To My Twenty-Four-Year-Old Self

Sometimes you feel more intimacy with the woman who lives 
in the apartment opposite—twenty years older, probably, 
though she looks barely ten, devoted to evading age—
than with anyone stroked or kissed or otherwise handled. 

You sit naked on the white sofa, lights on, looking into her home, 
     lights on. 

She paints her toenails, watches a black-and-white film, 
Hitchcock, maybe: there’s a woman with a platinum chignon. 
She applies a green mask. A cream. A mystery ointment.

When you meet an older woman who resembles her, enough, 
you do the obvious thing. 

That woman says, after, Don’t ever leave me 
but when you report to your friends 
you change her words to Don’t ever forget me. 

Typical of us, the lie and the lie. 

Why couldn’t you tell the truth? That’s what I’ve come to ask. 
Not to her—to your friends. 
I can’t remember why it embarrassed you. 

Was it that she was old enough not to bare her throat? 
Or was it shame at yourself, for misunderstanding 
how well you were understood? 

(It always comes back to knowledge with us, doesn’t it?) 

Maybe it doesn’t matter: you’ll think of this woman 
so often throughout the years 
that by some lights 

you’ll have kept your vow.

“To My Twenty-Four-Year-Old Self” from GRAND TOUR by Elisa Gonzalez. Copyright © 2023 by Elisa Gonzalez. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All Rights Reserved.