He Is Gone And I Love Him Still

I awoke at about two-thirty for some reason and after peeing was able to fall asleep again in about fifteen minutes. That carve-out, though, left me drained as I knifed through Grand Central to catch the subway downtown. Though the Lexington Avenue Line’s platform was its typically crowded self, I got on the Four Train, a downtown express. I serpentined to the middle of the car. I put my backpack down between my legs and my right hand gripped the pole with my bag over my left shoulder.

After a quick survey of the half-awake riders, I began to drift off, slowly swaying with the car’s movement south. My reverie was interrupted. From behind I heard a soft voice. Singing a simple, enchanting melody: “He is gone and I love him still/He is gone and I always will.”

I scooted to my left around the pole so I could see her. She was a bit heavy-set. Her dress was yellow with splatters of green and red. Her naturally-blonde hair, cut short, framed a round face. She opened her eyes and, realizing she’d sung out loud and, worse, been heard, her chin shot down and she glared at the floor.

In my own half-awake state, she seemed a dream’s character. I am straight yet found myself viscerally attracted to this woman. I turned my head slightly to the left, hoping to ease her embarrassment, but not too far. I could look at her without being obvious.

I moved aside slightly at Fourteenth Street, allowing people off, praying she would not leave. She didn’t. As the train began again, I heard the melody, hummed this time, piercing through the subway’s clang. At the Brooklyn Bridge station, she stood and I think I saw a hint of a smile. Perhaps for me. In any case, I offered her a smile. And she was gone, me watching the yellow dress with splatters of green and red exit.

That was two years ago. I look for her—indeed long for her—each time I take that train, knowing how different my life would be had I touched her, as she touched me.

* * *

This piece was based on song lyrics I wrote some years ago.

It was a lilting voice, rising over the rattle,
Gone as it began.
As the singer realized her song could be heard.
She stopped and stared at her hands.

Now she was humming, something somehow familiar
I closed my eyes to hear
Grabbed the pole and felt the car’s motion
She made everything disappear.

Now I was far from the clamor
Savored that trip for a while.
The singer, she stopped and I opened my eyes
She looked at me, a hint of a smile.

He is gone and I love him still
He is gone and I always will

I was embarrassed for having invaded
Her private act in that public space
We had our unique moment
She put me in her private place.

The train hit a curve and then it was slowing
And stopped with a screech.
She gathered her things, then she was going
She left and was gone from my reach.

He is gone and I love him still
He is gone and I always will

I was alone, packed with the suits and the tourists,
The song staying with me.
I closed my eyes and I was transported
To a place open and free.

Sometimes I walk and my mind starts to wander
The song is suddenly there
And I think of the woman who was the singer
And of that moment we shared.

He is gone and I love him still
He is gone and I always will