I was on the dance floor of the gay bar and you were texting me our escape plan.
You wanted us to abandon our lives here in this cold and snowy city and drive away into the desert. You changed our names: Frank and Shelly Esposito.
For a long time, I couldn’t remember those pseudonyms. Even when I was sleeping in your bed three nights a week, I couldn’t remember what you’d christened us. Because we didn’t go.
You told me you loved me for the first time while you were tripping on acid.
I told you that I could easily throw a bikini and some lipsticks and my turquoise cowboy boots into a bag and drive far, far away with you. I was ready and waiting.
Frank and Shelly, that’s who we’d be. If we got away, if we ran away like Bonnie and Clyde in our getaway car, things could be different. Better. We wouldn’t feel so dark and sad. I would sing to every song on the radio, warble along to old country songs and eat beef jerky with my feet on the dash. And we’d live happily ever after, just like a music video.
“You’re going to be the best mama,” you said, woozy and silly with drugs, as I put you to bed. I brushed your hair from your sweaty forehead with a cool hand. You always said acid made you feel tender as a lamb.
When our relationship began to crumble again, as it was always going to do and both of us knew it, you pretended you’d forgotten about Frank and Shelly. About the “I love you,” which had startled me so. About that sunny, warm March day where we crawled out the window of your roommate’s room to sit on the roof. About Maria’s Café. About everything. It was doomed from the start and I fought it valiantly, but fate always wins.
I have to drive across the country to get away from you now, drown you in the ocean.
I cleaned out my apartment. I sat on the kitchen floor when it was finally empty, floors bleached clean, and I thought about you. You never slept here.
The couch you cried on, I wanted it gone. I sold it to the new occupants of my apartment.
Frank and Shelly, they’re gone too. They drove away a long, long time ago. They were never real anyway; they were fragments of the people we wanted to be. Shelly was me, but with better skin and no dark roots, with infinite patience, with a bigger heart, less vain. I wanted you to be Frank, but you weren’t.