It’s his birthday so I don’t leave right away. I let him hold my shell for a while and whisper things in my ear. I let my eyes close, nestle my head into the nook between shoulder and neck, and give my best performance of a different girl. It’s the close of another long night. His lip puffs up, the only lasting souvenir from another drunken celebration. Sucker-punched on the street. I find a bag of frozen corn in his freezer and scatter small yellow kernels from kitchen to bed. Holding the bag against his face, letting him pull me closer. I miss taking care of someone.
On the street the vodka talked for me; warned him against getting too close; told him I’d break his heart. It’s a well-worn path through the woods, the feet that have pounded this pattern into place.
“I don’t want to be just another guy. I don’t want you to get bored and move on in a week or two.”
It’s not boredom that moves me forward, I want to tell him. It’s something I can’t quite see yet calling through the mist. A foghorn and a lighthouse’s rotating beam in the night. Would you ask a pen not to write? Would you cage a bird to hear it sing? I flit in and out of beds. I’ll let you kiss me here but not there. I tempt you close, closer, but not too close. I learn to say goodbye without words, with a look or the absence of affection. I carve my nature out of stone and wood.
He’s asleep when I leave; when I untangle myself from his limbs. I straighten my shirt and comb my bangs back into place on my forehead. I call a cab and he stirs.
“I have to.”
I run a hand through his hair and lift the bag of corn from where it has landed forgotten on the floor. Thawed. I jostle it back and forth between my hands. Search myself for something else to say.
I leave the bag by his bed and go, shutting the door quietly behind me, not looking back. The apartments all bleed into each other. The men all start to sound the same. The pea under the mattress gets harder every time I lay down somewhere new. I toss and I turn and I get up to leave. I learn to say goodbye before I ever say hello and these cab rides home are some of the loneliest I know.
Freelance Whales – Location