The bartender wasn’t the kind who scooped up glasses right away. As the hours passed, our small table looked like a futuristic cityscape with short round buildings and tall clear skyscrapers, the chewed, multicolored straws like lopsided antennae. Second dates are always better than first dates: no overeager enthusiasm about details you already know from dating profiles, forced firework responses, the“oohs and aahs” over semesters in Madrid and affinities for certain bands. Chelsea sat with her chin rested on her folded hands and smiled. I smiled back and touched her for the first time, making a circle on her elbow with my fingertip. We both knew what I was doing. I signaled for the check and in a delightfully drunken moment, it felt like the most hilarious joke as we made it rain on the table with one and five dollar bills.
The walk wasn’t a walk, but a series of kisses interrupted by stumbling forward momentum that carried us to my apartment down the street. We caught our breaths and made it inside. I don’t remember the progression from foyer to couch. I kept my hands on her waist as we kissed some more.
You’re too timid. She moved them for me.
Tell me something shocking. You first. I was a virgin until 24. Here, no, pull it up this way. Now you. Not sure you can handle it. Try me. Fine. I’ve always wanted to make out with a cyclops. What? Told you. I shouldn’t have said anything. No, it’s cool, I just wonder how fucking a cyclops… I didn’t say fuck, I said make out. Would he be gentle or beastly? Would the eye close like a human eye or would it stay open and stare at me the whole time? Chelsea uncorked the bottle of wine in such a casual manner that I was momentarily ashamed of how drunk I was. I made it to my desk in the dark studio. I pulled out a sheet of paper and drew an eye. When I sat back down, I put the paper against my forehead and kissed her again.
How can it close? With one hand, I folded the paper in half, slowly so she wouldn’t be distracted by the crinkle of the sheet. She climbed on top of me.
The next morning, the other half of the futon was empty. I dug out my phone from under the pillow, composed a text, and deleted it. The feeling that I would never see her again crept up. The eye was crumpled on the floor. Throwing it away didn’t seem appropriate; I decided to change its origins. I sketched some beams around it and taped it to the window. It would silently collect the comings and goings of the people outside, and maybe, just maybe, Chelsea would be summoned back to this stretch of the sidewalk. ::
About the Author: James Yates is an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and he also serves as a contributing editor for Longform.org. His fiction has appeared in Hobart, CHEAP POP, Pithead Chapel, and Luna Luna; his nonfiction has appeared in The Chicago Reader,The Fanzine, and Necessary Fiction. He lives in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood and is currently at work on a novel.
Story Song: "Acid Tongue" by Jenny Lewis
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone