Rites of Stillborn Romance / Leonard Owens III

“Sure, we can shake uglies against the stall wall, but only if you take me home for a shower afterward,” she’ll say, and drag you inside the fourth floor library restroom for twenty minutes, then she’ll follow your car to your apartment.

Three days will be spent mostly naked, snugged in bed or in the kitchen cooking.

She’ll tell you, “You can’t cut cheese with a bread knife.” You’ll slide a bread knife from the wooden block, search the fridge for sharp cheddar. Three nights of dishes overflowing your shallow sink. Thursday’s pasta pot, lid closed to “soak,” will film over and belch fetid tomato breath if you jar the lid while probing for a cleanish utensil. Hardened beef fat will rim the cast iron skillet, remnants of late night burgers (your idea). Slimy yogurt spoons, serrated knife edges, all sizes of plates, a dingy baking pan for frozen pizzas—nearly every dish you own will jut in jagged juxtapositions, terrain fit to frighten even the most adventurous night vermin.

Your scrambled eggs are the fluffiest she’s ever had, she’ll tell you, and mean it.

Her cat will be named Whimper. If she goes out for morning coffee, you’ll kick the cat, as you groggy around her sloppy place. The cat will still try purring against your calves. You’ll allow it.

Some nights you’ll read poetry to her over the phone; other nights you’ll read old Garfield books in your bed, her teeth nipping your shoulder if you flip past pictures too fast.

Strands of her warm black hair will flutter and cling to the floor-mats of your twenty-year-old clunker as wind flaps your drunken faces past midnight. You’ll never vacuum the mats.

She’ll whisper her exiles into your lumped throat every night after twisting into you like you are her cracked shell. She won’t trim your patchy back hair. If you want to go shirtless at the beach, you’ll have to swing by Dad’s house beforehand to get sheared.

You’ll go see a musical in a movie theater on Christmas day. Her hand will squeeze yours tighter during sad songs. You’ll worry if your palm is sweat-mushy. She’ll think the movie’s too long and her knees will stiffen and butt will numb and you’ll wish you hadn’t paid full price for popcorn to impress her when you had coupons in your wallet.  

You’ll fuck the hole in her favorite jeans. She’ll tell you to, she’ll know what you want, to pump one through that gap onto her thigh. Your dead seed will linger even after two washes and treatment from a stain stick; she’ll spend bored minutes in class fingernailing sperm flecks out of faded denim, she’ll rub them between fingers till absorption.  

Kernels of shattered childhoods will pop within you both.

And she’ll be right about cutting cheese with a bread knife. You’ll never try that shit again.

Later, the book you write for her will be fifty-two cursive pages long. She’ll call your words scribble scrabbles and burn individual pages on a bi-weekly basis.

Some days, memories of loving her again won’t bitter your nerves.

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