THE LETTER ARRIVED YESTERDAY. Why it pains me, I cannot say. Only perhaps because the youth’s voice reaches through to me in a way that few can. She writes wonderfully and I love that. It echoes previous messages though. Riding my bike through a back lot, I remembered another day many years ago, seeing another woman walking her own bike past the brick facades. She was about to leave for abroad, and it was my secret hope that she would find a good man there, settle down, raise a brood, and I would never have to see her again. Then she returned to my life, only to regard me as, I don’t know, a non-man, not a man, not a man worth considering as a man. She would sit on my couch and complain about how a good man was so hard to find. Then, maybe, a glance in the mirror. A smoothing of the hair. Attention to a manicure. Behold, smoldering femininity in its bare grotesqueness. Yet we love them and forever love them. When they send letters, they are like arrows made of crystal. The wounds they leave are cold and incisive, not hot, tropical, festering. As taboo and strange and wrong as it is, this one knows I love her and therefore can treat me with such indifference. I’ll always be there to carry a box, or remedy some inconvenience. “Hold my bag!” You can’t expect a man though to cut off parts of himself for the sake of others. It doesn’t work that way. The very parts that bring you passion, warmth, happiness, and joy. One collapses into piles of coiled ship’s rope without hope. You can’t seriously expect another human being to be that self-denying, as it suits your fancy. Can you? Can you? I never started these things on my own. Something was always given to me, passed along, like a glowing gem. And now you want it back? At the café, yesterday, another one now. A woman dressed in blue with a long lion’s mane of gold hair. She was looking at me. I was looking at her. We looked at each other. Oh no. It was happening again. Oh no.