By Ari Eastman
They will hold your face with both hands, the assuredness in their touch contrasts so tragically with the wavering in your voice. Strength was always such a common part of your vocabulary, but now you fold like a rag doll into their arms. You don’t want to call it weakness, but what is it when a single look can slingshot a grenade to your joints, bring you to your knees, hungry and full of wanting? Is there a word for this haunting? You know they are not plagued with this feeling, and it makes the wanting even worse.
They stand upright, posture that doesn’t bend or break. A Redwood tree, you Willow, you. You’d be embarrassed to see a polaroid of you two together, the body language of one so desperately in love and the other, the other just a person. Someone who is simply there. Your stomach hurts thinking about the visual, a joke. Are you just some punchline? This punchline, feeling punched in the chest.
So you pull back when you see the growing distance. You stand side by side, but there’s an entire ocean between you. You’d dive in, you’d risk the hypothermia or riptide, whatever. You’d do it at all. But they pull away first in embrace. They only ever dip toes in, testing the temperature of the water. They have a life jacket on standby.
You put up a wall to match theirs. But it crumbles when they kiss you that one night when the moon is as full as your heart.
Your body will start to fall faster. Heavier. The harder you try to find balance, the more you will stumble. You lose sleep wondering if anyone will be there to catch you. If they will let your face collide with concrete. Like an elementary school game of trust, you fall backwards with both eyes closed.
And you do fall.
You fall and it is not pretty, or a poem. It is being alone outside the bar because they don’t walk you home or even to your car. Or your heart. Because they were never even there, remember? You saw the writing on the wall, remember? When they held your face and kissed your cheek, your skin was on fire. They were always just 98.6 while you burned with a fever. They never wrote your name on the inside of their eyelids or fingertips or shit, I can’t believe you didn’t…