Routine

With school back in session, the coffee shop was the fullest it had been all summer. Rhonda and Katy sat at a table by the window. One with black coffee; the other, sugar and cream. One with a dry, overbaked scone with blueberries that looked like raisins; the other, a bagel and cream cheese.

Katy looked like a pinned up first-time professor in a short-sleeved red coat dress and wedged heels. Rhonda looked the most out of place in her ripped baggy jeans and “not a hugger” t-shirt, a pair that was in the dirty hamper that morning, but still smelled alright.

“It’s not fair,” Rhonda said shaking her head, and then again, “it’s just not fair.” She put her phone face down on the table.

“You know, marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

“How would you know? You’re a closeted lesbian.”

“I kissed a girl once, and I was in high school!”

“I’ve never seen you with a guy, Katy. Ever!”

“That’s because I don’t need a man to make me happy.” She folded her arms across her chest and turned her nose up to the ceiling.

“Well, I do.” Rhonda bit into her blueberry scone. Crumbs collected around the corners of her mouth, but she didn’t bother to wipe them away.

“You set feminism back 50 years.”

“Bite me.”

“You know, Rhon, you might find a guy worth marrying if you stopped acting like you were still 20 years old.”

“We can’t all be perfect like you, Katy.”

“I’m not perfect, I just…” Katy paused, looking at the straggly ends of Rhonda’s dirty blonde hair grazing the edge of her styrofoam cup, almost dipping into the coffee. With an audible sigh, Katy added, “When’s the last time you washed your hair?”

“Don’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“Treat me like I’m a lost cause.”

“I’m not, I just—” Katy snatched the phone away before Rhonda could turn it over and continue to brood over the lastest Facebook engagement announcement.

“I wish people would be more real on social media,” she said while tapping her fingers on Rhonda’s screen. “All we see are these happy, perfect relationships, with their perfect hair, and perfect makeup and perfect engagement rings, and perfect in-laws who love them like family. People are innately selfish, and relationships are hard. Where’s the messy fights? The hitting below the belt? Bringing up past infidelity? Passive-aggressive status updates about mamas’ boys, and coddling mothers-in-law?”

“They usually post them in the middle of the night and delete them after an hour.” Rhonda belched into her fist then brought the coffee to her lips, sipping loudly.

“Why do I feel like you’ve done that before?” Looking over Rhonda’s disheveled appearance, Katy questioned, “Why do I feel like you did that last night?”

“Because, Katy,” she hung her head, as if a weight was sitting on the back of her neck, and looked up at Katy, barely raising her eyes past her chin. “I’m self-destructive. Obviously why I’m still single.”

“Aw don’t say that.you just haven’t met the—”

“Save it for your book!” Rhonda stood suddenly, nearly jumping from her chair, hair fraying. “I’m gonna go to the bathroom.”

Probably to throw up, she thought to herself. On her way, she caught the eye of the barista behind the counter. Definitely a freshman. Definitely too damn young for her. But that was definitely his number he’d written on the bottom edge of her coffee cup.

And definitely, if she was that desperate (she was), and drunk enough (she will be), a late-night booty she’ll regret later.

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Homebody Blues

Evie hates it when I call her to complain about my loneliness. If you don’t want to be a homebody anymore, stop being a homebody, she always tells me. Easy for the extrovert to say…

I call her anyway.

“Today I stayed in bed until well past noon.”

“Wow, that’s a new record for you.”

If one could hear an eye roll…

“Is it possible to live on the top floor and still have to deal with leadfoot neighbors?”

“Sweetie, it’s probably just somebody walking up the stairs. Your apartment is right next to the staircase.”

“Yeah, that’s the problem. The sound travels. And it feels like they’re stomping on my brain.”

Like a caravan of people walking up and down the stairs in steel toe boots. My head could explode, splatter these walls, and I swear you’d find the tread marks on the scattered pieces of my brain.

“Isn’t that an Emily Dickinson poem?”

“That’s ‘I felt a funeral in my brain.'”

“Same difference. You should be careful, you know. You’re starting to become like her.”

“Is it so bad to relish in the comfort of your own home?”

“But you don’t relish.”

She’s right. I despise it. But it’s not the fact that I spend most of my days at home or that my interactions with other human beings usually involve a screen or me avoiding eye contact with the neighbor kids and dog moms during my weekly treks across the parking lot to the mailbox.

I work remotely, so I really have no reason to ever leave the house. I like not having to pay for gas every week. Granted I make up for that by ordering in most days, and if I don’t watch my weight, my wardrobe of sweatpants and t-shirts will soon dwindle.

But what I truly dislike about my life is the stigma. Everyone just assumes that I’m not happy, and therefore it makes me unhappy. Even my own sister thinks I’d be better off if I had a man in my life. But Mr. Right’s not just gonna break into your house, she’d say. Maybe he will. What does she know? It’s not like she was any luckier going out and finding one herself, with her three roughhousing boys and absentee husband who only seems to come around to get her pregnant. The only reason I don’t ask her to come over now is that she’s supposed to be on bedrest. God only knows what those destructive little monsters are doing to her house right now.

I will never have children. So unless this man who’s supposed to make me happier comes with condoms or a vasectomy, I’ll pass.

“You should probably take something for that headache.”

“I’m all out. I would cook something, but my fridge is as empty as my stomach, and I don’t really look presentable enough to go anywhere.”

“Of course you don’t.” Evie sighs. I hate it when she sighs. It’s as if she’s exhaling all those years of disappointment in her own life choices onto me. I don’t need them. Hold your breath, Evie. You’re my sister, not my mom. I don’t want your judgment.

“I don’t know what to tell you, hon.”

“Nevermind. Sorry I called.” I hang up before she can turn the conversation into a lecture about how a lot of people have problems. You have the power to fix yours. As if to diminish or discredit the things I think and feel. I know a lot of people have problems. I’m one of those people, and my main problem is with other people.

But I wouldn’t expect the problem to understand.

The neighbor starts up again. The rumbling and the marching reverberating against the walls and penetrating my skull. I can’t take it anymore. Without thinking, and with bedhead, no bra, and a t-shirt barely covering my pantieless ass, I swing the front door open.

“Do you mind!”

Of course it’s a man.

He’s wide-eyed at first. Then his lips curl into a grin that’s either mocking me or amused.

“Sorry about all the noise. I’m your new neighbor.” He points to the open door behind him across the breezeway from my apartment. There’s a stack of boxes just past the threshold, and behind them, a couch and a rolled up rug propped against it are all I can see as far as furniture. He holds what looks like a broken down lap under one armpit and an ironing board under the other.

“Thirty more minutes. I promise.”

“Just keep it down.”

He stares, and in the awkward air between us, I realize how much of a wild woman I must look to him right now. When he sniffs (probably because of allergies—from where I stand, I can see the yellow film on the tops steps of the staircase—it is still spring; the pollen still high), I instinctively pull down my t-shirt (I haven’t showered today either. Sue me), which makes my bra-less breasts more pronounced, and I’m sure he’s mistaking my nipple rings for arousal.

But he is kind of cute.

Kind of.

“I can make it up to you.” He washes me over with his eyes, as if I’m on display and he’s picking fruit. “Let me take you out to dinner. Or I can invite you over if you don’t mind the mess. And maybe you’ll let me put a smile on that—”

I slam the door in his face and twist the deadbolt.

I feel the urge to go masturbate.

Happy Anniversary

“It’s okay that you forgot.”

It’s not like this year’s been anything worth remembering. Forgotten birthdays. Forgotten dates. Nights spent alone while he worked late in the office. And last week at counseling, he admitted that he never wanted kids and likely never will.

It would’ve been nice to know that before getting married.

It would’ve been nice to know that before I was seven months pregnant.

“If you wanna go out to eat or something, we can. But I don’t have much money.”

Another one of our marital problems—finances. His startup will take off soon. But right now, we spend more money than we have, and it’s taxing, draining.

“So that means I have to pay?” Again.

He shrugs. “If you want.”

I haven’t gotten what I wanted for a long time. Today, of all days, I just want to be happy. I want us to be happy. I want us to remember why we took those vows, that we loved each other once. I pray that one day I won’t worry about what additional troubles this baby will bring, like the fact that my job doesn’t currently offer paid maternity leave. I’d have to work until this baby drops just to ensure we’ll have food on the table in the days after I’m forced to leave.

“So what are we doing?” he presses.

“I guess I’ll order a pizza,” I say with a sigh as my stomach growls louder.

“For both of us?” he asks, staring at the source of my current hunger pains. I’d be foolish to call the look endearing, but a hormonal wife can only hope, right?

“I guess I’ll order two.” If I’m lucky, he’ll probably eat a slice and maybe half of another and go back to his computer, which currently gets more attention than me, leaving the rest for me to find some semblance of happiness feeding my face and fattening myself up until I pop.


Today we’re celebrating five years of blogging! Let’s make this anniversary happier than the one in today’s story. 😉

Back to the Woods

When she wakes, she’s on the opposite end of the bed, and her bonnet—which she wears to protect her fragile curls from her plagued tossing and turning—rests on her pillow, where her head should lie.

But her pillow, the case, the sheets, and—when she peers over the edge of the bed—the carpet too, are not the same off-white they were when she fell asleep last night. They’re stained a greenish brown, and it doesn’t take her long to find the culprits. She pulls her knees to her chin, dragging her feet, caked in mud, across the bed and leaving a trail.

“Oh, God.” She sighs and tries to run her fingers through her hair, but they get tangled in something other than her usual curly knots.

Twigs. Short, skinny, broken-off twigs, tucked in her hair like stylish Bobbi pins. One by one, she plucks them out, careful not to tug too harshly on her curls.

One, two . . . five . . . eleven . . . fifteen . . .

The more she collects in her lap, the more she finds in her hair, along with leaves, dry, brittle, and crumbing when she tries to pick them, creating an even bigger mess.

After all these years, had she really gone back to the woods?

She turns her attention to her journal on her dresser. She must write this down. The pills don’t work, the alcohol. She’s graduated to sleepwalking.

But at least she’s stopped dreaming.

Yes, if one good thing can come from this, it’s a night without seeing his face lit up by the flames of that bond fire. The last time she trusted the trees to keep a secret.

That, she calls peace.

When she rises, she catches the first glimpse of herself in the mirror, and all the air escapes her lungs as if being squeezed in an invisible force’s fist, and breathing becomes a chore. She buckles to the floor, missing her bed completely, her knees popping underneath the sudden weight of her body. More than just her hair, her feet, her eyes like soulless dark pockets. On the front of her night shirt a stain, bright crimson, stretches from the bottoms of her breasts, across her stomach, past her navel and bleeds onto the elastic waistband of her pajama pants.

Blood. But no pain or sign of an open wound reveals to her that it is not her own.

“Oh, God. Oh, God.”

The pills, the alcohol, the dream she couldn’t stop dreaming until . . .

“I went back to the woods.”

Where his face still lives. The heat of the fire, his hot breath. Her screams stifled by his sticky, sweaty palm on her mouth . . .

With all her strength lost in her legs, she clings onto the fitted sheet and pulls herself onto the bed, flings back the covers hiding the evidence of what happened to her last night.

Evidence that could incriminate if anyone were to find her like this.

You know what they would think. You wanted it . . .

Things keep happening to her. The mud, the blood, the sleepwalking.  Things she hoped would stop with the pills, the alcohol.

The dream, his face, his weight, his naked skin . . .

The rock.

Bigger than her hand. Weighty. Cool as night. One side covered with moss painted with the same blood she wears until she rolls it over with her fingers for a closer look.

His face, his face . . .

He had no face. And she remembers. What happened. Not to her, but to him. When she went back to the woods. To end the dream, recurrent ever since the night he took her to that bond fire, led her deeper into the wilderness, away from the crowd, pinned her against the tree, pounded between her legs for her to let him in.

One stroke, wild-eyed bewilderment.

Two strokes, a gash as deep and as wide as this rock.

“It’s not moss.” Squishy, oozing between her fingers just as it oozed from the side of his head.

The pills, the alcohol.

His face . . . Gone.

She wonders now, will she sleep?

#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Roommate Horror Story

I fantasize about murdering my roommate every day.

When I wake up in the morning with a stuffy nose and a sore throat because she turned the thermostat down to fifty degrees in the middle of the night, I think about packing her body into one of those old chest freezers my grandparents keep in their basement. Since she apparently prefers to sleep in cold, dark places, she can pretend that it’s her own little ice coffin, and slowly perish next to ice cream, TV tray dinners, and freezer burned sausages.

When she uses my favorite pan to cook her nasty ass smothered beef cheeks and leaves the dirty pan in the sink for me to wash, I want to beat her over the head with it while it’s still hot from the stove, leaving red circular blisters all over her face.

When my sleep is rudely interrupted by her headboard ferociously slamming against my wall at three in the morning, I imagine taking a knife from the kitchen, slipping through the door she never closes, and plunging the knife through the skinny back of her boy-toy for that night and into her chest underneath.

Much to her dismay, we are not friends. I was desperate to find an apartment close to my new job, and she was desperate to find a replacement roommate before the next month’s rent, so we both turned to Craigslist for a resolution. Meeting her through Craigslist should have been my first clue that the girl was going to be a total pain in the ass. Anyone who has to resort to Craigslist for anything—a car, a job, a single white female, or in my case, an apartment—lacks a certain human quality that enables them to have normal relationships with others, myself included. Why else would I take pleasure in visualizing her infinite violent deaths? Of course, she drove me to it with all of her annoying quirks.

At first sight, Natalie seems like a nice girl. Cute, with olive skin, brown eyes, brown freckles, long light brown hair that she constantly flips and combs back with her fingers, and a tiny mouth with perfectly straight teeth—no doubt she’s had dental work done. She’s short, about five three, with a long slim waist, and she only wears sweatpants two sizes too big, and tank tops that she brings together to tie into a knot at the small of her back, showing off her curves, some midriff, and a pink thong underneath. From the outside you wouldn’t understand why I hate her so much, but outside appearances can often be deceiving.

Natalie is the type of person who intentionally does things to piss you off, testing you to see just how much of a pushover you are, then takes total advantage. She’ll pile dirty dishes in the sink and wait until you’re so fed up with the mess that you clean them yourself before she says, “Oh, I was gonna get that.” She’ll use the last roll of toilet tissue—conveniently, when you’re on your period—go to the store for some more, then hoard them in her room, saying, “If you really need some, you’d go buy it yourself.” When your boyfriend comes over for dinner and a movie, she’ll roam around the house stark naked, drawing his eyes from the movie and you to her perky tits, hard nipples, little round ass, and clean shaven cooch, and when you politely ask her to put on some damn clothes, she’ll say, “Can I not be comfortable in my own house?” and your boyfriend will say, while repositioning his pants, “Yea, babe. Let her be comfortable.”

Four months I dealt with this silently, expressing my resentment only to friends and my mom on our Sunday afternoon phone conversations. So many times I wanted to get back at her, but no matter how conniving my schemes were, I always chickened out. I’m not quite sure when my dreams of revenge—locking the screen door while she’s out on the balcony sunbathing, turning off the bathroom light while she’s in the shower, calling the next guy she brings home Dick, when his name is Jake—turned into elaborate plots of murder. I suppose the switch came the night I almost killed her.

Accidentally, of course.

I had cooked shrimp linguini alfredo for my dinner, and as soon as I turned off the oven, she came waltzing into the kitchen in a tank top and panties, singing, “Mmm, it smells so good in here! I think I’ll fix me a plate.”

Before I could even object, she was sitting at the counter with a plate overflowing with noodles. I watched her choke down my dinner without even pausing to catch her breath until suddenly, she dropped her fork and with wide eyes, demanded, “What’s in this pasta?” Before I could even answer, she was wheezing and clawing at her neck. I scurried behind her and tried to give her the Heimlich, but she swatted my hands away. She spun around in the chair, sticking out her swollen tongue and taking short, sharp gasps of breath that sounded like yelps for help. She clung to the front of my t-shirt and pointed a shaking finger towards her room.

Realizing she was having an allergic reaction to the shrimp, I took off to her room and scrambled through her purse until I found what I supposed was an EpiPen. When I returned to the kitchen, she was grappling on the floor, swinging her head back and forth, her hands clenched to her neck. I had never used an EpiPen before, only seen it done on TV, so I didn’t realize that I needed to remove it from the tube before I began stabbing her leg. She kept scratching my hand, shaking her head, and grunting at me like a gorilla. I was so confused, and her frantic wiggling terrified me more, keeping me frozen by her side squealing, “What do I do? What do I do!”

Eventually, she was able to pause her helpless thrashing and give herself the shot, seeing that I was of no help. When she was able to breathe again, she snatched herself from the floor. “God! I could’ve died!” she said before stomping off to her room and slamming the door behind her.

Could’ve is all that remains on my mind now.

Like I could’ve misplaced her EpiPen.

I could’ve cooked shellfish with my dinner tonight.

I could’ve offered it to her.


Original post published April 12, 2014.

I Know What You Did Last Halloween: Part 2

“Like, I Know What You Did Last Summer? Hmm, sounds original.” Mike crams the last Krispy Kreme donut into his mouth without offering me a single bite, but it’s probably better that I don’t start my morning with a pound of sugar on my stomach.

Especially after that email.

I need absolute clarity of mind to get through this day. And not only because of the tedious work I do as an Editorial Assistant—tracking submissions, ensuring that authors meet journal guidelines, pushing automated messages through the workflow, processing invoices, not nearly enough copyediting of manuscripts, which was what I was expecting when I initially went in for the interview, the impression I still had when I accepted the offer fourteen months ago. I should’ve quit then. After Sam, it’s a wonder I haven’t bailed before now.

I pour myself a mug of lukewarm coffee from the pot and try my best to refrain from gagging when I put it to my lips. It’s bad enough that Dana, the office assistant and someone else who apparently hates her job, still hasn’t restocked the sugar and cream in the breakroom—which were the two things that made the coffee somewhat bearable—but for God’s sake, when will we ever replace that aged coffee maker? It’s seen a better day, and I can’t afford to buy Starbucks every day just to keep my head on straight whenever I receive a cryptic message that makes my hairs stand on end.

Mike finishes his breakfast with a large, audible gulp and says, “I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s probably some internet troll too obsessed with the holiday. Can’t even come up with a better prank.”

“In any other situation, I’d agree with you, but—” I lower  my voice when our co-worker Trisha walks in. “I did do something last Halloween. We both did.”

“Can we not talk about this here?” Mike snaps under his breath.

“What are you two whispering about?” Trisha lifts the lid to the empty donut box, frowns, and immediately whips her head toward Mike.

“Early bird,” he says, smiling.

“I’m the one who bought the damn donuts,” she says, clearly unamused. She snatches the box off the counter, stomps onto the petal controlling the lid to the trash can so hard it cracks, and stuffs box inside.

I wait for her to leave, but she lingers, obviously more interested in our conversation than what to eat for breakfast. She reinserts herself into the space between me and Mike and reaches over his head for a bag of pretzels and a granola bar from the cabinet behind him, shooting me a death glare at the same time.

It’s no secret she has a thing for Mike and thinks I’m creeping in on her territory. Before me, it was Sam.

I guess she doesn’t have to worry about that competition any more. A year later, and the same flowers still enshrine Sam’s abandoned desk. Plastic—giving off the illusion of immortality. Too bad Sam wasn’t so lucky.

A part of me wonders why the company hasn’t hired a replacement yet, why, even though I push it in every afternoon at five before clocking out, her chair is still slightly pulled away from her desk every morning as if expectant of her return.

Every morning the same. This morning no different. In fact, this morning, the chair was pulled all the way out, and turned facing the aisle, as if someone had been sitting there and had briefly stepped away.

Which is why I’m currently hiding out in the breakroom with Mike, the only other person who—before the email—knows what really happened to Sam. The only other person who can assure me that it won’t be Sam who comes back to that chair.

I admit the breakroom, which is more like a breezeway that connects the office suite to the conference room next door, is the wrong place to be discussing our previous indiscretion. There’s too much foot traffic. Anyone can hear us. And since our current predicament is that someone else in fact did hear us, or saw us, or knows something about what we did, enough to send that email, I have to be careful with my words.

Everyone’s a suspect. Even—though I hate to think it—Mike.

When Trisha is gone, and I’m sure she’s out of earshot, I say, “So you didn’t get anything.”

“No.” He exhales loudly through his nostrils. “And I’m sure it’s nothing. You’re overeating to something that’s just a coincidence and nothing more.”

“Fine.” I swiftly leave before he can say anything else. Like I’m just being a woman. Curse our overeating, overemotional selves. Calm down. It’s only a coincidence, I repeat. It’s more settling on my stomach than the former, which causes the bad coffee to bubble and rise.

But I’m still not convinced, and when I return to my desk—directly across from Sam’s—I’m even less convinced. Propped on my keyboard, carefully balanced between the Q and A rows, is a handwritten note. I look to Trisha, who sits next to Sam. The chick is always scowling, but this time, it isn’t at me, because Mike, emerging from the breakroom, has the same look on his face. Four of us share one of five workstations in the suite—one that still has friendly reminders of different processes written on scattered Post-its by the fourth and only absent member of our group.

However, we all feel her presence now. Because those are Sam’s swirly squiggles on the folded sheet of copy paper in front of my computer. They form two words:

“I know.”

So much for coincidences.

Chronicles of a Single, Black Christian Female: Episode 1

Photo by @caminho_do_despertar from nappy.co

It’s probably the wrong thing to say, but I say it anyway.

“You remind me of my pastor.”

He stops, right as I’m about to reach my peak.

Definitely the wrong thing to say. Especially to a man whose face is currently buried between my thighs. Especially when I’m supposed to be at Bible study—I’ve already missed two straight weeks.

And I don’t think he’s saved. But I am. Or, at least, I’m supposed to be.

“Do you think of your pastor doing this to you?”

“No,” I say a little too quickly for it to be believable. His laugh offends me, because I know there are plenty of women in my church who do think of Pastor that way. And how could they not? He’s young, handsome— smooth skin, thick curly hair, full pink lips, eyes that haunt and the adorning long lashes to envy. If not a pastor, he’d be the kind to break hearts.

But he is a pastor. A good one. And a Christian. A good one. Or, at least, he presents himself to be. At this moment, who am I to judge?

I pull my dress up from my ankles and slip my arms through the sleeves. “I think I should go to church.” I’d be there already had I not taken this detour in response to his “Wyd” text.

“Feeling sinny?”

“No.” He disgusts me how he makes a joke of an obvious problem that I have—giving in to temptation. Maybe it’s because, in fact, I do feel a little . . . sinny.

I give him a quick kiss as I leave, which I immediately regret, not only because it gives him the impression that he can easily lure me back— perhaps after service—but also because now I’ll have the smell of my secret shame fresh on my lips, a smell that Mother Thompson—forever casting stones with her eyes on us “slippery skinny young thangs”—is sure to notice when I’m sitting on the very back pew, begging my Father in Heaven for forgiveness.

I Know What You Did Last Halloween: Part 1 (Intro)

Fall—or for those who like to be fancy, autumn—the season most people look forward to. The cool, crisp breeze in the morning, yet the sun still warms you by the afternoon. Harvest colors and flavors. Cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, pumpkin. Boots, scarfs, and sweaters. Decorations beginning to crowd the store shelves. A pleasant reminder that the holidays are right around the corner.

It’s a season everyone loves. Everyone, that is, but me.

In fact, recently, I’ve come to dread it. I see it now only as the anniversary of what happened to Sam. Something I care not to remember, but as my luck would have it—it seems—fate has other plans.

It’s too early in the morning, and still much too dark in my room for me to be scrolling through emails on my phone. But one email in particular, from an address I don’t recognize, glares at me, and it has me freaked. The longer I stare, reading it over and over again, the brighter my phone’s backlight seems to become. Even when I dial it back to its lowest setting, it still pierces my retinas with seven simple words that, although  nonsuspicious on their own, when strung together, may potentially derail this fantasy of a life I’ve spent the last year concocting for myself…

“I know what you did last Halloween.”

Butcher

The thought of it makes me laugh—

It’s really not funny. But laughing keeps me from doing something far more terrifying. So I fold my lips into an expressionless grin that’s reminiscent of a time before animated emojis—

Colon. Closed parenthesis

while he hacks away at the shoulder with a meat cleaver, and blood splatters my face.

How Are You?

“How are you?” he says. Such a generic question. One that requires only a generic answer. “Fine” would suffice. Or the wordier but no less basic, “I’m good. How are you?” with the question repeated at the end for good measure, to insinuate a conversation that is long overdue to end…

But I have so much more within me.

I’ve missed you. It’s so good to see you. I’ve forgotten how beautiful you are when you smile. When did you get back? I hate that you ever left. Skype wasn’t enough. Facebook wasn’t enough. Email, long-distance phone calls weren’t enough. I need you in my life. I want to touch you, kiss you one more time. And again for however man more times you’ll allow. How long will you be staying? Is it for good this time? Can we pick up where we left off (how about that kiss again)? Are you still single? I am. Never even thought about another man since you. You’re my lover who never was, but if you’re here to stay, maybe you can become. Will you? Tell me. Take my hand. Do that thing I’ve dreamt of for the last two years. Let’s get married.

I struggle to string together coherent sentences on my tongue, to push them from my mouth, bind on my voice, and give them a pitch that’s higher than a whisper so that he can hear and reply with words that will kill me the way I want to die.

Then I realize…

“Struggling,” I say. “I am struggling…”

Hopefully, he will ask me why.