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.

Toy shop

Today, we drove down the road to my old school and it reminded me of a game our teacher made us play in the first grade.

We were meant to name the things we crossed on our ride to school, and our answers swam the full range: from bus-stop to Methodist Church.

But all I could think of was the big, blue toy shop with squeaky clean glass displays and a broken neon sign.

The lights spelled out something different each day, but it’s broken positivity gave me unexpected comfort in my first few weeks as the new kid.

There isn’t a lot that feels familiar in a brand new playground with alien pigtails and broken teeth.

So I’d plaster my nose to the car window and look out for my sign each day, a morning ritual that stuck.

Now everywhere I go, I look for broken neon signs in the tinkling bells of a coffee shop, the tap dancers in crowded streets, a lone hat seller who loves to chatter and the raindrops that collect on the eaves of my porch, like Christmas lights in July.

Geraniums

Parched twine cuts the skin of my thumb as I carefully untie the thread around my journal.

My hand runs over the faded paper; like dried flowers from summer, swollen clouds to puncture with my pen.

I stumble through the silence after an avalanche, the twisting clothesline in my stomach and the bales of cotton in my head.

I run to feel the wind in my hair, my thoughts rattling like a badly driven car.

I miss the beat to an old, schoolyard song and hum in misshapen verses.

I sit cross-legged, the jute meshwork of the window seat painted onto my calf.

I stare at the geraniums on the other side of the glass, a dewdrop clinging to the deep purple of it’s petals.

It is elegant in the way it tricks you into believing it is ordinary.

Dusted with misty cobwebs and pollen grains like powdered sugar.

I watch the edges of each flower ruffle with the temperamental breeze, chiffon skirts protecting their modesty.

I look up to see that the clouds have turned more white than grey.

I wrap the twine around my journal.

The torrential rain has given way to a light, blue sky drizzle.

Subtitles

The air sang of yesterday’s rain and clouds bursting with thought.

I sat cross-legged on a wooden bench, absorbed in bits of conversation and quiet laughter.

I watched him spin his spaghetti into little knots on his fork, and wondered if I understood true love.

Our shared glass of lemonade had left it’s stamp on our table and the ice was dwindling in the summer heat.

His socks peeked above the hem of his faded canvas shoes; they were canary yellow with chocolate sprinkles.

I smiled because they reflected his soul.

Our conversation was scattered bits of memory and attachment, it spun around in the air till it formed our very own cloud of thought, full to bursting and floating above our heads.

I found connections so rarely, without physical contact.

And as unromantic as our Sunday lunch was supposed to be, the concept was a rather romantic notion.

I felt it under my skin, creeping to the recesses of my heart and pulling out secrets I hadn’t yet told myself.

The walls of privacy crumbled slowly, but crumble they did. And I did not try to build them back up this time.

With shaky smiles and nervous eye contact, I found that true love or not, with him, my actions did not need subtitles.