I arranged for R to fly to Melbourne, Florida to visit his best friend a few weeks before his surgery. Sharing an apartment had become difficult. I could not pretend to feel either sadness or happiness in the wake of our break-up. I felt nothing. It was this vacancy of feeling which became the canvas for my absence of morality. I had a friend of three years in Boston, Massachusetts. I'd never felt strongly one way or the other about this person. He was simple minded, but charming and funny, and prior to his military activation in early 2007, consistently available for light and humorous conversation. The nature of our relationship had always been casual, without any urgency and, for me at least, neutral territory; not incredibly important. I can easily recall the stories of his enlistment as a Marine, when he left for boot camp and his return from Paris Island. I remember the weeks prior to his departure. He had been activated as a gunman for caravan-style patrols in the city of Ramadi, Iraq. Immediately following his return I sensed a difference in the nature of our conversations. I should note that this difference was vaguely noticeable, as he was scarcely a supporting character in my larger life-story. He was pressuring me to visit, or that he fly in and visit. It was purely coincidental that he be on a one week, military-sanctioned leave the same week that R left for Melbourne.
R's trip was planned well in advance with reason. I had phoned you to tell you I was sending R on a trip. I told you I needed to see you. I gave you dates and times. I told you I would be alone. I told you it was now or never; an obviously weak and unsupported ultimatum. This phone call was an isolated incident. I did not hear from you in the weeks prior to or following our conversation. I have only a vague recollection of our sparse interactions during my final months in Buffalo. I spent a lot of time in Niagara Falls National Park. Burred deep below late-winter snow, the falls were abandoned by tourists and employees alike. I would retreat almost daily to Goat Island. I was alone in the purest sense. The island became my secret. I claimed ownership of the park as I walked in the snow, in an oversize winter jacket and knit cap smoking Ben Sherman cigarettes. I sent you a text message; something about the trees who's bark looked like water-color and how you'd love me if you did not know me.
In the park that winter, I did not know myself.