The pictures on Pilar’s postcards were always of some sight or building that no longer existed. It had begun a while back when on a trip to New York, she sent me one with a picture of the Worlds Trade Center. She said she found it in a bodega nowhere near the tourist areas, apparently where they sold so few postcards that nobody had gotten rid of these artifacts.
“Huh, was that really in the display?” the clerk had asked, “We should probably do something about that.” Then he turned his attention back to a foreign language soap opera.
Since then, when she travels, Pilar always sends me a postcard. Since her work sends her to places in recovery after disasters, it’s easy for her to get the latest. A hotel before it was flattened by an earthquake, a city street of bustling businesses before it flooded, an expanse of desert before a gated community was built.
It’s a joke that was never really funny, but has gone on too long to stop. On the back, is always a quick message, an explanation of where she is and what she’s working on, and the phrase, “Wish you were here.” I think a lot about that. Does she wish I could see this place in its full splendor, or with her in the moment, experiencing this post-destruction world? Or did she mean it as the throwaway line that it’s always meant, not quite an “I miss you.”
I haven’t seen Pilar in years. She travels so much that when she’s home, she doesn’t want to take train ride out of the city to visit us. Whenever we make plans for me to come visit her, another assignment comes up, and she’s off again. We tried writing e-mails, but realized we’re not e-mail friends. Neither of us likes Facebook, and she doesn’t use Twitter. She posts pictures on Instagram, oftentimes it’s the same places as the postcards I receive, though in its current state. Some of the people she works with, serious faced in matching polos and khakis. Then night shots, of these same people in club dresses, shots in hand. Sometimes, I favorite, but I never comment.
So, I don’t expect her call. It’s the middle of the night for me, who knows what it is for her. I’m not even sure where she is. But her voice is slurred.
“Did I wake you?”
“Umm, yeah, but it’s okay. What’s going on?”
“No, seriously, it’s nice to hear your voice. Don’t worry about it.”
“No, not for waking you up, well, also for waking you up. I meant for being a shit friend. For always cancelling our plans. For sending that fucking postcard.”
“You’re busy, I get that. Which postcard?”
“Of course, it’s not there yet. Please, ignore it. I’m going to visit you when I get back. I promise. No excuses.”
It comes two days later. It’s a picture of me and Pilar, our arms around each other, laughing about who knows what, we look impossibly young. From anybody else, it would seem sweet. On the back just the words, “Wish you were here.”