I refused to tell him that I was happier with him than I had been on my own. So instead I told him I was just as happy as before, not any more in bliss than when I shared the bed with no one other than my sheets. He seemed perplexed, and he looked at me with eyes that suggested he was hurt. That he didn’t understand.
I tried explaining again.
"I have to save some part of myself for myself. I am no happier than I was before I had found you, or you me, it is another sort of happiness entirely. An ‘other’ sort of warmth, the buzzing of another beside me. That is there, you are there, here right in my chest. But I do not own you, and you do not live inside of me. I don’t know how long you’ll be staying, though I hope it’s awhile. Long enough to fix your coffee black in the morning like a routine. I will sit in one chamber and you in another, and occasionally we will meet. Maybe in the middle. Perhaps you’ll come over and consume me entirely. Know that I do not love you more than anything, more than everything there is, like so many others iterate. I can love you like the moon, more than the stars, through universes and back, but I cannot love you the way I love myself, nor more than.
But it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love you
to the point where you cannot
say the same.”
you wore stripes because you remembered that i liked them, and it didn’t take you long to hold my hand which is nice because he used to always tell me that that was needy, when all i really wanted was a sense of someone else besides myself. you promised me coffee on our first date but it took me long enough to parallel park that we got there just as they were closing, and you reached for the door just to spin us around and you gave me that little smirk and told me not to worry, because you had something better in mind. so i just walked with you, fingers shaking but stuck in yours and legs somehow keeping up and i could smell the chocolate before you even opened the door for me, and when we walked inside there were flowers made out of chocolate and cases and cases of chocolate covered-everythings and you led me right to the chocolate covered strawberries and told me to pick which ones i wanted. i had told you nights before that i hadn’t had them since my birthday. you told me tonight was close enough.
you bought me homemade hot chocolate, too. and you carried the box and handed me a neatly little wrapped strawberry and i turned around so you couldn’t watch me take the first bite, and i had chocolate all over my fingers but you held my hand anyway and gave me tissue paper to get rid of what my lips couldn’t. it wasn’t until we started turning down lightly lit side streets that i asked you where we were going, and you told me that i’d just have to see. just wait and see. we walked through the campus of a beautiful private school and eventually i could see the lapping water of a lake, and the road turned into grass which turned into gravel, which led us to a long dock that stretched out over the water. you remembered that i liked those, too.
you sat with me on the end of it and asked me about my family while i asked about yours, you told me your dad was one of the best guys you knew but that you didn’t see your parents very often. i asked you if it scard you to get close to someone knowing you’ll be leaving for the marines and you said i’m not really leaving. at least you weren’t leaving yet. we’d let the silence sit between us and watch as it planes passed over us and you swore that it was the same one just circling around and around again. there weren’t many stars out, only a few big ones which i focused on many times that night when i couldn’t grasp onto any sort of reality. i asked you what you were thinking about and your hand was so soft on my thigh that i had to focus to hear your words and you told me you were only thinking about the fact that you were on a date with a beautiful girl.
i kept telling you that i didn’t feel like i was here. and did that make sense? does that make sense? i’m here, i am here of course i’m here but it doesn’t feel like it. i don’t feel like i’m here.
you pulled me back to lay with you and we just laid there on that dock with your fingers playing through my hair and my own making designs on whatever part of you i could reach, and you kept tightening your arms around me as if i could possibly go anywhere and you just kept asking me what i was thinking, and i just kept asking you what you were thinking. you pulled me up to the edge of the dock and i stood there facing the water and imagined everything beneath it, and you whispered into my neck to just imagine. to imagine with you. to imagine my own little bakery on the most beautiful street of paris, right on the corner, and fresh tulips would be delivered from holland every week and you’d have a regular, pierre, who would come in the mornings and share a croissant. and he would buy lilacs for his wife. he would always buy lilacs for his wife. i just closed my eyes and the only thing i could think to say was that the water was still now.
you held my hands out with yours as the breeze toyed with my hair and i’d just keep folding you into me every way i could and slipping my hand beneath the band around your wrist. we held our thumbs out to the little sliver that was the moon and decided that it wasn’t in fact always larger than our thumbs like the movie had said, and you told me that there was someone out there holding their thumb up to us just the same, comparing and looking right at one another without looking at anything at all. i turned to you to bury my face in your chest and told you i wanted to go dancing. i’d always wanted to go dancing. you cradled my head to you and i asked you now what you were thinking. i could barely hear myself but you did. so you cupped my jaw and gently, too gently pulled it up to yours and kissed me. and you kissed me again, and another time, and then i was giving you them in return. and after awhile you pulled back and it was quiet again, and you told me that’s what you were thinking about. me too.
all i could say was me too.
I don’t know if anyone else does this, and it really might be a cruel thing to do, but lately I’ve been just wanting to nuzzle myself into people just through brief little impact moments. Where it’s inconvenient but only for them. Making statements during the most subtle of times that occurs and reoccurs in our lives. Like abruptly kissing them just before a waiter reaches the table to take their order. Or bringing cherry popsicles along on a summer’s night walk. Or cooking some sort of delicious sweet every Sunday night. Apple pie, maybe. Introducing them to classical tracks that make your heart ache. Bringing them to pick up flowers at local markets and tucking it along their ear. I don’t know. Just because, if you ever lost that person for good, the foundations of those things would never cross their mind without you written all over them. They’d feel a pit in their stomach on a wonderful date as the waiter headed in their direction. Popsicles would bring them back to your sticky skin, and the dark night of heat. The smell of warm apple pie would place them back in the apartment you two shared, and all over again it’d be Sunday night. A pause in an elevator or market when Tchaikovsky begins to play and they’d hear you humming along with it. When they go to pick out flowers for their significant other’s anniversary, or birthday, and all they can think about is what you told them it meant, and your favorites, because not many people have such love for things like that.
I want people to remember me like this. Sudden lip-locks. The smell of Apple Pie. Tchaikovsky. Running bath water. Sweet skin and melting popsicles. Windows open. Unfinished books. Flowers. Down blankets.
I need them to remember me like that.
"I want to write poems" I said to you
And you said “about what”
And I thought
about your spoon clinks in the morning
the twitches while you fall asleep
cradling me when your loneliness was exposed
the only time you couldn’t help it
the empty beer bottles on the end table
the stale blankets of the bed
that hotel room
the couch we left ourselves on
the last visit
our last times
you looked at me and you didn’t look away
even when I spoke to you from deep in my throat
aches between my hips
and I should have known that was your way of saying goodbye
without saying anything at all
chapstick glossing over your lips like my tongue fresh against them
when youd raise your voice
I’d leave the room
realizing out in the dark parking lot that I forgot the room key
having to ask you
again to open the door
and you’d say I can’t do this
and I’d tell you you needed to learn how to feel
how to talk
and you looked at me and you said “about what”
about how you only touched me like a hungry mouth
how you wanted me to swallow you whole
when you only held me between your teeth
how I’d always cry to your mother
and sleep in your empty bed
feeling you more then than when I was with you
when nights and crowds made you uncomfortable
thinking I’d find another you
curl up with a stranger and see in them what I had to wait to see in you
but never did
the guilty fear their own guilt you told me
and I never told you it was you I was afraid of
"I want to write poems" I said to you
And you said “about what”
and I said nothing
when I meant
about how this poem had nothing to do with you
until it started
I don’t think it’s losing someone that physically hurts, but witnessing the way they lose you.
And I’ll bet you he couldn’t remember what I tasted like, not because it’s difficult to put to his tongue but because he never cared to pay attention, he never savored me in his mouth and turned me around or pushed me up against his teeth to figure me out like I did him. He’d disappear for months at a time and when he got back I knew him by mouth, I took him in by the mouthful and I knew he was home, and that I was, too. I always thought it was nothing short of unfortunate to be the last one up, but now I know it’s because it’s the only time I could pay attention without something he said disrupting it, without his disregard interrupting my silent walks. He’d fall asleep first every night, and I wonder if it has anything at all to do with having a tired lover or a naked body in the bed besides yours that’s just empty weight, a stranger who couldn’t tell you which cheek my coupled birthmarks are on. I’ll bet he couldn’t tell you anything. I’ll bet he could never appreciate a back the way I did his, and how he’d get annoyed if my fingers lingered on his skin too long and snapped a remark, thinking it was a selfless act, thinking every touch given to him was to please him, when really it was for me. I was selfish. But I was selfish softly. He was too hungry. Making noises against my neck just because he knew it was the things most I wanted to hear, when really it was my way of begging him to say something. Anything at all so that I could feel anything at all. I thought I felt love but now I wonder if it was all just a praise over not feeling empty. I’ll bet he never realized how many cuts were left on the insides of my cheeks when my teeth gnawed at the sight of him coming out of the shower. Steam clung to his shoulders, the heat burrowing on his cheeks and leaving him looking so naive, sad, even. I didn’t know what to do with myself. What to touch first. Some nights turned into a pleading, throbs tumbling lower lower lower from my abdomen when he’d lie right next to me and my murmurs would keep him just up enough, only to fall back to sleep as soon as my voice quieted. And all that was left was a stale hotel room, the blinds moving from AC unit below them, giving brief blinks of light into the room from the street lights of the parking lot. And I’d listen to the car doors shut, and I’d listen to the TV in the next room, and I’d listen to the shower start on the floor above us, and wonder just how much love was going unnoticed. And I’ll bet none of them remember, either. But I know he’ll try when he’s worn himself out of a quick pleasure, maybe he’ll recall the times my lips planted against his spine when he’d curl away from me in bed, giving in while I gave in to him, though there was no one there to give it to. He’ll remember me stretched up onto my toes from the push of his body against the wall in his house, that wall, with liquor on our lips and family and friends just outside, all surrounding a bonfire that came to be a clenching trigger for his hot mouth running into mine. He’ll remember the day we let our sleeping bodies stay still in bed, the strong fan over us, and did nothing but lie there when we weren’t anything at all. Virgin mouths, sexual intentions hidden besides his thick forearm curled around me under the blanket. Hinting. Just a beginning. Just a quick touch. Just a taste. Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe he didn’t know how to love me without it. Maybe he didn’t know how to fuck me when I cared. Maybe he didn’t know how to love me when he had me. Maybe some people only know how to have in bursts. Maybe some people don’t know how to have at all. And to him my body is just a body. My tongue just another tongue to talk to. At least once I must have had his attention, and if anything that’s when he’ll remember. When I loved him he left himself all over me, all over places he had never once touched me in. But he never paid attention. He never remembered. He never cared to. So where am I?
I’ll come home barefooted in the dark, and it’s been raining and the sky is dripping from my lips and the edges of my dress and it’s okay, i’m okay i’m alright as long as the tea kettle is impatient on the stove and the sheets are numb to welcome me. I don’t need you to be there, it’s damp enough without you
There is a small note where she left it in the top drawer of her nightstand. Underneath the bible that she’s never touched if not with paints to watch them bleed. A page was ripped out, but not by accident which one. Nothing with her was ever an accident. The ink was slanted, sudden almost, like someone kicked open the door just as she was finishing, like she knew that she wouldn’t be back, and she had to leave something behind for someone who could find it. Anyone who could find it. I knew she never touched that book. She doesn’t know that I looked anyways. And sometimes in the mornings I’ll roll over to catch her already awake, staring at the ceiling, and my fingers burn as if they have something to say. And I know, and maybe she does too, that we’re both thinking the same thing to ourselves.
“It’s not safe to be anything too much.”
The idea of tomorrow infuriated her. That the word even existed. We were lying in bed. Last Sunday we had gotten into a brief argument following a small nudge of her nose at my neck, her arm snaking around my side and her heavy hand persuading. I had work the next morning. That’s what I had told her, tilting my head to the side, feeling her go limp against me, even her chest absent from my back as she stopped breathing. “What is tomorrow?” She asked me, I could feel the words lying flat on their back, staring blankly up at the ceiling, the same color as the rest of the room - dark. “Monday?” I mumbled in response to her, casually, confused. She knew I began work again on Mondays. It was as routine as any common man’s week could follow suit. She let out a frustrated breath at that. She was aggravated. I could feel the tensions settling between her brows, tightening her shoulder blades down into the bed, her jaw set. I did not have to look at her to know her. “That’s not what I meant, Grey.” she spat out. I racked for what else she possibly could have meant. What was tomorrow? The day of the week? The thirteenth of the month? Was it her mothers birthday? Guilt settled in with a pit of nausea as he was left weightless against the mattress, thinking if there was something that he had forgotten. Too wrapped up in whatever it is he was wrapped up in to remember it was their anniversary, 12:03 pm, and he was three minutes late. But that wasn’t it. Their anniversary wasn’t on a thirteenth, it was on the sixth. Her mothers birthday wasn’t until late Spring. He remembered only because of how Mia would suddenly lurch herself forward, palm slapping the dashboard, “Stop the car!” she’d yell out to him, just so she could pick an arrangement of wild flowers that had just begun to bloom alongside the highway. Daffodils and Meadowsweet, Spiraeas. April. “There isn’t a tomorrow, Grey. Tomorrow doesn’t exist.” her voice, again. Settling my guilt. Settling my nausea. Now I was silent. I knew she would continue. I knew she was angry, irritated that I didn’t understand what she meant, what she was telling me. It was important to her, I knew by the ferocity of such delicate movements I felt her making. Her palms falling to her stomach, her thumbs aggravating one another, her rough swallows, listening to her hair shift like harsh thread against her pillow. “It doesn’t fucking exist!” Her voice grew, and she was sitting up. “What the fuck is tomorrow, Grey? What is tomorrow?” I didn’t know if she wanted an answer. I didn’t know what to answer her. I didn’t know the answer she wanted to hear. “Fuck tomorrow.” Her fingers gripped around the bruise on the edge of my elbow, causing me to wince slightly, but she wanted my attention. She needed me to know. “All there is are these bruises, right here. These ones.” she enforced by tightening her grip. “There’s these bruises, and that Pitbull Lily that the owners never god damn bring in from the escape, just leaving her out there every weekend night so they can get in a quick fuck to make up for their week of priorities. Work at seven am, can’t be late! Fixing her husband his lunch in a paper bag like he’s a fucking child. The bruises, Grey.” I could hear tears welding up in her eyes, her feet padding against the wooden floorboards, the bed elevating with her body missing. I could see her now, a desperate figure in our room, walking to the window and tearing down the orange sheet she had left up. She always liked to defy the impossible. She could tint the sunlight any morning she so desired, all it took was a trip to the general dollar for her to select a new color, drape it there, and sit with her legs curled in, waiting for that first glint of color to paint their bedroom. She balled the sheet up between her hands and tossed it towards him, landing beside his edge of the bed. “Who the fuck needs this. It isn’t morning. The moon is out. It’s there. We’re right here. It’s now. It’s today. It’s only today, Grey. That’s it!” She threw her hands up, exasperated, depleting herself completely, her energy slowly crumbling. I watched her in terror, I watched her and she watched me. Neither of us moved. Just her lips. Barely in control of her breath. “Tomorrow, you could head out and forget your papers on the Meddletown building. You could come back in, kiss me again, grab them from the counter and head out. You could make it through that second light on Park that we have never once reached without a red light glaring back at us. You could make it. And a bus driver from the tram could have made one wrong turn, one wrong turn that left him a few minutes behind on the schedule to Edens. You know? Where we go for coffee? Where we met?” Tears were coming more frequently now, burning against her cheeks, her knees shaking. “That’s all it takes Grey!” Her voice rose. “That’s all it takes! That bus made the wrong turn, and you forgot your papers, and you couldn’t leave without two kisses because each lip deserves one, and it took twenty two more steps that necessary, and that bus took two minutes longer than necessary,” My arms were around her. She jumped, startled as if she hadn’t even realized I’d left the bed, though she was watching me all the while. “You wouldn’t even see it coming! You wouldn’t even know!” she cried, and I held her. “You would be dead, just like that, instantly that would be it you would be gone, and I’d be here asleep and fucking comfortable.” Her body slowly began to sink, I only tightened my arms. “I’d have to arrange the dates and invite and see people who don’t know who the fuck you are, Grey. I’d still be here. Paying rent. Trying the key six or seven or ten times before it finally fucking works! Bitching about the leaking shower and to who! To fucking who! To an empty fucking house! Don’t you get it!” She could barely choke a sentence without a stutter interrupting. “This is all I know! This is all I’ll know of you, Grey! This is all that will fucking matter! These bruises” her hands fought to reach every tangible memory in front of her. “The fact that you haven’t shaved in two weeks and the smell of that body wash stuck to your fucking skin, and that god damn bracelet that you should’ve cut off months ago! That’s what I’ll fucking have to remember. That’s it, that’s now, not fucking tomorrow Grey. Please not tomorrow. Please.” I caught her bottom from hitting the floor, pulling her into my lap, pressing her head into my chest and resisting her struggles to get out of my hold, her palms hitting into my chest, my hands restraining them, her works broke into sobs, long jerking cries. She cried, and I held her. And I didn’t say a word. I stared down at my arm, red from her grip, at the bruise. And she was right. Tomorrow didn’t exist. What was tomorrow? How could tomorrow ever be? It couldn’t. And it didn’t. And it never would. It would always be now. The blue hair tie always on her left wrist. The red nail polish left in flakes on her nails. Marks on her skin where she had picked a bite, irritated the skin, the remnants of her rose lipstick blushed on the edges of her lips. And I understood. This was now. This was how I had her, the way she was, in my arms right now. Not tomorrow. Tomorrow didn’t matter. Tomorrow didn’t exist.
"I don’t know why so many people compete with who loves who more." She said quietly to me, playing with the hem of her ripped tshirt, hiding all of her curves in a moon colored drape. Her fingers idled with a bottle cap, and she didn’t once look away from the window. "I always thought sitting back and loving silently was much more powerful than that."
I miss the sex at 5 in the morning, when the last thing I could remember is being woken up on the couch at 2 with the alcohol still buzzing behind my eyes. The bonfire outside still letting small sparks out of it’s mouth, coming with you inside through the front door. You’d nuzzle your rough jawline into my neck and the smell of the mint left like sap in your gum made my mouth water, and I knew by then everyone else had gone to bed. We had an air mattress perched in the middle of the floor with the down thrown across it, only covering up to the middle of my back, my bottom if your hands got greedy. You’d carry me to the kitchen and we’d down bottles of water after the next with our eyes closed and the air kicking on above us, and the cold taste of your lips was enough to pull me back in. I miss living in our exhaustion. One shift against the counter top and it’s 6:13, and we’re back where we started. We’d hold slipping finger tips to the bathroom to try and put ourselves together for what we could, but all I had to do was reach over to tease the light switch and it was enough. I’d watch your back flex and you’d cup the water up to your face and let it lick down across your lips, plump and swollen red from my own. You’d lift your gaze back up and as soon as it met mine in the mirror it was enough. We’d move until we were spent and then when our bodies gave in and begged for sleep for any sort of rest to just lie there and feel in tact, silence would grow in that dark room and I’d stare with slow, blinking eyes to the ceiling. And I’d swallow. And you’d swallow. And I’d sigh. And you’d sigh. And I’d bite my lip. And you’d hold your breath. And even nothing was enough.
So now that I’m lying here with plenty of time to sleep, for any sort of rest, to just lie here and feel in tact, I drink in my tire like the pleasure in the back of your throat. I fight sleep and turn my lights off, staring up at the ceiling, and it’s enough.
And it wasn’t that I wanted the alcohol, but more so the taste of it inside your mouth when your drunken tongue told stories to mine. You made promises when your eyes could barely stay awake, and even though I swallowed down a few shots it wasn’t enough to keep me from listening. I miss your rough hands jarring my legs apart, how we’d use our mouths to guide ourselves in the dark kitchen, heels sliding against the wooden floor boards, my weight in your arms and the jerks that matched our gasps. Every beer bottle you’d grab from the cooler was another bruise against my arm. You held me the next day and your fingers masked it perfectly, I’d swear it might not have even been there. Our parents didn’t like that, the marks, your mouth, showing our hunger. But once they left the room I’d pull you into me and we’d create more. I’d claw your back with the bonfire stuck to your skin, tasting the smoke against your neck, pulling open your lips your mouth your fingers your teeth as much as I could. It wasn’t that I wanted the alcohol, it wasn’t that I wanted to keep ourselves wrapped against each other around the fire, I just wanted to taste them each against you and devour you like the night did our bed, and like your body did my own. This holiday all I knew was the places you left me swollen, parched and exhausted, but as long as my lips find yours I’m ready for more. It was the alcohol. It was the fire. But more so it was the taste of it inside of your mouth, when your drunken tongue told stories to mine.