Twenty Seconds

“Keys?“
“Keys.”
“Phone? Wallet?”
“Phone, wallet.”
The routine was performed flawlessly,
choreographed over the past twenty years.
His words echoed hers throughout the hallowed halls,
bouncing off the empty frames hanging loosely on the walls.

You can have the paintings, but I’ll be damned if you get the frames.

As he stepped outside, the cold air slapped him
hard across the cheek.
He brought his hand to his face, trying to ease the pain.

It was unforgiving, spreading
outward until it consumed
his entire body.
Numbly
he walked away from his house, and
his life, without
looking back.

Cycles

I.
Remember your first date.
The marina, the cheesy band and strands
of Christmas lights in July.
Breathe in the salty air that made your lungs sting.
But you didn’t tell him.
Let the warmth of the setting sun wash over you.

II.

Ask him who she is.
Throw his things out the window.
Wish that you lived higher than the second floor.
Smile as you walk over to the liquor cabinet
and grab his 40-year-old Scotch.
The one his father bought when he married his mother.
The one he worships.
The one he was saving until his son was born.
Take a giant gulp;
let the burn slide down to your toes.

III.

Run into your high school boyfriend as you are heading out.
Immediately see the gold bound over his left finger.
Hide your own hands, pale and naked.
Make small talk.
He has a blonde wife, two kids, a dog and a picket fence.
You have a phone bill and an empty apartment.

IV.

Question everything.
Maybe if you had tried harder.
You could have tried harder.
Promise to try harder.
You’ll be better.
You’ll be nicer, and sweeter, and cook more.
You’ll be more fun.
More spontaneous.
You’ll let go of the little things and throw caution to the wind.
You’ll do whatever he wants.
Try to make it work.

V.

Eat ice cream.
A lot of ice cream.
First chocolate caramel ripple.
Then mint mocha chip.
Call in sick.
You feel sick.
Lay in bed all day, wondering what went wrong.
You know what went wrong.
“You grew apart, the chemistry wasn’t right, it’s not you, it’s him.”
You’re pathetic.
Cry until your sides heave so much they ache.
Wonder, does this count as exercise?
Count as one glass becomes one bottle becomes three.
Let the sour liquid drain down to your heart,
numbing its laborious beats.
Everything is hazy.

VI.

Gather everything he has ever given you into a 16 x 12 box.
The books, old t-shirts, CDs. Keep Elvis Costello.
You are surprised that 6 years can fit into such a small space.
Push the box to the corner by the door.
Write in big bold sharpie your stuff.
Let the ink seep into your skin.
Watch it darken the tips with smudged imperfection.
Place your key, a key, on the counter gently.
Find home again.