You’re in front of your house when I pull up. I sit in my car, trying to wipe away the Aquafina water I spilled near my crotch, because it looks like piss. I don’t want you to think I pissed myself. I don’t want to make that kind of first impression. Pissing yourself isn’t cool except for in that one Billy Madison scene.
Eventually I give up and just hope you don’t see my water-not-piss mark. I finally get out of the car, and my legs feel wobbly from the hour-and-a-half drive. I give you a 2-second hug. You say something about how you feel creepy because you were “eerily standing in your driveway” while waiting for me. I laugh way too hard at your comment, but the laughter is genuine.
You look exactly like your Facebook photos, and it’s making my stomach all mushy. I was hoping you would look unappealing in person –– like Sloth from The Goonies or something. I don’t know. It would probably be easier to not get heartsick over someone who looks like Sloth from The Goonies.
But I’ve been heartsick since before I even got here. Since right after you sent me that friend request. Since we started sending each other poetry at 4:00 in the morning and oversharing our insanities in dramatic conversations. And you know what I think. You know I’m obsessed with you. And I feel like I need a beer. I feel like I need 10 beers. I feel like I need every beer in the world. So I grab all I have from my backseat –– a 12-pack of Miller –– and you walk me inside.
This house is almost a mansion. Makes me feel tiny –– all 6 feet of me. There are photos of you as a kid. Lots of couches. Doors. Hallways. Windows. I wonder for the umpteenth time why you’re so set on moving into a shoebox apartment on the other side of the state. I remember you’re leaving in a few days, but I don’t bring any of this up.
You show me your kitchen, and I put my warm beer in the fridge. You hand me one of your own beers –– which I immediately open without even looking at what brand it is –– and then you open a beer for yourself. We aren’t speaking much, but it feels okay. We’re treating communication like poetry –– quality of words over quantity of words.
As soon as I start drinking, I tell you I need a cigarette. So you walk me through your kitchen and through living room, and then you start fumbling with the door to the back porch. The door is locked in 2 places, and you’re struggling. You stop for a second, grin at me, and say, “I swear I really do live here and know how to open this door.”
I say, “I don’t know. I definitely feel like this is the first time you have ever opened this door. Pretty sure you don’t actually live here. Are you going to murder me?”
You say, “Yes.”
I say, “Thank God.”
You manage to open the door. We step out onto the back porch. Through screened windows, the first thing I notice is how foggy it is outside. Probably the heaviest fog I’ve ever seen. Surreal. Seems like something out of a Hitchcock film, but I find it more charming than eerie. Being the lightweight I am, I’m already feeling weird from drinking half of one beer. Not drunk, but weird. Brain of thickening fog to match the literal fog around us.
We sit down at a little table where we drink our beers and I chain-smoke. We fuck around on our iPhones, talking shit on some gross middle-aged poet who preys on young female poets and pretends to cry at events when he recites his work. We talk about Charles Bukowski and how we both have a love/hate relationship with him –– how he is the poet who made us fall in love with poetry and how we’re ashamed to admit this because he wasn’t a good person. We talk about an ex-girlfriend of mine who recently got drunk at a strip club and smashed the back of a toilet with her head by falling into it.
We walk back inside, grab more beer, go outside again. I keep smoking. We keep talking. But mostly you’re talking. You’re talking a lot now. You look directly at my face when you talk, and it makes me all self-conscious. I feel like my face is fat. I feel like I have a zit on my forehead. I feel like I should have shaved my scruff or plucked my unibrow. I don’t know why, but to avoid looking you in the face, I keep staring at your toes, which are painted a pretty magenta color. Then I feel creepy for staring at your toes so I make myself stop. I try looking at your face, but looking at your face gives me a sensation like I’m floating –– but more intense than that. More like floating and getting hit by an airplane or some shit.
To give my eyes a new target, I open my Twitter app and tweet, “Poet Laureate of Ruining Friendships by Catching Feelings.”
I don’t know how much time has passed. I just know that I’m drunk –– that we both are. I know I drank a lot of beers. I know you convinced me to try some of your Jack Daniels. We’re in your living room now, sitting so far apart on your couch to the point where it feels like the space between us is occupied by a ghost.
There’s a movie on your TV about some kid who inherits a superpower that allows him to shoot food out of his hands. While watching it, I tell you it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but I’m barely paying attention to it. I’m so drunk that I keep laughing at parts of the movie in which nothing happens. So drunk that I suddenly get up and start pacing/wobbling around your living room. Then for some reason I creep up behind the couch and start petting your head while making weird purring sound effects.
You say, “Is it weird that I’m enjoying this?”
I have an erection.
But why do I have an erection? Erections are stupid. And there is nothing sexual about this moment. I immediately stop petting your head, mentally scold myself for being a freak, plop back down on the couch beside you –– well, beside the imaginary ghost. Everything is spinning now. This room is a carousel of watercolors.
I start messaging you on Facebook: “Only talking on here from now on lol.”
You message back: “The fucking messenger sounds make this hilarious. You can’t say anything serious to me because it’ll just make like a wet fart sound.”
I message you one more time: “I like how I can say LOL but you can clearly just see me staring at my phone with a neutral facial expression.”
Out loud, you say, “I’m suddenly sad that I’m moving. This is honestly the worst missed connection of my life.”
I don’t have an erection anymore, so I know my sudden impulse to kiss you is more emotional than sexual. I’m not sure why I suddenly feel confident enough to go for it. Must be the alcohol. I scoot over, right on top of the imaginary ghost that I’ve been thinking of as our divider, and I move my head towards yours. You don’t back up or do anything to imply that you’re ready to dodge my gesture. You stare with no expression, looking at me on an angle, not reacting at all. And by the time I even realize what I’m doing, my lips are about an inch away from yours. My nose is touching your cheek a little. I stop. I back up. I say, “I’m sorry.”
You say, “What? … Oh! I didn’t even realize what you were doing.”
I put my hands over my face and say, “Why did I do that? Oh, God. I’m sorry.”
You say, “It’s really okay,” and you grin a huge Cheshire Cat grin like you’re trying not to laugh.
I say, “I’m gonna go smoke. I’m so sorry.” I’m laughing at myself, but I’m super embarrassed.
I go outside, and you eventually follow. I light a cigarette, staring into the fog as I apologize again. I tell you that I had not planned on kissing you –– that it was just a weird impulse. You believe me. You keep saying it’s fine and trying to change the subject. I keep apologizing over and over until I finally realize that you actually aren’t weirded out.
And then I apologize again.
We return inside, to the couch. This time you’re the one sitting on top of the ghost divider. You say, “Are you okay?” Then you go in for a hug. I try to hug you back but I accidentally end up karate-chopping your boob.
I don’t know how I ended up falling asleep, but you’re gone when I wake up on the couch. There’s a handwritten note on the floor by feet that says, “Please don’t leave without saying goodbye.” I send you a sad face via Facebook, and you answer right away and ask why I’m sad. I tell you I’m sad because you “left me” and I feel awkward, and you tell me you’re upstairs in your room but will come back.
When you do come back, I tell you that I should leave. That I don’t feel drunk anymore. That I could easily drive home and be okay. You frown but don’t protest. You walk me outside into the driveway and give me a long hug. I hold on until you start backing away. You tell me to message you when I get home so that you know I’m okay. And then time speeds up as you walk back inside and I get in my car and drive off, not bothering to grab the rest of my beer from your fridge.
Driving home, I can’t stop thinking about what you said: “This is honestly the worst missed connection of my life.” I still feel like an idiot. Plagued with guilt.
My phone buzzes, and there’s a message from you, but I’m afraid to open it.
On the highway, the fog wraps around my car. And I’m laughing. I’m laughing so goddamn hard. I’m laughing because it’s the only way I can make the tears come. And then an 18-wheeler nearly runs me off the road. Makes me laugh even harder.
Please tell your boyfriend I’m sorry.
B. Diehl is the author of the poetry collection Zeller’s Alley (White Gorilla Press, 2016). His work has been published by Hobart, BOAAT Press, FLAPPERHOUSE, Words Dance, and other venues. When he is not writing, you can usually find him at home, hanging out with his cats and/or feeding his social media addiction.
You can find him on the web at www.mynameisb.net.
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