Where have you gone? I see you on street corners every day, but when I catch up, I find it isn’t you.

It isn’t you.

Sometimes I follow him, the man I’ve mistaken for you. I watch him from around corners, in the drugstore, in the marketplace. He buys cheap booze and name-brand cigarettes and I know then he isn’t you.

He sets his face in passive sorrow; he is grieving, but damned—damned—if he will let it show overmuch. He gives stilted smiles to passersby, to shop-girls, to the gas station attendant. They smile back but they don’t know he doesn’t really see them.

His sorrow is a scented vapor, left behind for me to track him like a bloodhound. I can find him anywhere, following his fragrance. He frequents quiet lounges and fast-food restaurants, and that’s how I know he isn’t you.

Why have you left me? I stalk a stranger who wears a face like yours, stamped with wretchedness. His despair keeps me anchored to him, so that I can’t find you.

Frosty morning; there are snowflake patterns on the windowpane. He takes an unknown road today, and I go because his desolation is a beacon, and I am unable to resist this familiar stranger.

He stops along the banks of a haunted place, and there he sits, his head in his hands. His soul cries out, words of anguish fall from his mouth. He uses your voice—like black satin sheets, it was—but it’s a tinny echo on his tongue, and it’s obvious that he isn’t you.

He can’t be you.

“Why have you left me?” he weeps. “Why can’t I find you?” And when he cries my name, I know.

I know that he is you.

Love has gone, and my heart is frozen in wintry isolation: a solitary snowflake. Within reach but unreachable, mine but never to touch or to hold, you rise and walk from the cemetery.

And now I see.
It is my name on the stone.

©2007 Sharon Gerlach

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