallynot
five minutes later. "How about today?"
"OK? . . . OK . . . " My mind whirled
as he gave me a run down the rest of his day, as he mentioned another
call to alert me of his estimated arrival. "Yeah, great, call me
when you're leaving Pittsburgh," I echoed. Not only would I need
the heads up, I needed to be sure he was actually coming. Bryan
and I, we've tried to meet at other times besides those rides to
and from the airport, we've exchanged emails, conversed casually
and occasionally. But, somehow, somehow, his phone call would let
me know whether this was just another somehow.
rang, again. I picked it up and looked at it: Milo calling.
"Hello," I said.
"I'm on my way . . ." And that was
that. It wasn't the worst, it wasn't even another somehow.
He called; he was halfway here. Called
again; he was lost. Still my phone rang, "I'm outside in front of
building 2200. Where are you?"
"I'll come down," I said, slipping into
my shoes and grabbing my purse. I emerged in wedge heels and a short,
ruffled denim mini skirt, both to accentuate my legs, both to feed
into a fascination he'd mentioned about them. His one memory, ironically,
finds us once again at Stapleton Library. We met there, and as chance
would have it, I wore a denim skirt. He remembers that skirt (somewhere
now long forgotten, except by him) and my legs. So I emerged in
a denim skirt, one shorter and sexier, not purchased but selected
from my closet with him in mind. I hoped the change wouldn't be
too disappointing, knew it wouldn't. But, you never know with men
. . .
I found him rollerblading about the parking
lot, wielding his hockey stick. Straightaway, he sent me back inside.
I remerged with rollerblades and socks and wondered how I would
manage in this very short skirt.
First stop, the library. We parked there,
pulled on our blades, and started skating down memory lane, for
Bryan. His adeptness amazed me. I floundered behind, knowing I would
have outdone him if I could. As I watched him whir ahead, I marveled
at being caught up in this whirlwind of nostalgia. He pointed to
places he'd lived, buildings in which he'd studied. We even skated
over carpet and linoleum in a few. The, rest, unfortunately were
locked, or we would have done them all. Leaving the campus, we glided,
gracefully and without falling, effortlessly and with some effort,
toward the town. Over bumpy and bricked, cracked and cobbled sidewalks,
we wheeled our way to a place of particular significanceSpaghetti
Benders. Bryan always ate there, had even invited me to eat with
him once or twice that summer we meet. We'd even been there once,
together, with other people. In four words, I'd never gone back.
But we had to stop here. And Bryan recalled past meals, conversations,
TV shows all in that place. He pressed his face against the glass,
a kid outside a "candy" store, as I watched and smiled and maintained
We returned to campus, meandered through
the Oak Grove. He took a paved path toward his car. I took one for
a chair, a bench really, cast iron and apparently rigid. It, not
as uncomfortable as it looked to Bryan, went unnoticed as we sat
there, talking of anything, until the tension of waiting for the
moment to end eventually evaporated. We outlived it together until
we skated together, with his hands gently on my hips, guiding me,
moving me through the most beautiful oak grovethe most beautiful
Bryan will remember that we returned to
my apartment. He will remember that as he approached the door I
arrested him, "I didn't tell you you could leave." He will remember
my finger scratching his eyebrow, or that holding me felt good and
natural. He'll remember that once he left he wanted me as he never
I will remember Bryan sitting with me
in the Oak Grove, his telling me all these things: how he loved
the word amalgamation, Sheetz smoothies, tofu, and podcasts, how
he'd never tasted honeydew melon, never "tasted" love. And when
I walk through the Oak Grove now, I, I will remember him.
Bryan Milo has not given me any more answers,
only more questions. That's apropos, what I would expect, would
like to expect. But he has given me one more memory, maybe two,
three or four, maybe less or more. Life, Bryan especially:
it creates questions; it creates memories. Answers, they are there,
somewhere, I'm sure, I want to hope, have to believe. But if not,
I can't help watching . . . searching . . . strugglingat leastfor
the truth, whatever that is anyway. Maybe it's just my memories.