His green eyes don’t find me in the dark, but his hand does. We sit in silence that only exists between the two of us.
He finally reaches for a cigarette and I am staring at the freckle on his bottom lip, placed like a star in a forever galaxy. I think of kissing him and where his freckle would connect.
He flicks the white bic and flame illuminates freckles. I stick a cigarette in my mouth and wait for him to bring the flame to me. He looks at me for the first time in what feels like years.
I break the silence.
“I like being here with you.”
I see a half-smile form on his face. He blows smoke out, some from his mouth, then the rest shoots from his nostrils.
He chuckles. “I like being with you.”
I squeeze his hand. Taste tobacco and think of tobacco on tobacco, hot and sweaty.
“All I can think about is kissing you.”
He looks away, chews at his thumb, then stops, remembering I’m there.
My fingers snake behind his head, finding a home in the soft curl of red hair that lies there.
I feel his body relax, then tense again.
“I don’t want you to hate me for as long as I can help it.”
I take a long drag, watch the ember burn.
The fountain falling sounds annoying now, like nails on a chalkboard or your father yelling at you to wake up for school. I’m silent, staring at the pattern in the ceiling of the gazebo. I think of the seniors doing cocaine in my apartment fifty feet away.
He stabs his cigarette into the ground.
“If I kiss you, nothing good will come of it. And…right here, right now, I like this. Kissing leads to other things and other things always lead to women hating me.”
I laugh, incredulous at the idea that I could ever feel hate toward this man. Green eyes stare at me, specks of gold floating in the irises like minerals in a stream, even in the dark.
“Nothing could ever make me hate you.”
Then, he kisses me, and I hate him for it.
Middle of August, the whirring of the fan wakes me, or maybe the sweat that emanated off him through the night. I hear his teeth grinding, then feel my swollen feet. A fly buzzes somewhere in the room and I suddenly lean over the side of the bed, throwing up nothing but stomach acid. I heave until my stomach is left aching, and I fall back into the bed. I close my eyes against the harsh summer sun beaming through the blinds.
Teeth still grind beside me, his chest rising and falling. Silently, I cry for a few minutes until the cat comes up to my face, licking my tears with her sandpaper tongue. She nestles onto my chest and lays down.
I try to sleep again, but I only throw up three more times before I finally get out of bed and into the shower. I keep the water on cold, sit on the bottom of the tub, knees to chest, and let the freezing water mix with the steam from my skin.
I think of names. Homer. Tristan. Augusten. Then, I think of God and cry for another half hour.
your heart fell apart in my hands
like fruit I’d waited too long to eat
— Fortesa Latifi
“Maybe this is it. Maybe this is all it was ever meant to be.”
He runs his hands through his hair.
“Maybe we just have to be secretly in love with each other and go on with our lives.”
“So, every night we kiss the wrong person goodnight? So every morning we can wake up to a lover we don’t love?”
His hands are on my face and he kisses me. He kisses me like it will be the last one and I take in his scent of pine and smoke.
“I don’t want to live a life void of passion.” My voice cracks and he looks like he’s in pain. “You know how I feel about you, but sometimes. Sometimes just because people are in love, it doesn’t mean they end up together.”
I shove him. “Shut the fuck up.”
I turn to walk away and he grabs my wrist.
I don’t look up at him. “We would be together if that’s what we both wanted. There’s no such thing as predetermination. No meant to be. You’re just a coward.” He lets go of my wrist, closes his eyes. For a second, I’m sure he is going to walk away. “Did you try to consider that maybe I’m being the exact opposite?” I’m chewing so hard on my lip I taste iron. He shakes his head, “Do you know how much courage it takes to be the one who leaves?”