We play this game. You say something nice. I say something nice. You say something mean. I say something mean. We fuck. You aren’t so into it now. Your nice isn’t that nice—beautiful, really? That sounds like a lazy lie to me, but it’s my turn to say something nice. Your mean isn’t that mean. Something about my driving, like I care.
You say, “Are we just trying to manufacture feeling here?”
“Let’s keep it simple,” you say and take hold of my ponytail and pull it hard.
“Better,” I say. “Make it meaner.”
You do, making it hurt—I try and hide my smile.
You drain your beer and you don’t watch me over the bottle. You close your eyes and I tell myself it is against the glare of the fluorescent light in our kitchen, but there was a time when you wouldn’t let me out of your sight.
Last Friday night. You opened the bottle of tequila, sniffed the triple sec, and pulled out the fancy margarita glasses that were a wedding gift from someone forgotten. I couldn’t make the salt stick to the rim of the glass. You poured the salt into a saucer and left it on the table between us. We drank and put the salt to our mouths with a wet finger—my mouth, my finger. Your mouth, your finger. When did this happen?
The yard at the back of our house slopes downwards and has no fence, ending with a gully of trees. That night, it was a hill to be run down, full throttle, screaming all the way.
We don’t go out anymore.
Sometimes, I say, “Oh, [insert band] is playing at [venue in the city where we used to go].”
“I don’t even know who they fuck they are,” you say.
I say, “Maybe if you stopped listening exclusively to your nineties playlist on your phone, you would know them.”
This is your cue—Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, early Pearl Jam and no one else has ever measured up.
We don’t dance anymore, unless we are a bit drunk. Then it is in our front room, under the dim, yellow ceiling lamp littered with dead, gray bugs. It is slow. More like leaning against each other. You hold me close though, your mouth pressed against the top of my ear. I like that and I should tell you, while we still dance.
“Proud of you, babe.” You used to say that all the time. I didn’t have to do much—bake cookies, kill a spider, get you off.
“I don’t want to become maudlin,” I say now, when I’ve had three drinks, because that is my arbitrary point of no return and I don’t get happy anymore when I drink and it has nothing to do with the gin.
I know alcohol is a depressant, but I didn’t think it was until now.
You say, “Get drunk with me. Let’s get fucked up.”
I try. I do.
Every time, I come so close to saying it—can you believe that one day one of us will die first?
It isn’t too late for us to be the hipster couple making coffee in that new way that takes forever. Drip, drip. We have the red plaid shirts. You’ve got the facial hair. We’ve got the cannot-give-a-fuck attitude, except we mean it. I don’t know if they wear Converse.
Your appendix scar is a thin, silver-white line sewn near your hip when you were sixteen. We have been together for so long, but I want more. I want you from when you were sixteen and I was fifteen—as if we could run backwards into time.
I would have rushed to the hospital and brought you chocolates and a little teddy bear holding a helium balloon—GET WELL! And we would have made out, me lying along your uncut left side, until one of the nurses told me to leave your bed, this was a hospital not a hotel, and shouldn’t I be at school? Or maybe she would have smiled and told us we had three more minutes, but that’s all, swishing the curtain closed around us before she left, and we would have got it all done in three minutes in deathly silence, your hand covering my mouth.
This still works—you rising above me, lying down along the length of me, above my head, below my feet. Everywhere. Your mouth on mine tasting of our last meal and our last drink.
Sometimes you wash the dishes and you take your time with it, like you have all fucking night. You stare at the window above the sink, a mirror with the night behind it, and you sway and hum and sing every song from Nevermind, starting with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and ending with “Something In The Way”.
“Can’t you mix it up?” I said last time.
You were elbow-deep in lemon-scented suds and looked over at me. I swear you didn’t even see me when you sang, “I’m not gonna crack”.
You went outside onto the deck and made a call.
“We used to do shit,” I heard you say.
I didn’t know who you were speaking to, but I knew it was about us.
I pulled out our box of photos—when photos were printed, stacked in envelopes with negatives. There are photos of us on our phones and on the computer—not many though. Most of us is in that box.
You came back inside, bringing the night-cold with you, tucking your phone into the back pocket of your jeans. I wanted to ask who you were speaking with. I didn’t though.
“Nothing lasts forever,” I heard you say. Or maybe I dreamt it. I dream about you all the time—me telling you not to leave. Know that. I don’t want you to go.