I almost have a southern heart. When you ask me where I want to settle down, I shun living amongst the crumbling concrete. I shun the city because you’ve had a real house in Georgia, and a dusty shed with tools and the kind of life that isn’t crowded and noisy, and I want that too. I want to run away with you. So I practice my cursive Ls and dream of taking your last name. My L is awkward and messy and imperfect, but I can still see us with a dog and a yard that stretches us beyond the bonfires and clear skies. So I hang my hat on your I-miss-yous and so-I-was-thinkings, ignoring your demons as we incubate.
You say you’re not fucking anyone else, but won’t call me your girlfriend. You stay for days, change the temperature on the thermostat and forget to turn off the coffee pot. You use my comb and leave your hair behind, along with your phone and your shirts and your smell. You cook me breakfast in the morning and call me darling. You talk about us in future tense, but say you want to take things slow. It’s a convenient loophole for you, because you hate being good. You say good is boring and I remember the long red hairs that I found on your bed, on your sweatshirt, on my coffee cup. A fiery red—the kind of red that belongs to a girl who is not boring.
You say you like Momma because she is a firecracker, and you hugged her because you’re good with parents. You say you weren’t nervous, but I saw you wipe your hands on your lap and heard your voice shake. You apologize about forgetting that you promised to pick me up that day. Momma says you’re falling in love with me—that I only cried because I care about you—but she hasn’t seen those fiery red hairs. Momma insists that I’m just hardened from the last one. She says you’re not the same, but she hasn’t seen you driving around when you said you were at work. She hasn’t heard the voicemail you accidentally left with you talking to her in that not-boring way.
Still, night after night we wrap around each other, creating loopholes in our sleep. The dangerous thing about loopholes is that they eventually become knots. Impossible knots that get tighter and tighter and suffocate you slowly. Knots that you never saw coming—the ones that become a nightmare and wake you from your sleep.
Your arm is tangled in mine, but I slide out of bed and sit in the bathroom to practice my cursive Ls. The loops are still imperfect and twist into little impossible knots. The street lamp casts its light on the lid of the toilet seat, exposing another long, fiery red hair from that not-boring girl. I let the pen fall across the floor, and decide that living amongst the crumbling concrete isn’t such a bad life after all.
About the Author: Jennifer Roger is a copywriter, former game journalist, and recovering fine arts major. She currently lives in Chicago and enjoys archery, crafting, and gaming. You can find her previous work at jennroger.com.
Story Song: "Do Your Best" by John Maus
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone