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the typewriter

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You didn’t really even want this dumb typewriter to begin with.

It’s freaking massive and old and it has a ridiculous name (Erika) and you literally have no use for it. But Chloe had lugged it all the way home to your two-bedroom in Brooklyn from the Chelsea Flea because the shade of blue was, apparently, the exact same color as your eyes, so like, what were you supposed to do?

***

Erika takes up 90% of the desk in your room, over by the window.

It’s not like you need a desk, exactly – you’re not in college anymore – but still, it seems like a waste of space.

It is kinda pretty, you guess, especially when the sun hits it just right and the paint almost shimmers.

Plus, Chloe smiles every time she sees it.

***

After a week of peering at Erika like she’s some kind of intruder, you give in and google her.

She’s from the 1920s.

She’s German. (No comment.)

She’s worth, like, 50 bucks. (You hope Chloe got a deal.)

And she is not low maintenance.

Typewriters, you learn, are made up of, like, a million moving parts, and if they aren’t used regularly they dry up and rust and jam. They become massive, old, desk-hogging paper weights.

And, like, you don’t care, but you think Chloe would be sad if that happened.

So you guess you have to start typing.

Nothing like a gift that comes with a chore, right?

***

Words have never really been your thing.

Sure, writing has always been easier than talking, for you, but it doesn’t happen without some effort.

It’s not like music.

As if it isn’t bad enough that you have to write emails and reports for your job at Residual Heat NYC, now you have to write shit at home, too.

Honestly, you’re never letting Chloe go to a flea market alone again.

***

The first thing you type is a grocery list.

clementines

lara bars

chloe’s gross kashi cereal

almodn milk

sour patch kids

It takes a stupid amount of time because the keys are rusty and you have to really jam on them to get the letters to show up. Your first two attempts come out either faint or blurry, but the third one, you figure, is good enough.

You stick it to the fridge with Chloe’s dancing avocado magnet. It’s not like you left it there for her to see, specifically, but she does see it and she makes this little excited noise that you love and wraps her arms around your neck, nearly suffocating you.

So, like, it’s good that she noticed it.

You’re glad it made her happy.

***

Things with Chloe are changing.

Well, not changing, exactly. It’s more like they’re intensifying – like this thing that was always between the two of you is growing, filling up the spaces inside you that you’d kept closed off.

(You know Chloe’s spaces were never closed, but you think she can tell you’re finally catching up based on the way she smiles, the way her touches seem to linger and linger and linger.)

Change usually scares you.

This one doesn’t.

***

The words start coming more easily.

The typewriter keys move more easily, too.

Sometimes you sit in front of Erika with no idea what to write and you just start typing.

It’s called ‘stream of consciousness,’ you think.

You write about your day.

(note to self: don’t go to the chipotle on 9th ave ever again (cockroach sighting))

You write about what you see on the street below.

(that goldendoodle chloe loves is wearing a jaunty holiday sweater.)

And then, increasingly, you write about Chloe.

***

The first few pages you write about her, you immediately crumple up and throw away. It’s too vulnerable to even read back.

Once, when you were home alone and had a few glasses of wine, you typed something so soul-bearing that you snuck into Chloe’s room to feed the paper to her shredder.

(Its bin is only half full but you empty it in the basement recycling room anyway, because on the off chance Chloe notices the typewriter font mixed in with her shredded bills she’d so be the type to try to tape the strips back together.)

***

You write to Chloe, too.

In some ways, it’s safer.

In all the ways, it makes you feel soft and warm.

You type reminders and stick them to the front door before you go to bed so she’ll see them in the morning, when she leaves for work.

You type song lyrics you think she’ll like, hitting return after every line so that it looks like poetry. Each time, you tear off the corner of the page, pin it to the bulletin board in her room, and wait eagerly for her to spot it.

(When she does she comes up behind you while you’re washing dishes or combing your hair, and she slips her arms around your shoulders, or sometimes your waist, and your heart beats fast like a kick drum.)

Then when you’re feeling brave – when the sneaky hugs make you ache, like they aren’t enough – you write her little notes, just because.

You reminisce about moments you’ve shared.

You tell her the compliments that you always think, but never say.

You confess that she’s always on your mind.

That you like having her on your mind.

You fold these letters into squares, or those triangle-shaped notes you used to pass in school, and slip them into her jacket pocket or her yellow Longchamp bag or the pouch of her favorite hoodie.

(You know when she finds these, because she’ll come home and kiss your knuckles, or your shoulder, or the side of your neck.)

(Her kisses are getting closer and so, you think, are you.)

***

On a cloudy day in the middle of March you call out sick from work for no good reason.

You’d planned to stay in bed all day but you get bored and wind up cleaning the apartment.

You put on a playlist you’d made for Chloe and sing to yourself as you go from room to room. You smile when you think of how pleased she’ll be to come home to find everything neat and tidy. Maybe you can take her to brunch on Sunday during the time the two of you usually reserve to clean.

You’re vacuuming the area rug in Chloe’s room when you feel your sweatpants snag on something on one of the lower shelves of her bookcase. You switch off the power and kneel down to put whatever it is back where it belongs.

There, sticking out from between two books, is a white business envelope. It’s full – nearly bursting – and it’s plain, except for the top right corner, where Chloe has drawn a tiny heart where a stamp should be.

(Your heart gives a little jump, like it does anytime Chloe does something cute.)

And you know you shouldn’t look – you know – but your fingers are untucking the back fold before you can stop yourself.

It’s so weird, because in the moment before you actually realize what’s inside, you know with absolute certainty what you’re about to find.

You still gasp, though, once you see them.

It’s every note you’ve ever typed and left out for her, down to the first smudged scrap.

For a moment you can’t breathe, and then you start to laugh.

Because kneeling next to the vacuum cleaner on the floor in the middle of Chloe’s room is a ridiculous place to realize you’re in love.

***

That night when Chloe comes home from work, there’s a single sheet of paper taped to the outside of the apartment door, just beneath the peephole.

You hear her keys still in the lock as she reads it. You take a shaky breath as you wait and slowly count to 10.

You’re at seven when the door swings open with so much force that it creates a breeze that flutters the ends of your hair.

The first thing you notice is that Chloe’s yellow bag is forgotten on the floor in the hallway.

The second is that Chloe’s right in front of you, with watery eyes and a wide, crooked smile, like she’s about to die from happiness but she’s trying to hold it back. And that’s not what you want.

She raises her eyebrows in question and you nod, blinking away your own tears as you smile at her with everything that you feel. The spaces inside you are completely filled in, now – so full you’re nearly bursting.

It’s a happy-hurt.

As you step in close and place your hands on Chloe’s waist, you ache and you ache and you ache. Then your lips find hers, and she kisses you back, and your ache melts into something hot and molten.

Chloe loops her arms around your shoulders and holds you tightly like she can’t bear the thought of letting you go. She kisses you slowly and tenderly, as if she’s recalling the moment from memory, and you wonder how often she’s thought of this; how long she’s been waiting for you.

You’ll have to ask her later. For now, you only want to kiss her in the entryway to your apartment, with the door flung open wide for anyone to see, while the crisp corner of your latest note – still clutched in Chloe’s hand – slices the loveliest little paper cuts into the side of your neck.

(That’s a happy-hurt, too.)

***

chlo – wait, don’t come in yet

did you know i was kinda annoyed when you brought erika home? you probably did. i swear you know me better than i do half the time.

did you know that falling in love is crazy embarrassing?

i hope that you do. because that is something i know now too

thanks in large part to (erika, cover your ears) this 100-year-old bucket of bolts. before i met you i was kinda like her – stiff and rusty, like i’d forgotten how parts of myself were supposed to work. but then you came along and started taking care of me and lit up these spaces inside that i didn’t even know existed. and now i can’t imagine living without that.

without you.

so to sum up: this is the most embarrassing thing i’ve ever written

but i don’t care

because i’m in love with you, chloe

okay, you can come in now.