Magic?

It’s a sunny afternoon, we’re done for the day, eager to head home to the ice-cream in our freezer – and that’s when we see you. An image flashes before my eyes, one that I haven’t seen in years: the bright-eyed little girl with plaits in ribbons, white blouse neatly tucked into her checked skirt, hoaxing me into a tree-to-tree game. So we call out your name, fingers crossed that you might turn, and in that split second that a million strings of fate untangle, you look up and stare us straight in the eye.

But no, I don’t believe in magic.

So what was it like, finding you after a decade of switched schools and lost phone numbers? It was as easy as hopping on a bus, getting off an hour later and finding ourselves at an open mic: packed with a creatively starved audience, the careless strumming of a guitar, dozens of fairy lights and the nervous munching of our loaded fries. I felt the butterflies escape as the flutter of poetry filled the quiet of a late evening sky. I wouldn’t want my first open mic attempt to be with anybody else.

But no, I don’t believe in magic.

You call me up one afternoon, tell me you’re being spontaneous and surely, a visit is in order. I find you at my doorstep in a few hours and as the night wears on, we bump into some grand adventures with unplanned sleepovers and planned gatorade. And as we spend all morning walking around town, finding insipid coffee and aesthetic brick walls for the polaroids we keep in our wallets, I feel the comfort of home wash over me, knowing I needed my monthly dose of happiness.

But no, I don’t believe in magic.

As you get ready to leave, we trace our stories backwards and plot connections worthy of constellations. You open the package I’ve left you and tell me that this particular book of poetry has been unduly stubborn about falling into your hands. I tell you that’s because it’s been waiting for you, one spontaneous bus ride away. My fingertips tingle as I type this, and yes,

I start to believe in magic.

Subway

Newspaper crumpled as it was
folded in half, travel-size. The
late night metro smelled like
all the school kids and pressed suits
it had transported on
a rainy Monday.
You stared into the pitch black
of the racing window,
worn out eyes, hands fidgety from
the lack of a cigarette pack.
Your faded Nirvana shirt reeked
of sentimental value. I tucked
my glasses in my coat and
looked up to find you staring.
It wasn’t the kind of eye contact that
flattered you or even sent chills
down your spine. It felt
more like you were scanning
my every move, sizing
me up, counting
my breaths.
A dropped keychain,
an unfamiliar cough,
the shifting light from the windows.
I wandered into the bar, it smelled
like happy hours. We were
the only two people who would
rather be sprawled on the
corner sofa than dance
to EDM’s Top 90.
I was two beers down and bursting
with conversation. You laughed
at my shower playlist, that
annoyed me a little. So I
attacked your striped pants and
called them a midlife crisis.
I told you why piña coladas in Maui
were my alternate universe. We
argued about serial killers and
war films. I told you where all
the underground bookstores were.
The night wore on, you emptied
your pack of cigarettes. I had
never discussed Murakami
with a stranger before. It was
half past two when we
finally shuffled out. You put on
your coat and offered to share
a cab. You told me conversations
like ours don’t happen everyday.
But I let you walk into the
Monday rain, where we were still
strangers on a subway.

After hours

I sit across from you, cross-legged, uncomfortable.
This sofa isn’t made for singular conversations that make it
through the night.
I fumble around for the remote,
there isn’t one.
So the raucous blaring of a
music video continues.
There is cheap wine, white:
I like the bitter aftertaste.
And there is music, the kind that
doesn’t stick with you,
but reminds you of an old song
you might have heard in a jazz bar
that can only be described as blue.
I laugh at our mistakes as high strung teenagers, indie posters taped over
fragile bravado, secrets stashed
below the bathroom window.
You steal a look at the book on
my night stand, I tell you it is about
shoveling snow.
We talk in metaphors, so I fetch you
a cup of liquid nostalgia and we
flirt with disgruntled singers and old
photographs that still smell
like the ocean.
The light shifts across your face,
no need for a clock. I play
with the idea of crossovers and
classic margaritas, crowned with
indecision and loud, seaside laughter.
You call me cheesy and throw my
mixtape out the window. We find
the tangled strings that lead us
to each other, and idly wonder what
would happen if we undid them.
I am struck by the feeling that I should
write about this for people don’t stay,
but poems do. I laugh at your joke
about ferries, but the whole time
I am wondering how long before
you leave, too.

Auburn

the purple haze of
a rundown pub, dirty glasses
with lemon wedges,
cuts that shed heartbreak
on a bartender’s behest.
that night
i told a stranger about
the time i came home
to half a pair of your
favorite nude heels and
the drunken club dance of
flickering candlelight casting
auburn flecks on a
tweed jacket that
wasn’t mine.
that night
i swirled cheap rum
in a glass too heavy
and found solace in
music i did not think
was sophisticated enough
for a man who wears
tweed jackets.
that night
i told whoever listened
that we, we could not be mended
like old cassettes ruined
by the stubby fingers of a toddler,
pulling on strings that
were never attached.
that night
the burning liquid i
forced down my throat
reminded me how
you slipped your fingers
over my eyes and they smelt
of pinecones and winter dust,
you told me i couldn’t look and
when i finally did,
you
were
gone.

Footsteps

We walked down a road where the sound of our footsteps – yours crisp and business-like, mine a docile shuffle – was the only sound for miles. You didn’t hold my hand and I didn’t listen to you grumble about the traffic.

It wasn’t the first time I’d noticed how different we were. I wore oversized sweaters in the summer and always carried a hair tie in my pocket. You liked geometry, comic strips and the thrill of not being rooted to a place.

We loved the same things, but for different reasons. I weaved your pillow talk into poetry, and you made my morning coffee.

We continued in this way, for a while. There was silence, classical music, shared garlic bread, a host of elevators and more silence.

I kept our picture in my wallet and pretended you still wished me good night everyday. You cared a little less when I cried, and worried a little more about our silences.

My courage, like my footsteps, was docile and in the end, you had to stop. We parted ways at the end of that road, tore down the little house we’d built and forgot our promises in the pockets of old raincoats.

I still wear oversized sweaters and keep that picture in my wallet. I miss my morning coffee, though. I can never get it strong enough.

If I ever came back to that road, I wonder if I’d still hear the steadfast sound of your footsteps, ringing in my ears, reminding me we were wrong from the start.

Kahwa

Cross-hatched lampshades, sunny orange walls and pastel tiles. An alcove of knit cushions and cane dividers, never short of steamed buns with toothpick flags or the carefully timed saffron kahwa.

We watched as swarms of people filed in on a weekday afternoon, clutching oversized purses and birthday cake.

A man near the door stood behind a counter stacked with yellow and blue jars, selling tea leaves.

We crunched on Burmese falafels and bits of gossip. We painted ourselves The Regulars and stumbled into the sheer joy of sharing a lovely meal. We fell in love with the details, like sprinkled black sesame or honey caviar on avocado ice-cream.

We had found the sort of place you could write about.

House arrest

Heavy with sleep and layers of warm clothing, we woke up to an early sunrise, light filtering in through faded curtains and cracks in the roof.

We sat cross-legged on the edge of our mattress, warm teacups in hand, wispy breaths tinged with hope for a sunny day.

But as we watched, the clouds shifted, the morning light sped from orange to grey and sheets of rain outside the window spelled our house arrest.