The voice on the line The knock at the door Your stomach flips over And you choose: Open it, or don’t Slam it in his face Or he comes across the threshold And you see his eyes, the corner of his mouth. It twitches into the smile he saves for you And you alone.
The fog clouding your brain: Is it a hand or a claw that reaches out? Drawing him to you, pulling him so closely, To press the air from his lungs or because the space is intolerable. Anger, gone. Hurt, gone. Resentment, annoyance, humiliation, gone. Because there is truth in the way his mouth forms around yours, In his hands that can’t touch everywhere at once, But will try their damnedest anyway.
When he calls your name And makes you helpless to your hunger, Do you feel the heat in your blood Pulsing through your veins? Does the fire make you burn brighter Or turn you to ashes at his feet?
When he calls your name And you scream his into the night There is sincerity in the touch That tries to erase things You will remember in a moment’s time
When he calls your name And makes you wish for nothing more Than the sweet surrender of submission, The bitter taste of honesty, Whether it is love, or starvation It does not matter. You taste the words on his lips And make them yours, Owning them as completely As he might have once owned you.
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.
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 pause button
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
Does that make sense? I want to be alone I don’t want to talk to you I don’t want to do anything I just want to be alone, but with you there
Because you won’t tell me I need to talk, or be anything other than what I am being And maybe just being with you I’ll be able to talk to someone Express the feelings that swallow me like a black hole Pulling me in Pulling me under You don’t ask that of me So I feel like I could give it
Does that make sense? I doubt it I’m rambling Sitting in a lavender scented tub with a damp notebook and a hand trying to fly away from me
I don’t want to tell you what is happening, but I also do I want you to know To help me lift some of this weight off my shoulders Not pick it up for me – you wouldn’t, and I would hate you if you tried. But just keep me company while I set it down for a while
A rest between sets A momentary pause To breathe And analyze where to go from here
Because in between the call that never came And the texts with no reply And the words still ringing in my ears Between the voices in my head telling me to stop Not to try That I will only ever fail, at everything
The door swings open, and I look up to say that we’re closing, I already did last call, but stop when I see it’s you. And I smile.
You’re wearing a faded shirt, and those dark jeans I love so much. Boots that are not weather appropriate. Your hair is a perfectly tousled mess, but you’re already running your fingers through it again.
“Hey,” You look around at the empty place, and stay by the door. “Are you closed?”
I shake my head.
“Not quite yet. You want something?”
You nod, and try not to look too awkward as you sit where I point, a seat at the end where I can be close to you.
“What does not quite yet mean?” You don’t open the menu I put in front of you.
“It means, I’m shutting down, but can’t lock the doors for another fifteen minutes. So, it’s last call, basically.” I smile, you don’t.
“Shut up and pick a drink.” I keep working, cleaning, running mats and tools through the washer, and try to ignore your eyes on me, remind myself how to breathe, keep my heart rate down.
You ask for the beer I already know you’ll want, and grab one out of the fridge, and pour a whisky for myself. I tilt my glass to you, and you tap your bottle against it.
You keep looking around, not sure what to do with your hands. You tell me, “I didn’t think it would be this quiet already,”
I shrug, and don’t say anything. I’m waiting for you to speak, to tell my why you’re here. But instead, you just keep drinking. So I turn around and keep working.
“You always close this early?” You ask. I shake my head. I lean against the shelves, looking at you, picking up my glass again.
“I don’t want to keep you.”
“You’re not keeping me.” I take a drink, needing something to do. I’m afraid, afraid you’re going to leave, afraid you’ll decide it’s too awkward, that you need the break of other people around, other things to be distracted by.
You say it as my face is turned, and I don’t hide my smile. Five minutes to go, and I’m counting the cash in the drawer. I move around to the front, decline your offer to help, and bring the sign in, turn off the outside light, and lock the door.
And now we don’t know what to do.
Because we need to talk. We really do. But neither of us want to. Neither of us know how to. There is so much there that we don’t have answers to. So instead, you ask me how much more I have to do before I can leave. I tell you, not much, and finish what I need to finish. You’re nursing your beer by the time I’ve finished and clocked out, but I need another whisky. Badly. Need something in my hands if you’re here, looking like you do. You smell like smoke and something else I’ve never quite been able to place.
I sit down in the seat beside you, and the corner of your lip tilts up in a smile.
“Do you usually have after hours drinks with customers?”
I shake my head.
“Emma,” You don’t know where to start, I don’t know where to start. But you’re here, and I want you to be here. And that’s enough.
But this is my problem. I don’t know what happens next. I think of you and how you’ll look and what you might say, but I don’t know from here. Because in my mind, this is where it ends. It’s you being there when I need you to be there. To show me that you care.
But this is not our story. This is not you. Or anything you would do. And I know this.
But when it’s late, and hot, and I’m about to lock the door I wonder what it would be like if you were there, hoping to be let in.
This bakery, that I haven’t been to in almost a decade. With
Douglas Adams trivia on the chalkboard, and cupcakes the size of my face.
It sits on a street paved with red bricks, a reminder of an
earlier era, with little boutiques and shops and another cupcake place down the
It’s a beautiful place, the water right nearby, the air
clean, the buildings so beautiful. It’s a place that screams of money, but with
a vibrant energy that only those who are younger can bring.
And I think to myself, maybe it won’t be that different.
But, of course it is.
There is no longer trivia on the board, there is a sign
boasting its lack of wifi, there is coffee served in the back and cookies line
shelves in the front. There is still a place to sit, and the cupcakes are still
And I can’t help but think, you might’ve been here.
To see it.
To see it change.
To see it become what it is now.
Because it is a moment, if only briefly, of, this could have
been your life.
And it’s not sadness, or regret, necessarily. It’s more of a
For that moment, when you chose this instead of that. Turned
left instead of right. Because where you are now is not where you thought you’d
be, not where you a decade ago had planned.
Just like the walls of this place, you have changed.
Maybe, in another life, I walked along these streets again.
I lived this. I came here, stayed here. And maybe I walked with friends, or a
partner, who would laugh as frosting covered my nose. Maybe I’d do different
work, sitting at this very stool.
But I probably would not be drinking milk in my tea.
And, again, it’s not regret.
It’s a wondering, about the life I almost chose.
And who’s to say which one is better, or worse.
It just is. A sign that we don’t always get the answers to
the questions on our minds.
So, I will take this box of cake to the home I now have.
On a chilly dark night You walk beside him on the street “Just for a few blocks,” he says, “I’m close by.” And you talk, and you laugh, and you shiver in your jacket.
When you get inside there are books, and things to look at. Things to compare. There are candles, and dim lighting and music comes through speakers A list you suggested and he likes There are curtains that could be closed or not, windows that could be shut You say no Because in a few moments his skin will be on yours And you don’t do well with sweat
Then it’s sighs, and moans Fingernails scraping skin The tickling of his scruff against the inside of your thigh “Please,” “More, please,” Hands everywhere, gripping, pulling, supporting softness of lips against the feeling of your hair being pulled back, and back “Such a good girl,” And he says your name A whisper as he’s done.
An arm is draped around your shoulders You lean back against the couch And you discuss things, improvements for next time Kisses, then more kisses goodbye They are different than before, less restrained “You’ll see me around,” And he sends you on your way
And you’re walking back down the street, to a bar you know That will always be open for you And you sit back with self satisfaction
You won’t think Well, you’ll never see him again You could have said no, let’s go out another night. Let’s go get a drink first Treat me like more than a booty call Because that was what you wanted You wanted him on top of you You wanted him to make you scream To make you feel To know that someone like him was not out of your league
So you’ll leave it, for a few days And assume he’ll message But Eventually You have to decide And you think Oh, he’s probably traveling He’s busy He’s with someone else And you hope Well, maybe he’s just as awkward as you are
But you’re not awkward You know what you want And so you send a message, a joke, an olive branch You say hello, in a way you know how And your phone will stay black And silent
You will come home, and light a candle The scent of spice a reminder of another season Of a past time When things were changing And leaves were dying And you were hurting from new things and healing from old ones And you will want to retreat, but you no longer can Not the way you used to
You can no longer run and hide from things From how you feel Or the idea of feeling And you what you wanted that idea to be You will breathe in the calm air, the humidity will cling to your lungs As you try to understand That you were weaker then
Because to be the one that says hello Is admitting that you want to talk That they were on your mind And all your time hiding in the dark, refusing to try Did nothing to prepare you For when you finally tasted the sun.