Inventory

1.The bikini I wore in Capri, the one you said made me look like a starlet. After one last swim, I rinsed it out, promised myself to retrieve it from the bathroom after I finished packing. But it was only when we were on the mainland that I remembered, already on our way to the airport. I’m sure the hotel can send it, you said. It was a five-star hotel, the most beautiful place either of us had ever stayed, with the sort of view you expect on a honeymoon. You were still married then—separated, but still married—and our affair had already lost its sheen. You look like a Hollywood starlet, you said, watching me climb out of the pool. You wouldn’t swim with me and so I lapped in the water alone. And then, dripping, grateful to be noticed for a moment—because you had stopped noticing by then—I stood still, in that inky blue bikini, brand new, purchased before we left New York. You look like a Hollywood starlet, you said, but you were looking past me as if I were already a memory, a picture to be filed away. In the business class lounge in Rome, waiting for our flight back to New York, I emailed the hotel to ask about the bikini, and they said it was gone. No sign of it, they said, with deep regret.

2.Your iPhone, left on the seat of a railway car. On your way upstate, to the house your family owned. It was password protected, you said. But you were still worried. You didn’t want anyone to see the text messages from me. You hadn’t yet told your wife that you wanted a divorce. I hate that I have to delete these messages, you said. I want to remember the things we say

I’ll remember for us, I said. I had hundreds of your texts:

 Like Kudzu, I persisted. 

When am I not thinking about you?

Your beeskneesness is killing me.

Having a child with you would be a wonderful adventure.

Until I finally deleted them.

3. My mother, your father. Both died too young. Cancer. Life is short, we said. We can’t throw it away. This happiness, we said, must be seized. Grief gave us clarity. Hadn’t we spent years pretending there was no attraction between us? Hadn’t we resisted, hadn’t we tried to be good? We’d always followed the rules. We didn’t cheat. We weren’t bad people, we told ourselves in our lust-diseased state. Looking back, I think our relationship was malignant from the start. Desire mutated our very cells, swallowed us up. But love has a placebo effect.

4.The fishnet stockings you tore off my legs in a Philadelphia hotel room. They were Wolford—an extravagance I couldn’t really afford—but I tossed them into the trash bin. I bet every man on the train was looking at your legs, you said. I never wanted to get dressed again. We were happy and spent. The next day, on the Acela back to New York, the conductor told us we were a beautiful couple. Even a stranger could see how well we fit together. We’ll always have Philadelphia, I said when we parted at Penn Station.

5.Gifts. In London, at the Vietnamese restaurant in Shoreditch where I dragged you to eat pho, you told me that your soon-to-be ex was depressed. There was no hot water in her apartment, something was wrong with the plumbing. Your apartment, actually, since you still owned it. You had moved out a few months before, but your life was still entwined with hers. You still shared a bank account. In England, I’d leave the hotel room so the two of you could Skype. I waited in the lobby, ashamed. Later that week, I helped you pick out a scarf. Hermès, in a perfect orange box. So expensive, our guilt. But I was instructing you. Someday, I thought, you’d buy Hermès scarves for me.

6. Our good names. In a letter, you wrote to say that you found every excuse to say my name. In conversation with people who had no idea we were lovers, you’d find a way to bring me up. First and last name intoned like they could save you. You liked my name, the lyrical sound of it, and I liked yours, the way it looked in print. We both went by our middle names, but our first names were printed on our passports and airline tickets. And so we traveled under names no one called us, and it always felt clandestine.

7. Dollars and sense. What kind of woman have I become? I said. We were in Montreal—another hotel room away from the places where, together, we couldn’t be seen. I was suddenly a woman who bought lingerie, who had grown attached to being wanted and liked to dress the sinful part. I’m not mistress material, I said, but it was the material of mistresses that filled my drawers, lacy things I bought in Soho with money I can never get back.

8. The mix tape you made for me. A CD, really. JAMZ, you wrote on the disc. You were forty and giddy as a teen. Away from you, I listened to the electronic beats you loved and used the soundtrack to make myself come. For several years the disc remained in my car—a car you rode in just once, in the backseat after we broke up—but it’s since disappeared. I wish I could tell you where it’s gone.

9. Our energy. In Los Angeles, we began to fade. We rented a car and I was prepared to chauffeur you around the freeways. But we were too tired to go anywhere. We cancelled our plans to see friends. In bed, we wanted to sleep, not fuck.

10. All the photographs we couldn’t take. Asked to pose for pictures we knew would end up online—you were often a guest of honor—we demurred. You Vogued alone, or with colleagues, while I stayed off to the side, so your wife would never have to see my face. In those days when we couldn’t be documented, we couldn’t stop touching. Together, we made heat. By the time we were finally public as a couple, your love was on the wane. The only photographs I have—mostly from the last two months—show me with a man who’s gone cold and stiff.

11. The tie I gave you for our first Christmas. Black silk, with a pattern of white Fleur-de-lis. You were wearing it on our last New Year’s Eve, when you clutched me at midnight and swore that you wouldn’t let go. When we get married, you said, can I wear thisYour shrink once asked why you loved me, and you said, Because she’s the kind of woman who would straighten my tie. It was a good line. But I don’t think I ever straightened that tie.