He gives you a nostalgic fuck so sweet it makes your teeth ache. You feel history in your gums, the way you once met, his call, meet up, drinks, the darkest hickie you ever had, the three layers of make up that still didn’t cover. He kisses you on the forehead, brushes your hair with his fingers, draws pictures on your back. He says, I love your shoulders, I love your bellybutton, I love your eyes. You keep them shut. You don’t look directly at him. You pretend you are not there. And soon, you won’t be—soon this will become a part of your past life.
You’ve done this with him more times than you’d like to admit, but this one feels different. You remember the conversation earlier, how you both relished the idea of thirty, of growing up and moving on, so when his hand reached for yours in the dark corner of the bar, it was something other than holding. It was some kind of late commitment.
And maybe because you are moving, you invite him inside. Or maybe it is the afternoon of beers, or the way your bed has been still and cold each night. Maybe it is the story he has created for the two of you, old friends, ex lovers, on a road trip to Texas, the sky slack and wide above your tiny car like a jaw unhinged. He says, I’m a great negotiator, and you imagine him like this, negotiating the highway and the expanse after New Mexico, how the land stretches in way you’ve never seen out West. There is no ocean, but sky—blue and large for miles tricking your eyes into some kind of beauty.
He says, Take me with you. He says, I can’t believe how pretty you are. He says, I’m not like I was. You ask for a glass of water. You ask to have your clothes back.
The next morning, he puts his face close to yours. He says, Breakfast, and you cover your eyes with the palm of your hand. You shrink to the size of a peanut as he says, What will make you feel better? Do you want coffee? Do you want a banana? You want black holes.
He says, I need you to know how much I genuinely appreciate you. In Texas, he says, the sun eats everything as it sets, a big hungry ball of fire. He kisses your face and lets his hand linger around the curve of your chin for a moment past nice. You reach up to keep him there when he starts to step back. You know you are leaving, you will never see this again. Your gums are swelling. There is a desert in your mind so blank and rolling that you feel tired. A sting in your enamel makes you say, Ahhh.
Katrina Prow is a Ph.D student in Creative Writing, Fiction at Texas Tech University. Originally from California’s Central Coast, she received her MFA and BA from California State University, Long Beach. Her writing has appeared both online and in print with Passages North, Pearl, and Spot Lit Mag. She is currently writing a collection of short fiction about life in the restaurant industry.
–Art by Natalia Drepina