Her hair smelled like sheets in the summertime.
Not like the laundry that comes from your dryer, all tangled and covered in some synthetic imitation of what Tide has decided a mountain smells like. But like the sheets your mom would hang in the backyard to wave in the early July mornings. The sheets you ran between and made forts from that were never quite free from grass stains. Her hair smelled like soap and calm and that kind of heat that makes your heart stop and grasp for memories before they slip away.
I got lost in it beneath lights more red and neon than pure like backyard sunshine. I pushed it behind her ears and tried to soak up as much of that innocence before the cigarette smoke curled around her and tarnished something I knew I’d never have.
Every time she opened her mouth I could watch her singing fabricated stories. With each little sing-song laughter that escaped from behind cheap beer and flirty eyes, I could see each little white lie dancing.
“No, I’m not thinking about my ex.”
“Yes, I appreciate the drunk guys flirting with me.”
“Of course I’m unaware and oblivious about how we keep staring at each other.”
But I kept batting my lashes from behind pint glasses of my own, and humming along with her songs comprised entirely of lies. She could have said anything and I would have pretended to know the words, belted along until my lungs blew out, agreed with every word until my neck grew sore from nodding.
So there we were. Just the two of us under a winter moon, watching our breath connect in that below zero air. All huddled up beneath layers and jackets and the heat that we could feel emanating from our skin when she grabbed my hand and took me to her car. We were full of last call laughter and unfinished sentences and when my fingers shocked the sides of her face I blamed it on Target mittens, but really I like to pretend it was chemistry.
She felt like nostalgia mixed with déjà vu.
When my hands were working their way along her sides, up her back, cupping every last inch of her in my palms I could have sworn they’d been there before. She was like coming home for the first time after college and feeling out of place, but flooded with memories. Every curve of her body held pieces of me I’d forgotten. Every shake of her head and toss of that hair was something I wanted to immortalize.
She was like remembering all of the words to your old favorite song without looking up the lyrics. As if we’d clicked on the radio and had just been able to sing along.
With every kiss I could feel the, “Please love me.” With every parting of her lips she was begging, “Please make it stop hurting.” Each time she pulled me in as much as I wanted it to be about me, I think it was more about filling something that was empty. Tossing my dress off of her bed wasn’t about getting me close so much as it was about making the space someone else left behind full again.
But she tasted like the wine I swam in when I was freshly broken, and like the confusion I once called my best friend. She reminded me of the huckleberries we’d eat before they were fully ripe, but we liked the way they bit our tongues so we kept coming back for more. So even though there was hurt, there was pain, there was an aftertaste I couldn’t shake, I thought that maybe I could ease the ache even if only until the sun rose.
She was shattered glass and I was sure, so sure, that maybe I could help put her back together.
Or maybe it was just sex, and I simply have a knack for becoming obsessed with making art out of broken people.