COME HOME NOW by Danielle Chelosky

When apologizing to you for fucking up, I’d buy you flowers. The first ones were blue—not like the sky, but abrasive and ethereal like from a video game. I broke the stems so they would fit in my bag without peeking out, and the color dripped onto my palms and stained them for days. If it were red, it would have felt accusatory; this ultramarine was comforting, safe.

*

The risk for fucking up was lethal. Not for me, but for you.

*

I was seventeen. I fell in love fast, curled up against you while we watched movies. My mom spammed my phone one night with texts: There’s a tornado warning !!! Come home now !!! We laughed. Tornadoes never happen on Long Island. American Beauty played on the screen in front of us. We kissed while the storm raged, the wind vibrating the house, my phone buzzing.

*

You spent every night in my bed for months. When I unplugged yellow lights, I left the blue ones in. Then, as if by association, I’d reach my lips up to yours and climb on top of you. We fucked slow and carefully, as if the whole thing were fragile. I love being inside you, you’d say, so in love. We talked about getting married every day.

*

I checked your location. You checked mine. We were both dots on a map.

*

In the winter, we drove up to Syracuse. We dawdled around a DIY venue waiting for a band called Fiddlehead to play songs about grief. Rumors circulated that they were late because the frontman was a teacher and he got held late at school. You got nervous in crowds, but I held your hand. They went on and the sound quality was abominable in the best way. Static rang in our ears. You took photos with our shared disposable camera. In one, the band is drenched in a deep blue, almost underwater.

*

I am not anybody’s first, or second, or third, your poetry read, written years before. I am a residence put up for foreclosure, the weeds overgrown and the flowers dead. 

*

We drove to Maine for another trip. After a show in Connecticut, we went to a hotel in Massachusetts. The air conditioner turned on and off throughout the night, waking both of us at 4 A.M., our consciousness syncing up. You wrote of the moment: “A kiss good night turned into passionate caresses until I found myself inside her half-asleep. We made love in a dazed narcoleptic dream. We then fell back asleep, this time fully naked, knotted in each other’s arms and legs.”

*

You worried you weren’t enough for me. You were often insecure, often implying that I was a slut.

*

According to News 12, there is about one tornado on Long Island every year. Where am I during these?

*

Another old poem of yours: Awoken by shrieks rippling into the dreading silence of 4am, I wipe the cold sweat from my forehead. The hazy vision from the night prior still remains. I think to myself how it reminds me of the steamy car windows that probably still reek of one too many stale beers and poor decisions. The rain still beats the gutters relentlessly and my headache pounds just as heavily.

*

You were a scorpio, a water sign. Sensitive, sentimental, intense.

*

I had the house to myself one night. You came over and we watched Pulp Fiction on my couch. I wanted to be Uma Thurman—mysterious, smoking cigarettes, bleeding out of my nose. We made cookies and popcorn, and then you fucked me on my translucent kitchen table because you could.

*

You kept getting sick. I didn’t know what that meant.

*

Maybe every time there was a tornado on Long Island, I was away with you. Maybe it was when we went to North Carolina. Or during our trip to West Virginia. Or amidst our Pittsburgh adventure. Or while we were at your aunt’s lake house in New Jersey.

*

We fought in the parking lot of a casino, but it was romantic. You hugged me every time I cried.

*

You were growing away from me. I checked your location. You were at a friend’s house. I thought you loved being inside me, then you weren’t even near me. When you were, I unplugged the yellow and blue lights at the same time, knowing you didn’t want your body in mine. I wished we weren’t separate entities. I wanted to be one with you. There was a gap between us, filled with static.

*

There is a website where people can predict tornadoes. The worst one to ever strike Long Island will be on July 9, 2141. I won’t be alive to watch it.

*

I checked your location. You were getting heroin. I had no choice but to go about my day. I went to Barnes and Noble because I needed books for class. I slid paperbacks into my bag and headed to the restrooms to sob and try calling you again. On the line, a woman told me: You look like a cartoon. Not in a bad way, I’m an artist.

*

You moved to Philadelphia for recovery. I drank gin in my room alone. The dot became a never-ending loading symbol.

*

One morning, I was sitting at a cafe reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and getting ready to drive to you. It was two and a half hours away and the drive sometimes gave me panic attacks. I always went 90 on the Jersey Turnpike. When I started cleaning up to leave, you texted me asking if we could do the next day. I cried and cried and cried. I found out later that it was because you relapsed and were sick again. 

*

I asked you if you could get me flowers. You never did.

*

You found someone else to love when I faded out of your life. Someone to spend nights in hotels with. Someone to post pictures of. Someone to replace me. Someone to relapse with—even better than me. I was someone you hid from; she got to see you down to your core, float with you in that staticky world you loved to escape to. Someone to save you, someone to bring you back from the dead, someone to wake you up from that nightmare that took the air out of your lungs. I was in another state when your heart stopped beating, and I didn’t find out until months later, like it never happened. I can’t hate her because she is why you’re still alive.

*

A loneliness flooded in that I had not felt in years. I thought: I am not anybody’s first, or second, or third.

*

I underlined in Bluets: “For to wish to forget how much you loved someone — and then, to actually forget — can feel, at times, like the slaughter of a beautiful bird who chose, by nothing short of grace, to make a habitat of your heart.”

*

I have memories, but they are just images, ideas, fragments, poems, parts, pieces, and you are just a person, far away, a dot on a map I no longer have, a tornado swirling through a different city.


Danielle Chelosky is a New York-based writer who explores music and culture for MTV News and The FADER, while diving into sex and relationships for Rejection Letters and Flypaper Lit. She's an editorial assistant at Hobart Pulp.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

Read Next: BACKFLASH by Rebecca Portela