After years and years, my old lover appears, suddenly but also slowly, like the white belly of a deep sea beast breaching the surface of my consciousness.
Nothing is keeping me here, he tells me. Even by his texting, I can tell he is drunk. I will quit my job soon and hit the road. I'm all ready.
He is freshly divorced. No children. The house is sold.
The rolodex in my mind flips through my memories of him.
The first firm one, sitting at the coffee shop, just before Thanksgiving and I've realized I've left my bus ticket in my dorm room.
Panic, like bile, rises in my throat and threatens to choke me.
"Can anyone drive me back to my dorm really fast?"
He volunteers, though we hardly know each other. He drives me back to my dorm in his old beater, one of the only people I know to have a car then, and tells me knock-knock jokes the whole way there and back.
My best friend and I and him, all naked, on the floor of my dorm room. The carpet is short, industrial, and bites into my knees. There are candles lit, as we explore our untethered sexualities.
Are we drunk? Maybe, on creme de menthe, or cheap wine coolers. College stuff.
I am half collapsed backwards, his hand cupping between my legs. There is a low roar in my ears that I distantly recognize as my own blood.
"She is beautiful," he says.
"Yes, she is," she agrees.
He dates my best friend for a while. It almost ruins our friendship, but then it doesn't.
He breaks up with her while she's recovering in the hospital after major surgery.
She never forgives him.
He forgets about her.
His proposal comes as a surprise.
"My wife has boyfriends," he explains to me. "She wants me to have fun too."
He shows me pictures she's sent him, selfies of her doing explicit things with other men.
"It's our rule," he says. "She always has to send a picture."
I'm fine with it. It actually feels pretty comfortable.
I don't fall in love with him.
He arrives, already drunk. My basement apartment, with the terrible brown and cream floral carpet.
"My grandmother," he explains. "She died today."
I never knew my grandparents well, if at all, so I don't understand his pain.
I let him fuck me without searching out my own pleasure. He kisses me too hard, and I feel his teeth grind against mine.
His eyes are glazed and unfocused in the hard sodium light slanting in my window. I don't know how to penetrate this sadness.
He leaves early, and I don't hear from him for weeks.
More and more memories.
The hard push of his shoulder. That computer we built together. The bottle of gin he brought over. Me wailing him at Super Mario 3. The way he squinted when he was not wearing his glasses.
The packages he used to send me to tell me he was sorry for bailing on me again. How angry it made me.
My gradual silence. His not noticing, or not saying anything, anyway.
Come with me, the black text delivers information but no nuance.
I'm not sure.
It'll be great.
I'm not sure.