We need to talk, but I don’t want to talk about it. We have plenty of time. Neither of us is really in the mood right now anyway. I’ve thought a lot about how I’m going to bring it up, which approach would be softest, least confrontational, closest to just another lazy conversation about what we want for breakfast, or the difference between soda and tonic, or how it was back in college. I thought I had my angle all worked out, but I could be wrong. I worry that your heart is a skittish cat and this talk is the person who steps on its tail. I worry your cat-heart will run away licking its wounds and find another stray who will lick them, too, without loving you anywhere near as much as I do.
Seriously, let’s not even start. Let’s complain how late it is, how tired we are, how hard it is to find parking at 2:47 a.m. on a Thursday. Friday, actually. This is the underbelly of the night, that small window of time during which nothing seems quite real. It swallows entire conversations that will either be lost or off limits the next day. Thousands of promises forgotten and calories forgiven, a diet trick my roommate taught me, just so long as both are consumed before the sun comes up. Too many fingers of scotch and, later, the greasy pizza intended to soak it up.
Let’s talk about shitty airline food and the complimentary wine they offered disgruntled passengers when my flight was delayed, delayed, cancelled, rebooked, delayed again, and finally set free. Let’s talk about how you had set alarms for 2:05, 2:10, and 2:15, forcing yourself out of bed to pick me up. How awful for you. Let’s talk about how you never keep your phone on your nightstand—you read somewhere that it emits radioactive signals that will eventually give you brain cancer—but you made an exception tonight to ensure you’d wake up. So, basically, I brought you one step closer to brain cancer. Let’s talk about that.
Let’s have a half-hearted debate the entire length of Wilshire about whether the in-flight entertainment I watched a few hours earlier has any cinematic integrity, and what role, if any, cinematic integrity plays in a movie’s success. You’ll get riled up and call your industry “The Industry,” and I’ll scoff and remind you that there are places in this world where success is one well-fed child or 500 sold copies of a poetry chapbook, not a 10,000-square-foot beachfront loft; but one and 500 are such small numbers to you. Tell me I’m on my high horse again. I’ll say I have a whole stable. Then we can ease our way out of this with witty banter: Quick, what’s your high horse’s name? Fernando. Is he primed for next month’s race? Triple crown, baby. Let’s ride this high horse to steadier ground.
Let’s talk about how much my hair has grown since the last time we saw each other, and which vitamins I take to make that sort of thing happen, and how those sound kind of familiar because maybe your ex-girlfriend took them, too. Kept them in the bathroom cabinet you shared, between your toothpaste and your aftershave. Wait. No, let’s not talk about that.
Let’s try to make the first night feel like the fourth morning. Sunday morning, now that’s really something. It’s this way every time I visit, isn’t it? We spend the first night putting out feelers: You introduce me to your roommates as “your friend from school” and I wait until your bedroom door is closed before I step up on my tippy-toes, shyly kiss you on the nose, wait to see if you give it back. Your nose. My forehead. Your cheek. My chin. Each peck is a game of chicken, a dare to be the one to unfurl a tongue first. Because when we look back on this at the end of the weekend, arguing over the definition of “harmless” as you drive me to the airport, we’ll need someone to blame.
But Sunday morning, ah. We’ll have warmed up by then, fallen into our old patterns. You’ll wrap yourself around me in a tender, six-foot question mark even though it’s 90 degrees and we’re hungover and being close to another body, with its hot breath and sweaty folds, seems an unbearable answer. You’ll take me to Roscoe’s for breakfast because I’m not sold on the chicken-and-waffles concept. The meal doesn’t seem to know what time of day it wants to be eaten, and this bothers me more than you. We’ll hold hands under the table and then, fine, on top.
I keep a crumpled diagram of your red buttons in one corner of my mind. By now, I’ll have found it, flattened it out, and traced over the faded lines warning me not to push here: whether you’ll be able to save up enough to visit next month. And here: whether you’ve slept with the friend crashing on your couch. And here: whether you think you’re going to take that gig on my birthday. And here: What would make a guy think his sex, and that alone, is worth the price of a plane ticket?
We’re not going to talk about it. We’re not. Instead, let’s stay in bed and trade hickeys. I’ll lie on your third pillow and quietly wish I knew more languages; how many different ways could I say, “Fuck you”? How many different ways could you hear, “I want to”? Bite hard, somewhere noticeable, even if it hurts, even if it’ll take a heavy scarf on a hot, hot day to cover it up. Hiss in my ear that I’ve gotten kinkier since college. It’s not that, but we can say so. Honestly, I only wanted something to remember you by; a bruise that’s blue like me and yellow like you. Something we can talk about once I’ve gone home.