Remember how we played 21 at recess, hiding my winnings from the teachers when they told me I couldn’t gamble anymore. I kept accumulating troll dolls and jacks and super bouncy balls. I remember the way we slid the cards underneath the pleats of our schoolgirl skirts as we whispered about boys with green and brown eyes and girls with hair the color of snow.
Remember how I hated the taste of bologna and always had trouble opening my milk cartons and juice boxes. Remember how I always had a deck of cards and my favorite troll doll in my jacket pocket. I remember how I wrote poems underneath the shade of that big pine tree in the corner of the parking lot. By the end of eighth grade, I remember I had no friends and all I wanted was that cute boy to hold my hand while singing me Beatles songs.
Remember the time you went on a rant about that genre of music you love, and I listened to you, thinking I could have listened to you all night if you wanted me to. Then, the rain fell and we sat on your porch watching the storm roll in. I sketched in my sketchbook and wrote you poems as you drank a mug of strong, black coffee and watched your horses in a nearby field. It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful in a way. I remember being worried your mom and your cat wouldn’t like me, but you didn’t care. You bought me shoes and told me that my poetry was better than good. When you watched a hairstylist cut my hair, you smiled like you approved. You drank coffee with ice, and while it wasn’t perfect, it was beautiful in a way. I remember watching the sun rise from your bed, and somehow, my memories sound like a hazy dream.
Remember how I picked up that wet stone the night it rained, loving how the rain made it look like it shimmered underneath the street lamps, and you laughed at me like maybe you loved me or at the very least, thought I was cute. Remember how when you swept me up into a kiss, I was speechless. I don’t remember the details of that night, but when I walked home, I thought I heard you singing in the dark, but it could have been the wind. I don’t remember if you took me to a diner or if we drank midnight coffee, but I kept that stone for years. It was smooth, and in the daylight, it didn’t shimmer like it did when it was wet, but I brought it from apartment to apartment like a talisman.
Remember that early evening, after walking among ears of corn and railroad tracks and past factories, the rain came down. Remember how we scrambled inside so our clothes wouldn’t get wet, and we listened to the rain ricochet off the tin roof. I remember I laid my head in your lap and you intertwined your fingers through my hair as you read from an old book. Your voice crackled like fire wood and your fingertips were brown-stained with tobacco, palms black-smudged with India ink from a fountain pen.
Remember how you smelled like cigarettes and newspaper. You wore slacks that needed ironing and dress shirts that were too big. You told me you didn’t have a father figure after watching your father kill himself. You had a weeping willow outside your window and some afternoons, when there was still frost on the ground, we sat underneath it and ate sandwiches.
I wrote you a story as we sat there, and you listened like a child, enthralled by my stories. When I wrote poems, sitting on your couch, sometimes I fumbled for words. I remember how you would drink a shot of whiskey, tell me the word I was looking for, and become hateful.
Your green eyes would harden and glitter with disgust for me and whatever bourgeois concept you thought I represented. Remember how you spouted Marx at me like capitalism was my fault and told me the names of ex-lovers and of writing matchstick messages on their front lawns.
Remember writing poetry in cemeteries and smoking menthol cigarettes on fire escapes. Remember the way you took me to a concert and held me safe during the songs like I was your promise or secret to keep. Remember how that night at the diner, we talked for hours and played footsie underneath the table. Remember the way I tossed my whipped cream covered cherry at you and instead of catching it in your mouth like I thought you would, you shrieked and covered your face with your hands.
Remember every movie we watched, picking out which character was you and which one was me, and while everyone else slept, we ate cold New York-style pizza and tangled up on the couch, legs intertwined, as we talked and laughed and watched the sun come up together.
Remember that night we went to the coffeehouse near the university and after I drank a cup of black coffee, you teased me that only sociopaths drink coffee black. Remember you made love to me in a bath tub and washed my hair, humming songs I hadn’t heard before, then gently lying me down on your mattress. Your calloused hands explored my body and I knew your disorders and diseases and stayed the night with you anyway.
Remember talking on the phone until we fell asleep, swearing to be best friends and talking about the hazy concept of love. Your voice was sweet, and I would sleep on the floor, a blanket tossed around me because I didn’t want to sleep without the comfort of your voice and my phone charger was nowhere near my bed.
Remember how on our first date, I tried so hard to impress you. I told so many stories, the words fumbling out of my mouth. I was nervous and uncertain. You wore your favorite faded baseball cap and hadn’t shaved for a couple of days. When you listened to me, it was like the whole place disappeared. Your voice was so kind and your laughter so real, it almost brought tears to my eyes. Remember how the first bouquet of roses you bought me were yellow because you were afraid red were too cliché and I didn’t seem like the type of girl who would like pink.
Remember driving down that leaf-littered road, your hand on my knee. My hair smelled like a bonfire and I’m pretty sure your open mouth tasted like roasted marshmallows and we sang along to the radio. Remember how your eyes shimmered with love, and every story I told you, you listened like it was the first time you had heard it.
Remember slow-dancing in the kitchen as the radio played those familiar songs we loved. We each drank a glass of sweet white wine and when your arm slipped around my back, I felt like home. Remember how you whispered in my ear and brushed my hair off my cheek. Now, I can’t remember a single word you said, but this was the life I always wanted. There were pictures of us clipped to a plank of wood and every night you told me, the best part of your day was coming home to me.