I Have Nothing to Say and I Am Saying It
Erin Lyndal Martin
I love you. That is all.
That was the note he’d tucked behind a windshield wiper on my car one winter years ago, the note I unearthed cleaning out the car before I finally sold it for scrap. I hadn’t realized that note had been in there during every illegal left turn, every grocery shopping trip I’d taken in the time since we broke up. But it had stowed away there, written in his left-handed print on the back of a business card, just in case I needed to email him to ask him more about it but didn’t know how to reach him.
But that wasn’t all. It never was. I mean that both in the general sense and specific to us. Generally, when you love someone that can never be all because it means other things too, like taking soup to them in the middle of the night or telling everybody that they have a venereal disease because you love them and they cheated on you. There is always an and. Even when he left that on my car, there was an and: I love you and I want to see you, but you are still asleep and I don’t want to use my key to get into your apartment and wake you up. Or: I love you and I really have to pee but I didn’t just want to drive past your place without saying anything. Or I love you and when I promise I will follow you when you leave town, wherever you go next, I will change my mind and feel too guilty to tell you so will purposefully alienate you instead until I seem like a distant portrait of the man you love too.
But that would not have fit on a business card.
With us, that would never have been all. We always had something more to say. The first night we met he told me about how he used to have a roommate who was French and a truck driver. He had asked his roommate for trucking terms in French and I asked him what he had planned to do with them. He said he might write a sonnet. That was not when I fell in love with him, though he claimed the moment he fell in love with me was when I opened a cabinet door and it hit him in the head. He said he could really tell that I was sorry and that I cared about his head.
We used to take long drives together and when there was silence we would talk about silence or words. We talked about who we would most like to be silent with and when silence is good and when silence feels threatening and how sometimes you can hear silence coming on.
“There is no such thing as silence. Get thee to an anechoic chamber and here there thy nervous system in operation and hear there thy blood in circulation,” he said.
“What are you saying?” I asked.
“I have nothing to say and I am saying it.”
He laughed then and didn’t explain, but I found those two quotes later in a book by John Cage. “What we require is silence, but what silence requires is that I go on talking.” That’s another line from the same John Cage book. Maybe if my lover hadn’t gone on talking, I would have noticed the silence, and the silence would have meant we will not always thrive and I would have known then. No wonder he changed the subject away from silence. Do you like it better when people say ‘lukewarm’ or ‘tepid?’ He asked, and other questions of the same urgency. Then he asked me existential questions about things that were not terribly existential, like what do people mean when they say potato? Why is crying made of tears?
I remember all this, but I’m not terribly sure where we were driving that day or if his I love you note would have been somewhere in the car at that point in time.
Now it is my turn and I have a question for him. When people say That is all, what do they mean by all?