I wake up from something more nightmare than dream.
There, I couldn’t find you anywhere. The right side of the bed was cold and tidy. I could smell you. I could swear your scent lingered on my hair and on my skin, but your shampoo was nowhere to be found inside the shower.
That damn empty can of peanuts you used as an ashtray wasn’t on the coffee table or on the patio.
Your books from law school were cleared out from my shelf. Siddhartha, too, at least your copy. I traced each spine trying to convince myself it was all a hallucination. But Down And Out In Paris And London had vanished, the same way your rolling papers had disappeared.
I couldn’t breathe, and still, my small lungs, weak and off nicotine again, scoured every inch for a cigarette well before 10 a.m. Your pack was nowhere to be found. It was gone with each lighter.
It was all gone with you.
But I open my eyes and here you are. Your skin a mosaic of shadows and lights with the rays coming in through the slits in the blinds. Your eyes still closed. And I know when you open those little macchiato browns you will be well rested, but still, the bags beneath them will look like violets in a field underneath the twilight sky.
Your chest falls and rises in synchronicity with mine and my heart is humming. My skin is vibrating like a neon sign and I know that the moment you look at me first thing this morning, you will truly wake up.
You’ll be all dragon and I’ll be all princess not wanting to be rescued. We’ll both be still buzzing on last night’s wine, your blood traveling to places I already want to wrap my hands around, and you’ll kiss me with my blood like candy on your tongue. Your hands will travel over every inch of flesh I’ve left uncovered like worshipping the sinner and not the saint and taking your time with this springtime ritual we practice year-round.
You always call me a goddess, and baby, when you make me scream and all that’s coming from my mouth is “Oh God,” it’s you that I mean, it’s your name I’m calling out. The deities sharing the sheets in this bed are the only ones we’ll ever need, and I don’t ever want to kneel if you’re not there to watch.
You stir and there you are. I see those little eyes and that smile, and though it has already risen, I’m just now seeing the sun coming out from the corners of your mouth. You put my face in your hands and I reach for you, but all the sun has ever known how to do is burn. You’re ashes between my fingers, my heart has always been this broken, and all you’ve ever left me with is smoke.
All you and I have ever been are dreams, alternate worlds, and possibilities.
I wake up in a bed where you’ve never laid, tangled in sheets that have never been acquainted with your scent. I was nestled in a field with poppies like Dorothy, after all.
Unlike her, I’d gladly let the poisonous fragrance overwhelm me and live my days out lost in that meadow with all those scarlet petals. I’d rather the dream than the reality.
Because here, I’ve long thrown away any linens and bedding you ever touched me in. Our two copies of Siddhartha have never resided side by side on a shelf. I can’t bring myself to read one of my favorites books again since we stopped speaking. I keep thinking about how you called me your Kamala and all the good things and bad things it could have meant. The problem isn’t just Hermann Hesse, because since then I don’t think I’ve revisited Orwell.
I haven’t buried my face in your skin, or my hands in your hair, in so long, but I can still smell you when I think of you. I’ve tried to find you in colognes and body washes in different department stores.
No one bites my lip, except myself when I’m trying not to say your name by mistake.
That long-empty can of peanuts is sitting on someone else’s coffee table and I still don’t know how to roll my own joints. I don’t need much help these days, though. I’m getting high enough off of the memories.
Cigarettes still make me think of you and I quit them and pick them back up for exactly the same reason. I don’t have to like something for me to let it kill me. It doesn’t have to be good to me for me to become addicted.
I haven’t run out of metaphors for you.
I’m still lighting candles in your temple. I’m still on my knees. I still have not found religion in anything other than your skin and lips.
I’m still trying to find you in the backs of necks of other men, in chests I can’t quite make out in the dark, in other mouths I’ve picked up at the bar in my quest for god. You’re still the reason for all this sacrilege. My body looks so different beneath the moonlight, turning blue with the longing when it’s not you calling out my name.
Here, I still love you, not for a lack of not wanting to. Here, all that word’s ever been to you is exactly that, just a word.
I still can’t breathe some nights due to your absence and you’ve never known what it’s like to burn white from the inside out.
I’m always on fire for someone who’s only ever known how to feed me ash and smoke and call it hope.
Here, I’d rather a field of poppies than the sun.