On Cigarettes at Sunrise

(This has been sitting in my drafts for a while now. Found it again the other day, gave it a once over, and hope you like it.)

The call would come sometime between two and four am.
You, unable to sleep.
You, insomniatic, looking for the same from me. 

But you’d never actually ask me.
For an hour or so, you’d hem and haw and turn it back on me.
“Do you want to come over?” 
Of course I did, I rolled my eyes, or I wouldn’t have answered the damn phone.

It was easy to pack, in those days. My makeup bag still in my purse from the day, add a pair of leggings and a toothbrush, and I was already walking to my car when you finally said
“Okay, come over.” 

We didn’t have a greeting, per se. 

I’d open your bedroom door, and there wasn’t a hug or a kiss, it was you. Sitting on your bed. Sometimes the guitar was on your lap or your notebook on the table.
But, more often than not, it was just you, sitting there, still in jeans, watching the sky outside, smoke trailing from your cigarette.
And I’d sit down, on the folding chair across from you, and reach for your lighter. 

We’d talk, or listen to music, or sit in silence for hours 
Watching the sky grow from black to purple to pink with orange hues. The breeze drifting in and your pack emptying out. You’d brush your hair out of your face every few minutes, switch between music, look out past me, through me, shaking your head at unvoiced thoughts.

I would listen to you, focus intently on whatever you were saying, but my gaze would often drift down to your lips.
I liked the way you formed your words, the way your mouth moved as you softly sang along to parts of songs, the way you spoke about anything and everything
I liked the way you kissed.

And your head would tilt to the left, hair falling out of where you’d just placed it, and your mouth would twitch into a smile.
That 5AM smile.
A smile that felt like it was only mine. If only for a moment. It was only mine to see.
This is stupid, I know. 
Untrue, a fantasy then and now.
We tend to romanticize the past.

And then, with the sun in the sky and the birds twittering you’d look at your phone and moan.
You had to sleep. Or try.
Be at work at whatever time.
Demand I be your alarm clock and wake you up, make you move.
And at this point, you still would not have touched me. 

So, we’d crawl into bed, and you’d ask if I was sleepy.
5, 6, 7 AM. 
“Are you tired?”
Of course I was. I was exhausted. But I would stay awake and say, 
No.
Because then, and only then, would you wrap your arms around me.

And when your mouth found mine, pretense faded. And all your shouldn’t, can’t, and won’ts turned into my clothes on the floor and you on top of me, kissing me, pulling my hair back. 
I’d sometimes make my eyes meet yours, and when I did, you’d fuck me even harder. 
Because it was only in those moments, the seconds of fevered movements, that you could admit
If only for an instant, if only in that way
That you really did want me

You’d roll over, and groan, again, at the time.
And I’d say I’d wake you up as you pulled me to you, cuddling me against your chest.
In the morning, you’d have let me go, and when your alarm went off I’d press my lips to your skin, and gently tell you to get up.
You told me once it felt nice, to have me holding you.
I’d stay there until the music played two or three more times. 
And when you left, you’d kiss me goodbye.

You couldn’t tell me that you miss me
Instead, in the after, you said that you miss having an insomniac to call. That you miss “those nights.”
So now, as I can’t sleep, my mind racing and aching, I use your language
I miss watching your face under the light of the rising sun
And the cigarettes and the music and your voice
And you know, full well, that means I miss you too.

On Dog-eared Pages

You still have my book.

I remember when I was waiting for this book to be released, years ago, when I was working at a bookstore. The stock manager, or whatever her actual title was, set one copy aside specially for me. Its lived in various bags far more than it’s designated place on my shelf, with a beat up cover and water stained pages to prove it.

I was on a vacation the last time I was reading it, while we were together. And lying in the sun, studying its contents, I thought of you. We’d discussed the author before, I’d discussed the book with you before. So when I came back, I gave it to you.

Temporarily, at least in intention.

The time before the last time I saw you, you had it in your bag. You were bringing it to work with you – you were definitely reading it. And that made me happier than I could say.

Do I bring this up now? How? It feels seems petty and unnecessary. Reopening a wound that should be closed by now, and I’m still picking and re-picking at the scab. It feels both like an excuse to talk to you and an excuse to make sure we never talk again. So long as you have that book, I have an excuse to message you. Have a reason to reach out.

And again, it also feels petty and childish as all hell to ask for it back now, after so much time has passed. And I’m afraid of what would happen if I did. If I’m ready for the closure of you.

But really, honestly, I want my book back. I want it back on my shelf and the ability to carry it with me again. I want to revisit sections and reread favorite parts.

I don’t want to want to reach out to you. I don’t want to have this idea in the back of my mind. I simultaneously want you to leave it where I can grab it without seeing you, and sit down for a drink with you, and have the discussion we should have had months ago.

The discussion about more than just the book. About the things you still admit to me you don’t know, or rather, haven’t let yourself think about long enough to figure out.

I suppose, at some point, I’ll simply buy another copy. Let you be, and accept in my heart these are the things I must let go. But I’d bet it will stay pristine for far longer than the original.

On A Drunk Text #2

Does the liquor bring my name to your lips 
The taste of smoke 
The sweetness of the oak 
Does it remind you of me 

Does drinking make you think of me 
Of your whispers in my ear 
My skin under your hands 
My softness against your strength 

Because I think life has done me an unkindness 
In that those people that meant the most 
Came back, eventually
In one form or another 
The grief both dissipated and compounded by a never ending presence 

And time flows like honey 
All at once, more quickly than you anticipate 
Then slowly, drip by drip 
And I’m watching the end of the spoon, waiting, as it crystallizes before my eyes 

Waiting for your message 
Your call
Your anything

Why am I only this eloquent when I’m not sober 
The words, the emotions, buried
Like the French long forgotten in that December so far past 

Je voudrais parler avec toi
Je voudrais passer de temps avec toi
Parce que tu me manques 

And I know you will come back 
Eventually
But you know I will leave
I have left you before
Forgotten you in summer nights
Shut you against the cold of this city

So I’m left with that song
The lick of the guitar
The taste of rye an assault against my throat
Your name on the tip of my tongue 
And swallowing it down and down and down 

And pretending I don’t miss you
Until you appear again, with that simplest of questions
“How have you been?”

You are like an itch in the back of my skull
A place I can not scratch without you there
No matter how much I pretend I’m getting over you

So, my love, tell me.

Is it just the bourbon talking

Or do you miss me too?

On Time

It’s been over a year since I saw your face
So why is it that I’m suddenly reminded of things I thought were gone

Of that night in your garage
Of you holding me steady, your hands on my knees, my hips, as I try to balance, reaching for something high above me
Of the feeling of your smile

I don’t want you back
I don’t want you back
I don’t want you back

I hear a song,

And we’re back on your couch
We’re doing nothing, together
You’re telling me you like my legs
Your roommate is making us drinks

Four months after you left
I started seeing Someone Else.
And he made me happy, for a moment
And when he told me what you didn’t think to

When I felt the crack and saw him falling through
I held on like he was a man thrown overboard
Desperately trying to pull him back to me
When he’d wanted to jump in the first place

He wasn’t what you were
But I tried to convince myself he was
Because I couldn’t do it again
Couldn’t have the same reason twice in a row
Couldn’t be the inbetween

The rebound

The pause button

Again.

These things have been repeated in my mind, in my words, for so long, it feels meaningless to even try to write them out

Not that you ever would
But
You could come back to me, tell me you’re sorry
But I would want to say no.

How could I trust you again?
I can’t live in fear of your mistakes becoming reoccurring nightmares

I woke up this morning
And I don’t know why I thought of you

It’s been over a year since I’ve seen your face
And I never told you then, and I certainly won’t tell you now
But I loved you
I want my love back
I want my time and my secrets and my vulnerable words whispered in the dark

I don’t want to erase you
But I need your ghost disappear
Vanish under the cover of a smoke bomb
And leave no trace of itself behind

I need my memory to let me go

On Distraction

If I fill my calendar 
With drinks 
Coffee 
Lunches 
Work 
Training 
Sex 
Then I won’t think about you
Right?  

If I scan through apps like it’s my job 
If I search for something, anything, that’s like you but not you 
Then will I finally forget you? 
Will the memory of your touch flee from my mind? 
Will I stop looking up when I see someone who looks like you, not want to flinch away from them, because I see you in their eyes, their nose, their movement? 

And if I keep my brain occupied enough, paint my nails to stop myself from biting them, focus on everything that is not you, then each day should be easier. If I let the days become a blur, will it take a month, two, three, before I can go back to the places you took me and the drinks we had together and not care? 

And with each day I don’t hear from you, will it be easier to forget why I wanted to hear from you in the first place? Remember that you are replaceable, that you were the placeholder on the road to something better? 

Or, is that how you think of me? As a temporary solution to a problem you wanted to ignore, to be cast aside when it was convenient? 

I will never know. 

Maybe with time 
My resentment 
And my anger 
And my hurt 
Will fade

And I can think of you the way I want to 
With a fondness and dull ache 
Instead of the bubbling of something I don’t know how to process when your song comes on 
Or when I see your book on my shelf 
The bottle on my counter 

So I’ll preoccupy myself. 
And forgive myself that I need time, and probably will for a while. 

And I will hope you don’t show up 
Making me start all over again 
Unless you’re there to stay.

On Humanity and Memories

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I’m unpacking boxes, suitcases, and storage containers, and keep finding little bits of you.
The blanket you got me, so we could keep my place a temperature we could both survive.
The whisky glass, because I had none.
The signed comic from my favorite series.
The stuffed dog, to soothe the ice around my heart.
The letter you wrote, and left on my coffee table while I was still asleep.
And every piece is a precious memory, and every piece makes me smile, and every piece makes me sad, because you’re no longer in my life.

We met so long ago now, pushed together by familial interference. I don’t think either of us cared too much, but I should’ve seen the warning signs back then. On New Year’s, when you said in no uncertain terms you were not okay with the fact that I was leaving the city so soon, and then said the same thing over text a couple days later. We’d just met. It freaked me out a bit. I was told that was just how you were. I didn’t dwell too much on it. We exchanged birthday messages, talked a couple times. We’d gotten along well, & I viewed you as a friend that could maybe develop into something more. I, one, didn’t want to get my hopes up, but more importantly, didn’t want to get your hopes up. I knew you were a serial monogamist, and I was even less of a letssettledownletscommitthisisathing type of person than I am now. Didn’t exactly spell great prospects in my head.

I was kept somewhat up to date on what you were doing by our mutual friends. I was worried, but as a friend. I was told about your girlfriend, and understood the story was being told by biased parties, but knew there had to be some truth to it. When I moved to your city, you kept your distance, and I kept mine. You’d hurt those closest to me, and at that point, you needed to come to us, not the other way around.

And come you did. But, in ways we didn’t expect. You & me – suddenly we were joking about sex and whisky and movies and before I knew what was happening you were kissing me goodbye. You felt so good to me. You made me feel human. You made me feel like I was worthwhile. It scared the shit out of me. It scared me that I wanted to talk to you every day. It scared me that every particle of my body kept telling me to run away, and I stayed put.

But we never talked, did we? We never talked about what we wanted, what we expected. Did you want to see other people? Did I? Did we see a future together?
I can guess your answers.
No, and yes.
Whereas mine were yes, you are my only partner right now, but in the future, probably yes and no, I’m not planning beyond next Tuesday.

Which is why, when you were once again drunk on New Years, and I was half dragging, half carrying you back to mine, and you told me how you felt, my body froze. My mind went on lock. And I knew it wasn’t fair, to either of us. Because you were honest from day 1. I may have felt like we tumbled into a thing, that there was no ‘right time’ to tell you how I felt about monogamy and love and long term commitment – how, at that point, I couldn’t envision myself having a serious relationship.
But, in that moment, we’d reached a point of jump, or leave.

You would say jump. You’d jumped from the beginning. You wanted this. And I was still wading in the shallow water, unwilling to dunk my head all the way under and start to swim.

So I told you that I needed to take steps back, that I needed us to just be friends. And you said you couldn’t do that. I didn’t want to understand, but I did. I respected it. And we haven’t talked in almost a year.

On some days, when I’m feeling okay about everything, I’d like to think I gave you a few months of breathing space, where you had someone who was cool with basically whatever it was you wanted to do. We had no fights, we had no tension. We could relax around each other and just be. On other days, I wonder if you think of the the time we had as a lie of sorts, that you felt betrayed and hate every part of me. That you saw me as aloof and unresponsive and cold.

I assume that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I hope that you’ve forgiven me, if you haven’t already. I hope that you find someone amazing, who gives you everything you need and treats you with respect and wants the same things out of love, if you haven’t already.

Because you gave me so much I could never tell you. You saw me at my most vulnerable night in some time and took care of me. You always let me know you cared. You compromised. You treated me like I was a human being and worthy of respect, and I know that sounds like an obvious thing, something that shouldn’t come and go, but it does.

You were not the right one for me, and I was most certainly not the right one for you. But you taught me things, you gave me lovely memories.

So I still have your blanket on my chair, the stuffed dog on my bed. Because they matter to me, and will for some time to come.