He started the book with the ending planned out. He always had the ending. A few days later, he had some good sentences and a straight line from the start to the end. He wrote. The straight line became longer and twisted in the process. He became attached. He fell in love with the idea more than the words. Soon the words weren’t good enough. How could any words be good enough for her?
She was based on a woman he knew. They would talk at night while she smoked. They did this every night for a week. He would walk around the grounds of his complex when he didn’t want to sleep. He saw her two nights, smoking at the table near the apartment’s playground, before she motioned him to come to her.
She lit another cigarette and he could see her face was beautiful. She used matches.
“I could, I just don’t want it.”
“Are you a night owl?”
“Aren’t all owls, ‘night owls?’”
She smiled while sucking in the night air through her smoke.
“You can sit down.”
He liked standing. He liked pacing. He did not like sitting. He did not like lying down. He did not like stillness.
He sat down and they talked until she was out of matches.
Every night, except for the last, her cadence was calm and only the speed of her voice varied. Her words were exact. She took as much time as needed to make sure of that.
He told himself he was trying to get her words right. He was trying to make them as exact as she would have made them. He would let the book be finished, he would write the ending, when he got her words right.
The woman’s name was Lilly and he named her character Luna. He loved Lilly, but the late night conversations would end with her matches and never with either of their mattresses.
Lilly moved. She told him she was. He said he wanted to keep up with her and she said the same. Information was exchanged and kept. They never kept up like they both wanted. They both waited until Luna was all he had left of her.
He wasn’t going to let go of Luna. Luna was perfect. She always had something more to say and she never ran out of matches because she used a lighter. Their first time was when she brought a bottle of whiskey to the playground table. They kissed, like drunks, on the equipment. They found a slide and crawled into it to feel each other’s bodies get warm. They finished the bottle and each other in her bed, a simple mattress on the floor.
He moved his mattress onto the floor.
Luna was afraid of falling to the floor during her sleep. Her sleep was as restless as his mind. That’s why she smoked at night. She did it to calm herself.
He would fall asleep with his writing pad. He would fall asleep with Luna’s new words and wake up with them on the floor.
He did this for months, but the words started to come to him slow and less exact than they should be. Less exact than what Lilly would have said.
This is why he didn’t keep up with Lilly. The last night at the table her words were slow and not exact. He thought she was bored. He thought he had started to be a chore for her like he had for everyone else. That last night at the table, when she was out of matches, she couldn’t find a way to ask him to walk her to her place and stay.
He felt Luna was leaving him. She had been with him for over a year. He had memories with her. He had a life planned with her. She would be his greatest accomplishment. He would let others love her like he loved her, but she would only be his.
He sat still and tried to type. He always had the ending. He had known it from the beginning.
He couldn’t write it and Luna left him because of it. He woke up one day and she was gone.
He moved his mattress off the ground.
Luna had changed him when she left. Every girl that left him had. The other girls left him with movie ticket stubs and photos.
She wasn’t real and she had hurt him the most.
Luna left him with a book he couldn’t finish and a relationship he couldn’t tell anyone about. He still knew the ending, but the words weren’t right. They couldn’t be right because neither Lilly nor Luna told him goodbye.