holidays with old haunts

1. Denton

Someday, we are going to have a conversation that doesn’t end in sex.

He says this to my shoulder, where he has been nosing about the naked skin.
It’s a joke, obviously. At least, it is to him. It’s a joke in the same vein as when
he says I will, eventually, get tired of him.

In the past, I have answered these sorts of jokes with a roll of my eyes; I
tell him to shut up, and start putting my clothes back on, just to be petulant.

Now, I give a soft laugh and turn to lay on my back. It’s neither an affirmation
nor a dismissal: only the languid stretch of pale skin.

He uses his index finger to draw runes onto my stomach, the dip
and rise of my pelvic bone. They are, perhaps, a spell meant to keep me here.
In this moment, in this bed, in this town. In this sentimental frame of mind.

I close my eyes. The sigh I let out is faintly ridiculous.

2. Dallas

(Let’s not see each other, we had said. What a lie that was.)

He meets me at the door with a raised eyebrow; it stings.
But this is not wholly for me, I think. My attire warrants it.
I am wearing a deliberately ugly Christmas sweater from
an earlier frolic, holiday red with a small kitten peering through
a bough of holly. I haven’t bothered to change.

(I did contemplate, for a moment, trading it out for something more
appropriate, more . . . mature. And then thought better of it.)

He’s wearing what he normally wears on weekends: the faded
button-up, the thin white cotton shirt, the jeans with the paint stains.
He doesn’t smile for me; merely steps aside.

In the kitchen, he asks if I would like a drink. “A drink” here
not being a euphemism for something else entirely.
(Not anymore. Or, not yet.)

I ask for tea. He nods and sets the kettle to boil. He turns to the cupboard,
not needing to ask what brew I prefer. There is still tea, hiding behind
a row of spice, left over from the last time I was here.

(I remember: I was dancing around in his socks to Van Halen
and making fun of him for having a secret stash of Sugar Babies.)

Some minutes pass. He pushes his glasses up his nose, a gesture I am achingly
familiar with. I attempt wry humor. Then prevaricate. He gives me a look:

Don’t tease.

If I were a better person, I might blush. I might even do it on purpose,
just to be polite. Instead, I shrug.

It’s all I’m good for, really.

He looks down into his coffee, purses his lips. In the black reflection there is
the barest ghost of a smile.

3. Stillwater

The bar is dim like memory.

We sit catty corner from each other in a corner booth. He talks.
About the past four years. About friends who have
committed suicide, girlfriends come and gone, and his re-
formulated plans to go live in Brazil. He’s talking.
I am merely watching his mouth move.

(I am thinking about the last time we were in a room alone
together. About a dark kiss, planted like a vine into a surprised,
pliant mouth that was somehow not my own.)

The terror is still present. The paralyzing fear of the naïvette.
The follies of childhood are tempered by time, but I am old enough now
to know that the memories made by young brains are mostly forgotten,
save for the ones you immortalize with fear or appetite. Some wants
never go away; some things you never quite get over.

I watch his mouth and think, perhaps, in my old age, I might like
a little danger.

Written Thanksgiving, 2016. Finished early December. I admit, this is diarizing. 

For DN, MEG, and TD.


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