three: from her perspective [or] torn between two lovers

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[written from her perspective]

Get dressed for date night. Wonder how you think of such amazing costumes. Decide that for being a fruit bat, you need to wear the little black dress you bought two years ago for Halloween, the dress that cuts to a V in the middle of your chest. Dance in front of the mirror on the back of your door. Squeeze your chest a little.

Use black chiffon for the wings. Wonder if this is the same material they use in lingerie. Check your closet. It is.

Make ears for your bat costume. Use felt and attach them to an old headband. Put on fishnet stockings, even though they are cliché. Wonder why every day isn’t a dress-up day.

Open your laptop. He is online. Read his status: a quote from Catcher In The Rye. Some line about falling half in love with a girl. It’s from chapter ten. Cross that book off of your must read list for the summer.

Change your status to If only everybody knew what I knew. Smile. Close your laptop.

Your date arrives. He rings your doorbell four times. He is twenty minutes early. You like to be fashionably late.

“Do fruit bats belong on the beach?” he asks and laughs. There is a camera in his hand. His t-shirt is a darker shade of blue than his bathing suit. How many blue cars did you count on the way back that afternoon from the other boy’s house? Twenty-one.

“I do what I want,” you tell him. Notice how much taller he is than you. At least five inches. Too tall. There is a line of facial hair along his chin, and half of a goatee. Ask yourself why all the men in your life need to shave.

Have a drink when you get to the party. Something strong, you tell the guy in charge of bartending. He fixes a long island and wears leather bands on his wrists. He will comment on your outfit. He likes it. “Of course,” you tell yourself. “Who wouldn’t?”

Make your way downstairs. Dance to California Girls playing from the loudspeakers. Let a boy in a Hawaiian shirt put a lei of plastic flowers around your neck. Dance with him. Take a picture with this boy. He tells you that he is a sophomore. Pat him on the shoulder and rub his hair. Say to him, “you’re cute.” He turns red. Don’t tell him that you know your other housemate, the cheerleader in the pink bikini and grass skirt, the one who just threw the winning beer pong shot, was his freshmen orientation leader in the fall.

Decide that dancing with wings is fun.

Have another drink. You need another drink. Wish you could have had more drinking fun last night. Wonder how things would have ended up if his father hadn’t come home. Smile at the thought. Think: maybe we’ll have time for a rain check.

In an hour your date will be drunk. You know what this means. Anticipate.

Play with a paper drink umbrella someone has put in your hair. His father kept a golf umbrella next to the front door. Search for someone with a matching color umbrella.

A member of the Jamaican Bobsled Team will come over to you. He has put neon green and yellow masking tape across a black turtleneck. Take a picture with him. This boy has an umbrella like yours.

Remember when the boy who took you to his father’s house told you that after his heart surgery, he watched Cool Runnings over and over.

Take more pictures. Take pictures with the girls you live with. Take pictures of boys with coconut bikini tops and golden crosses dangling from their necks. Take pictures of girls in tank tops that someone has written wet t-shirt contestant number seventeen. Take pictures on accident, pictures of the graffiti painted brick wall in the basement of a house that has white Christmas lights dangling from the ceiling. Take a picture of the Aloha banner someone hung. Don’t care that it’s crooked.

Pictures are how you will remember tonight. Put your camera away. This will be all that is worth remembering tomorrow.

Have another drink. You need another drink.

Feel your date’s hands on your waist as you dance. He is drunk. You are both pink-faced and sweating. His hands get tight on your body.

Guess that the temperature must be one hundred degrees.

His hands slide lower. “I love you,” he whispers. Act surprised.

“Everyone loves me!” you say. It’s true. Tell him you are going to the bathroom. He pulls you back.

Shake out of his grip. “Do you want to get out of here after?” he asks. Nod. He smiles. Smell his cologne. Guess he put on three squirts. Laugh. Consider telling him this wasn’t prom.

Wave at him as you leave. Stumble up the stairs in your five- inch stilettos.

Lock the door to the bathroom in the house that smells of testosterone and perfume from Victoria’s Secret. Look in the mirror. The ears you made have snapped. Drunk accident. Be okay with those. Take the phone from your purse. Drop it. Thank God, out loud, that it missed the toilet. Fall to the floor when you try to pick it up. Your dress is too thin. The tile is cold. Flip open the phone. Scroll to the name you want. Guess he is probably studying.

Admit that you like this boy. Just a little. Type a text: Can I see you tonight? Check for typos. Put your thumb over the send button. Know that he wanted to be there with you. Tell yourself he wouldn’t fit. That it’s not good to mix worlds. Decide separate is good. You know how messy things could get. How many boys would be upset.

Someone knocks. “Almost done?” they call.

Shut the phone before you’re finished. “Yes,” you answer them. Pull yourself up with the sink. Straighten your wings and walk out.

Find your date in the living room. He is talking to his fraternity brothers about snow-covered parking lots, cars pulling boys on skis, too sharp of turns, and broken legs. Laugh at boys who drink too much.

He will hold the front door open for you. Take his arm along the icy streets and let him walk you home. He will try to kiss you on your porch. Step to the side. He doesn’t kiss you like the other boy.

Realize that no one does.

Go to straighten the shovel that has fallen. Wonder if his head is cold with such short hair.

“Can I come in,” he will ask. Your date is almost as tall as the doorframe. Tell him that you will call him later. He believes you when you say that there are things you need to do for a bit. Promise your date you will call. Hug him. Pat him twice on the shoulder. Be happy when your date leaves. He was making you late.

Stay on the porch. Open your phone. Wait until he is around the corner. Crouch down so your date doesn’t see you. Go inside and lock the door behind you.

Stumble up thirteen stairs to your bedroom. Bump into the wall. Take another drink from the flask in your purse. It has the Greek letters for your sorority engraved on the side. Know that two boys are waiting for your call.

Erase the text message still waiting to be sent. Call him instead. “Can I come over?” you ask. He will drive over to pick you up. Let him open the car door for you. Tell him you are glad he hasn’t been drinking. “My feet hurt,” you say, “the only downside to ridiculous heels.”

He parks in the lot behind his apartment. Don’t wait till you get upstairs. Kiss him across the car seats. He will drop his keys to the floor. He touches your face.

Be glad you called him.

two: eight minute moments

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we talked occasionally after chicago and train rides and seeing Wicked in nice clothes and after she met my dog for the first time and my grandmother and sister and slept in my old room during her visit four octobers ago.

she told me, on one of these occasional times, after she went back to watching hockey games and wearing his jersey and working overnight hospital shifts with babies with Turner syndrome and before everyone found out about us;

‘your life is full of eight-minute-moments where you’re constantly conflicted about what you want’

i told her i wanted tall windows with old drapes and a porch with cracked floor boards. i told her that i wanted Africa and mosquito nets and sunday mornings with scrambled eggs and a kitchen that smelled like summer rain and lemonade. i told her i wanted pictures lining a staircase and i told her i wanted two dogs and to walk together; barefoot in the grass, up the hill or across the moss-covered bridge that stretched over the river. i told her i wanted to paint bedrooms and build tree-houses and fires and leave painted plates with cookies out on Christmas eve. i told her i wanted pancakes and cereal and stories about middle school dances and first kisses at three-in-the-morning when there were thunderstorms and lightning and we both couldn’t sleep.

i told her i just wanted her to have stayed.

one: vodka and washing machine proposals

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You said it once in our last year of college, after we were together for the last time and we were drunk and I had just finished talking to Kim who was in Texas in her doublewide trailer and who spoke with an accent and hid in basements during tornadoes while she was at dog training school. You begged me to let you talk to her. Said she would be good for me. A nice transition after you left. You pulled at the phone and kissed my neck and made groaning noises into the receiver and pressed your body into me while you wrapped your leg around my waist. I talked louder so she wouldn’t know you were there. Because we were supposed to be a secret. And then I hung up quickly and we came together in my apartment.

After it was over and you sat on my laundry machine and told me how you wanted to have kids and you proposed to me in sweatpants with a twist-tie, you went into the kitchen. You looked in my fridge and there was no diet coke and you were upset and stomped around in pink and white socks. You pulled me into you and kissed me again and I ran my hand under your sweatshirt because your bra was still on the floor in my bathroom and your t-shirt was in my dryer because you forgot it was on when you got into the shower at three in the morning and the water was already running. You said you liked my touch. That you’d miss me. That you missed me when you were with him and his daughter two weeks ago.

And you looked at me and put your arms over my shoulders in my kitchen where there were hardwood floors and high ceilings and four half-used dish sponges in the sink. There was an open bottle of vodka and my roommate’s powdered Gatorade we used to mix with an hour before on the counter.

“I love you,” you said.

“No you don’t,” I told you.

“I do,” you said. You nodded as if you were serious, as if you believed it. We kissed and your head knocked off my amino acid magnets from the fridge.

“Well, I love you,” I said.

“I know,” you said. “Thank you.” You squeezed me tight and kissed my cheek long and hard. I shaved before you came over because I knew you liked it.

“For what?”

“For loving me,” you said. “I’m glad you do.”