Like When we Were Together
Across the miles of booth at the Denny’s in downtown Lauderdale, we chew through
the fluctuating iterations of silence. And I think how it’s not really all that different
than when we were together, when your idea of a date was sex, then a cheeseburger, than sex.
Sometimes, not even a cheeseburger.
You’re eating with your mouth open and I try to pretend it doesn’t bother me.
Like I did when we were together. Maybe you’re trying to pretend, too, that I’m not
judging you, like maybe you pretended I wasn’t judging you when we were together.
You really blew it, didn’t you? I don’t mean that as a judgment, but I’m just saying
it in case you truly want to make yourself a better person and know that hearing someone
you once, and maybe still care about, point this out, might jump-start
your broken motor. But not like the broken motor of my VW Beetle you jumped junior year,
because you wired it backwards and it fried my engine. I never even yelled at you
about that. Perfect GRE math score or not, you shouldn’t be in charge of real-world things, let alone
a relationship. Not that you were in charge of our relationship. I don’t know
that I was, either. This could be why our captainless boat belly-upped. We floated along together
for too long, like that stray piece of lettuce on the ocean of your face you somehow don’t notice.
Why the hell can’t you feel it there, to the side of your upper-lip stubble, the pile of whiskers
I used to ask you to shave because they gave me cheek rash? I want to pick it off your face,
but don’t owe you any insider hints, you numb manlump. You never made it easy for me.
You know that, right? There could have been heads of lettuce stuck to my face,
and you wouldn’t have noticed. Imagine the lettuce being haircuts, new shirts, ear piercings, that time
I got two hundred dollars worth of blonde highlights and all you had to say was “Your hair.”
Well, you fucker, what would you have done If I’d have said, “Oh, your penis,”
and left the rest up to the syntax unpacking gods, who clearly shunned our conglomeration
of misspent Sundays? Why talk when there’s sex, even if sex it’s as sloppy as a blind dentist
performing a root canal with a spork? Why talk about anything, when there’s all this meaty silence for me to unpack and you to ignore? How’s your mother? Good. Glad to hear. Yes, yes,
hmmm. Uh huh . . . I ask. But within five minutes, it crescendos into the same old fight
about why I hate agnostics and why you hate the Beatles, why Roger Waters was the one,
but John Lennon was a degenerate sellout. I feel the familiar hot hefty hate slather itself
onto the tips of my tone, warp my best intentions for this one last lunch get-together,
when the conversation digresses from our six common friends and the ugly babies they’re having
to why you still think I’d look better if I wore my hair down, then climaxes with why it’s okay
you blackmailed your boss out of nearly a hundred grand and yet we’re going Dutch at Denny’s.
How do you see things, from your spot across the booth? Are you looking past the napkin you just blew
your nose into, then set next to your Sprite glass? Or is your slovenly situation
off-putting, even to you? Speaking of off-putting, what makes you so sure I want to know
about your new girlfriend and how she puts out on weeknights, sometimes twice on Monday?
I care about her tits and thongs approximately one eight as much as I cared about game theory
that night we got stoned and you launched into a two-hour math manifesto.
Sometimes I want to strangle you, my three-year trainwreck, my perpetual could-have-been.
Sometimes I imagine burying your body in an unmarked grave
in a parking lot of a J.C. Penny’s, next to a beautiful park, only the locals built a wall around it
so you can’t see from your asphalt casket beneath the handicapped spot you always parked in
because walking to the food court for a big fucking piece of Sbarro’s pizza from four rows back
was a cataclysmic undertaking, akin to doing laundry and dishes during the same weekend,
to brushing and flossing, to peeing and flushing. I spent thousands of moments of lost time with you,
all those untapped Thursdays after my night class, spilling into splotchy, starving weekends.
All I have to show for our time together is this doggy bag full of pasta primavera, and the bread you
discarded because you’re the only person I’ve ever met who doesn’t like bread. In the parking lot,
we lock in a robotic, Tin Man embrace, and I wonder if the passersby know that sometimes I fantasize
about plucking you from the banks of my brain, and other times, about what we’d name our kids.