Once someone wrote me a card in half pen and half pencil. I slipped it between notebook pages, hoping to lose it so I had the chance to find it again. When I lied to her doorman that we were sisters he told me that we have the same voice, which isn’t true, but I’d like to believe it. Because even when she doesn’t feel like dancing, she makes me a drink and plays the music I like.
Once someone offered to read me a poem while I looked the other way. He straightjacketed me under a blanket I was too tired to wrestle my way out of. I decided he was not allowed to complain about my blank walls anymore if his idea of decoration was bamboo and unfolded laundry. I reached for a tissue to wipe away tears and he reached for another to cough up phlegm and suddenly I discovered I could laugh again.
Once I noticed the way winter wind drew blood to someone’s cheeks, tinting them rose—the same color of the lipstick marks I left around my wine glass at my eighteenth birthday. Her back pressed against my radiator and her hands interlaced over boots with too many buckles to be practical for stiff fingers. She was there to say goodbye even though she knew the next day her call records would be peppered with my name. I want a flipbook of her tucking her hair she let me cut too short behind her ears.
Once I sat softly next to someone on a midnight bench. He decided that he would wait another fifteen minutes before telling me he had to wake up at 6am for practice. I didn’t know that he wore contacts until I stepped on an empty packet in his room. I thought about summer and how he almost lit the grill on fire and how I giggled when he stuck his fingers in my drink and the grit of sugar on my tongue when I ate the Victoria sponge his brother’s girlfriend made in the dark. While I walked home I pictured him wide-eyed, slipping out his lenses in the mirror.
Once I felt the scratch of someone’s sweater sleeve under my cheek as I mumbled feverishly about an essay I couldn’t bring myself to write. Sweat stiffened the flyaway hairs that framed my face but he kissed my forehead anyway. I wondered if it tasted of the same salt he sprinkled over the bread he made me last week. Or the ground we slept on in Utah when I wasn’t sure that anyone in the world existed apart from me and him. He asked me whether I’d ever considered just writing a bad essay.
Once I looked at someone across the table, our schoolgirl braids mirroring one another as exhaustion forced us to revert to younger selves. We stood up to search for another cup of tea to curl our fingers around. Later I called her on the train and she recommended that I spy on a conversation between Kubla Khan and young Marco Polo. I searched for flickers of her features in blurred trees eagerly shedding their foliage and realized I was wearing her jeans. Autumn is always less elegant than I expect it to be.
Once I was a late night runner, a train platform dancer, a cold weather hopscotcher. But now, when I find my feet are leaden, you tell me you’ll be here in fifteen minutes. Now you’re putting on your jacket. Now you’re cutting a little too close to New Haven traffic. Now you’re downstairs and could I please let you in because it’s cold and you’d like to remember what it’s like to have your arm around my shoulder.