I don’t usually do this. Actually, I’ve never done this. Dance, yes, but not this close, not this electrically. I tend to stay the customary distance back. That way I can slip into the shadows when I know rejection is eminent. But not tonight. No, good lord, you came to me. Like a ghost walking out of a wall, you appeared. Green eyes, freckles, and the words, dance with me. Lucky I didn’t faint or pee myself. Lucky I remembered how to walk but you grabbed my hand. A flash, the rest of our lives. Date for six months. Meet my mother. Meet your parents wherever home is. I dreamed of proposing on water. I’ll take sailing lessons.
Then, the lights turn on and my dark dream washes away. Can we go to your place, you ask. Yes, I say. Holy fuck, together, we leave. But about the car seat, you say. It’s for your niece.
In my living room you pull out a joint. You tell me stories but since this is my first time smoking I can’t identify reality. There’s a Stephen, technically you’re married to him. There was a fight tonight or maybe yesterday. Actually, lots of fights. The scar on your forearm, from a beer bottle smashed against the wall. Like an accident but maybe not. Madeline, not your niece.
We enter a bedroom but is it mine? Because for once I’m not alone. Two bodies maneuver. It’ll be okay, you say.
I wake up to the sound of water hitting the wall against my bed. It’s the shower. I peek into the bathroom and see a red line running along your shoulder blade, a pink zipper. Did I feel that? Did I feel anything?
Wrapped in my towel you pull out a another joint. You tell me I’m nice, which makes you want to cry. Oh, no, please don’t cry, I say. And I go to use your name but there’s nothing there. Did I never know it?
You look down for a long time. Your freckles darken against the redness in your cheeks. When you finally look up, you say, I’m so sorry. What, I ask. Please, don’t be sorry.
Your technical husband?
When the banging at the door begins I think back to the dance floor. Oh god, you actually asked me to dance. Now I wish I asked you to marry me. But I hadn’t taken sailing lessons yet. I would have shot Stephen if I owned a gun. Right in the shoulder to give him his own red zipper. I would have taken Madeline out for ice cream, everyday. What is her favorite flavor? What is your favorite flavor?
After, alone in my apartment, I stare at the ashes on my table. I stare at the still wet towel on my sofa. The twisted blue sheets on my bed. Your tear drops wherever they land. And your name, wherever you fly.
Daniel W. Thompson’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications like decomP, WhiskeyPaper, Third Point Press, and Jellyfish Review. He works as a city planner and lives in downtown Richmond, Virginia, with his wife and children.