This Is When I Think About You

Shutterstock / Arthur Hidden
Shutterstock / Arthur Hidden

I notice the check engine notification light up in my car. Well, shit. These things always have a way of popping up when you’re least prepared. I think about the time you drove me home after the bar. The street lamps. That one guy who approached me, offered to buy me a drink when I was waiting alone for you. Maybe I should have said yes. All these words I kept tucked underneath my tongue. Cityscape lights and this growing burning in my chest, knowing you were taking me somewhere, anywhere, except back to your apartment.

This is not what I need today. I am already too busy drowning in your ghost. There is no room for other disasters. I call my mom and ask her if it’s something I should really have looked at. “It’s not maybe a suggestion?” She starts to fret, my concerned little mother hen. She tells me maybe something is wrong. I tell her, “But something is always wrong.” We both kind of chuckle at the truth in that statement. I think of you. The time I wore that black dress and you put both hands on my waist, how completely full of you I was when you tightened your grip, touched me in a way that I was sure meant you would always touch me like that. My mother continues to worry, so I tell her I will take it in, just to ease her mind. I am good at easing the minds of others, it’s my own I can’t fucking figure out.

In the shop, I wait for a diagnosis. I notice a football game on the small television plastered to the wall. I think of you. I remember the way you grabbed me on your birthday, pulled me straight into your lips while we were both still half-asleep. You didn’t even remember in the morning. The urgency in how you kissed me sucked the air straight out, and to be honest, I don’t think it has ever returned. My lungs are keeping it together for show, some pride and ego trip. But you have changed them. You have changed me, and I know that is the sentimental kind of bullshit you hate to hear. You hate knowing what you do to me. That to this day, I haven’t been able to look at you and not remember that urgency. Why did you kiss me like that if it was just run of the mill? Why did you suck the air right out and never try to put it back? I was just a girl you kissed, I suppose. A friend you let things get out of hand with. I knew better, I tell myself. I say I miss you, and you respond with jokes. I joke back. I joke back each time and wish for my old set of lungs. Pre-you lungs. But I do not regret. I do not regret falling in love with you with my half-working lungs.

I guess it was better you didn’t take me home that night because I never did sleep very well in your bed. There were just too many distractions. Football gear adorning the walls. The man in the apartment across the way gargling at 5 am. The sheer chaos in my own brain. The proximity of our bodies. I really would try to sleep. I did the counting sheep trick, kept my eyes closed. I tried slow breathing, in and out. Thinking about you. In and out. You, in and out. I’d reach for you, but stop myself. Nothing worked. I just sat there, wired and exhausted.

The auto mechanic tells me there’s a problem. He tosses a few technical words around that I should have been paying better attention to, but my brain won’t allow for that because I notice he’s wearing a T shirt that you also have. I want to laugh and yell, and ask why he’s wearing that fucking shirt. I have a strange impulse to kiss him. But of course, I don’t. I just nod along, pretend I’m listening. But I’m thinking of you.

I think of you. I wish I was thinking of anything else: Candy Land, tulips, the cute barista at the coffee shop I go to, Pilates, the smell of concrete after the first rain. There’s so much I could think of. Endless options, really. But I always think of you.

I wonder if I will ever stop. I wonder if I will be an old woman, with lists of lovers and family to think of. An entire lifetime to think of, and I wonder, will I still secretly be thinking of you? TC mark

Ari Eastman

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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