we were sprawled on the floor of my slowly emptying room, staring at the ceiling and listening to crowds cheer two streets over for the youth soccer team. it was cold but i liked it that way because when the window was closed i felt like i was suffocating.
i was dragging my fingers up and down your arm, trying to elicit the same shivers in you that i got when you looked at me. it was late and you should have been home by then, but you stayed and let me cry for once. You smelled like grass and wood – you’d been working that day, earlier, and I could see the tired in your smile.
you said, with your smile never reaching your eyes, that I looked tired too. i nodded, tracing circles on your stomach. for a minute i rested my hand over your heart and felt the lazy rhythm, remembering that my heart does the same and when lying side by side we sound like a song for rainy days.
you had your face in my hair and your legs under mine, singing softly in my ear. Your breath was hot and a little wet but it was familiar so I let you continue reciting lyrics because that’s the only thing you get to do now. i was talking about losing my mother’s ring, i think - her wedding ring. silver and gold and carved and gone. it used to glint in the light - it used to be the excuse you had for holding my hand. nowadays it's buried in one of the boxes and you take my hand under the pretense of giving me comfort
(but you’re the one with puppy dog eyes).
when the song started you startled and looked at me. “really?”
you don’t know the words but i do, and i can tell you i love you in three different verses and watch you realize it in the chorus. i can say goodbye in the first line and not have to hear it again until the last word, can remember why i wanted to know you in three minutes and forget it when the notes fade out.
this is the song we listened to when you first met me, hiding in the library stacks. this is the song i learned to sing for you, alone in my room. this is the song you will remember me by, i hope, tears springing to your eyes when it comes on the radio. i hope that one day you are lying down in your college dorm staring at the ceiling with someone else when this song comes on and you will smile because you'll know then what you don’t know now
(that people leave and pack up their things, leaving space in your heart for anyone willing to buy).
if you remember me at midnight, shoot off a quick message.
in the future i will be lying in bed in my slowly emptying room trying not to cry, remembering the night you should have gone home but stayed instead to let me sob into your favorite red shirt, when the room was cold because i didn’t want to suffocate and california was the last golden thing between us.
i lost a dozen things that night but you are forever sealed inside five verses and a lonely melody. sad tunes will always be about this; quiet nights will always be for you.