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Noah leaves.

He's left before, and I know he's going to leave again in the future. It's something he does. A Noah thing.

If I asked him, I'm sure there are things about me, too. Paul things. Things he maybe sometimes wishes were different, except that they are part of who I am, just like Noah's leaving is part of who Noah is, and therefore something I would never want to change, because I love Noah just the way he is.

That doesn't mean it doesn't make me feel bad, though.

 

Whenever Noah leaves, to me, it seems like forever. The first few times, I told him this. We were eating breakfast and I could see his bags standing by the door and the words just popped out of my mouth:

'I'm going to miss you so much.'

There are people who, in Noah's position, would have said something like: 'It's only for a week'. Because it was for a week, that first time, and since I've literally spent years without Noah, years during which I didn't even know of his existence, a week doesn't seem that long.

Noah didn't tell me he'd only be gone for a week. He didn't tell me this trip he was going on was important to him, how much it means to him to have gotten a job where he gets to travel all around the world to make pictures. He knew I knew these things already.

What he said was: 'I'm going to miss you very much, too.'

What I heard was: 'I love you.'

Some words, you can hear over and over again, and they still make you feel better. Words like resplendent, and mucronate, and vitreous, and literogratumerriment. Noah's words that morning made me feel better, too.

 

Because I love him, I miss Noah all the time that he's gone.

Because he loves me, I don't spend all the time that he's gone missing him. I want Noah to be happy, and I know it won't make him happy to know that while he's doing something he loves, I'm unhappy.

I go to work. Like Noah, I love my job. Unlike Noah, my job doesn't really require me to travel a lot. As an editor at The Advocate, I do have to work late sometimes. On some nights, I don't come home, because someone hasn't yet turned in an article, and we need to go to print in three hours.

On other nights, everything goes perfect and I get home to find Noah's already tried to make dinner. (There are a few things Noah isn't good at. Cooking is one of them.) Sometimes we have fun trying out new things, combining the parts of dinner that went well with other things, things to replace the parts of dinner that didn't turn out so well. Sometimes our combinations work. Sometimes, we order take-out.

I tell Noah stories about the people I work with. He has met some of them, but most of them, he only knows from my stories.

Noah sends me pictures. He does this both when he's going to be home in time for dinner and when he's not. When we're going to meet for dinner, he'll occasionally send me pictures of perfectly ordinary things, taken in such a way that you can't see what they are right away.

His picture of a football has me wrecking my brain for hours. (His picture of a pineapple, I guess within fifteen minutes, but only because I show it to the person I am interviewing.)

When he's gone for more than a day, he sends me pictures with words in them. They're usually simple words, not words like giddy, or frequentation, or prophetic. (Once, he finds a sign saying scrappage. That picture, I have printed and framed, to give to him as his 'welcome home' gift.)

It's amazing how many loves there are out there, though. There's always a good many heres, and Is and yous, and I know they are all variations on 'I love you' and 'I wish you were here'.

On some days, the pictures make me miss Noah even more than I already do. They make me happy, and I want to share that happiness with the person I love.

 

There's only one picture in our house that Noah didn't make, and it hangs in a place of honor.

It's the picture Claudia made of us on the evening of the Dowager's Dance. Compared to Noah's pictures, it's not a very good picture at all. It's not a picture with any words in it. It's not a picture that can drive you crazy, trying to figure out what's on it.

It's just a picture of two people. You can tell they're not used to wearing the clothes they're wearing in the picture, even though they're both trying to hide it. You can tell they're both a little nervous, a little bit uncertain, even though they're both trying to hide that, too.

But most of all, you can tell they are in love.

This is why this picture is my favorite one, and why we've put it in a place of honor. It's not that we need the reminder, or that we ever look at it and think everything was better or simpler or easier back then (because we don't really think things are worse or more complicated or harder now).

It's that we want everyone who comes into our home to see. To know not just who we are (Paul and Noah) but also what we are (in love).

The only times we hide it is when we know Claudia is coming over with her boyfriend of the month.

Once - the first time, before we agreed to hide the picture - the boyfriend (I don't remember his name, and I think Claudia probably doesn't either) asked about the picture. He wasn't being rude, as far as I could tell. He didn't call us 'fags' or 'pervs' or anything else. He called me 'Paul', after I told him that was my name, and Noah 'Noah'.

Claudia told him about the Dowager's Dance. She made it a funny story, as it should be. Then Noah told him about Claudia having taken the picture, and he smiled at her and said something about how he could tell she was Noah's sister.

It didn't seem particularly offensive to me. A bit like someone catching me with a tennis racket and comparing me to Jay, except that I really don't like tennis all that much, and I know that Claudia likes Noah's pictures. (I know he sends some to her, too, when he comes across something he thinks she will like to see.) Claudia frowned a lot after that, though, and she called Noah two days later to let him know she'd dumped the guy. Usually, we only find out she's got a new boyfriend when she brings them over.

 

Claudia never lets Noah take her picture with any of her boyfriends, even though he offers every time.

I think it's her way of telling him she hasn't yet found the right person for her. When she doesn't want her picture taken with someone, it's because she's not sure about him. Perhaps she thinks he might be the right person for her, or perhaps she simply enjoys having a boyfriend.

When Noah offers to take a picture, what he's asking is: 'is this The One?'.

When she refuses, what she's saying is: 'no, I'm still looking'.

When I let her have my portion of dessert, what I'm saying is: 'I'm sorry. I hope you find the person who is right for you soon'.

When her boyfriend follows my example, I think that what he's saying is: 'I really do like you a lot', although depending on the way dinner turned out that day, it might also be 'I appreciate your brother having cooked for us, but I don't really like the way this tastes'.

 

I don't own a camera. I treasure every picture Noah has given me, but I don't feel at all like I want to make any myself. I string words together sometimes, writing them down and giving them to him to read on the plane or the bus or the boat. When Noah goes to a foreign country, I try to find some words of the language people speak there.

French was never my favorite subject, but I think it's at least partially thanks to Ms. Kaplansky that I learn how to write down phrases like 'I am amazed by the size of that ostrich' in seventeen different languages. I have no idea how to pronounce the words I write down, though. In my head, when I'm putting down the letters, I think of how they might sound. It's never the same sound as when Noah reads the word out loud, because unlike me, he's talked to people who speak the language all the time.

The only pictures I make are the ones when Noah and I paint some music. They don't really require any words and yet, when I show Noah what I've painted, I know they are there. I could say them out loud a hundred times a day, and they still wouldn't go away or become any less true.

I love you.