On Friday I was in love in my sublet apartment. The flaky squares fanned out like a full house so the diamonds of salt faced me, and he joked, “Well, I wouldn’t kick you out of bed for eating crackers.”
We were one week into day drinking on the roof and playing pop songs in his truck when he told me what his parents would say over dinner, but he was wrong. His mother never guessed my sign, never predicted my future, or told me his:
That when he rode a motorcycle across the plains to New York City the next Tuesday, he would fall in love with a woman by a pool in Kansas. And by Sunday he’d fall for the one at a dark bus stop in Appalachia.
Sitting alone in bed, I imagined the hills my knees made of the sheets to be a field they’d roll through; the remaining constellation of crumbs were just the best I could do.
“Okay, look at the sky,” Allen says, turning Diane around to face a row of expensive houses with a cotton candy streak of sky and skid mark of cloud behind them. “What would you say?”
“I don’t know. I like this part of the sky better than that part,” Diane points to the pink sitting on a stormy grey, away from the clear blue.
“If you were a man from Jersey, though.”
“I don’t know . . . ” she affects a deep voice and fake accent. “It’s so fuckin’ beautiful.”
“I’ve never actually been to New Jersey,” she says as they continue to walk. “I just always think of this great duo—these two guys I used to know. One of them was from Jersey, and sometimes it just feels like on the inside, that’s who I really am.” Allen rests his hand on her lower back as they step over shallow pools in the asphalt. “Even when I was sleeping with him, I just knew it was the closest I could get to being him.”
Allen hesitates in a puddle of discomfort or disbelief.
“He’s a Tony like the rest of them. But shit, those guys were funny. I was happy just to watch.”
Drops of rain fall whole seconds apart from one another as they leave the park.
“Come upstairs for a minute,” Allen says tenderly when they stop under the awning in front of his apartment building.
“I’m going to head back; I have to wake up early,” Diane hopes this is enough and looks across the grey air toward the hotel where she’s paid for a room.
“This is your last night in town,” Allen reaches out to trap her hand in his.
“I should go.”
“Just come up; it kills me to think of you being so close and not doing anything about it.”
“I have to get up early,” Diane takes her hand back. She brushes it through her hair, itches her nose as an excuse for pulling away.
“It’ll be fine.”
“I still need to pack.”
“It’ll be a quick morning. We’ve had quick mornings.” He displays the evidence: “This morning was a quick morning.”
“Traveling is already stressful.” Irritation creeps into her voice.
“Just come up for a minute.” Pleading.
A stiff walk up a flight of steps.
Allen immediately asks, “What time should I set the alarm for?”
Diane hesitates, weighing saying something mean and avoiding confrontation. “Six.”
“It’s just a few blocks away.”
“I need to pack.”
“I’ll drive you over.”
“You can go if you want.”
“I’m already here.”
“I think we should just go to bed.”
They undress and turn out the lights.
The room’s silence is a race. They are each wondering if he’ll catch her.
“We make a good duo, though. Right?” Allen eventually asks the dark.
“I just keep asking myself, ‘What would Tony do?’”
“What would he do?”
“He’d go home.”
“If he were you? Or —”
“If he were anyone.”
“I think we should just go to sleep.”
“I need to go home.”
“He really broke your heart, didn’t he?”
“No,” Diane’s voice is even and clear, “but he taught me how to be a man.”
Tatiana Ryckman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of the chapbook Twenty-Something and Assistant Editor at sunnyoutside press. “I Still Think of You” is one part of I Don’t Think of You / Until I Do, a book-length project.