variations of a burden (J.L. Seaton)


It is eight in the morning, and I have already caused a scene with my carelessness. Lack of sleep makes me stupid, or perhaps that’s just me. The reason doesn’t matter (not now, at least; it will, hours later, when I am trying to understand why I exist only to bleed mistakes). You stare at the ruined notes, knowing there is nothing you can do to remove coffee stains from paper. I watch your shoulders sag, hear the sigh that blows out past your lips, resigned acceptance. I gather my things while the professor drones at the front of the lecture hall. As I rush past you, my hand brushes the outer lining of your jacket. Fleece. You don’t notice or don’t care. I can’t decide which I’d prefer. I leave without looking back.


I guess coffee shops have become our thing. An homage to our first encounter, the beginning of all-nighters pulled in library study rooms and movie marathons in the commons. Now, as you listen to my retelling of stories no longer relevant or entertaining, I find my words slowing. With your chin resting in the palm of your hand, I catch your eyes drifting off to the side. A delicate glaze covers them, and my story trails off like the side of a gently sloping hill. I either talk too much or too little, and neither is desirable. Only after noticing my silence do you turn back to me, a line between your brows. When you ask me what’s wrong, I merely shake my head and go back to drinking my cooling mug of hot cocoa. Silence becomes my second home.


I still am not used to the ways in which I am suddenly allowed to touch you. When you pull me into your lap, butterflies are released in my stomach, their wings tickling my insides. When your fingers stroll through my tight curls, I shiver in delight. We’re watching a film, something foreign and independent, but I haven’t been paying attention to the captions as closely as I should. I’m too hyperaware of the sweat accumulating between our clasped palms, the weight of my too-large thighs on yours. You shift every now and then, and I start to think you might not be as comfortable as you seem. Carefully, I remove myself. Like a dust mote that has settled on your shirt, a small inconvenience. I leave an inch of space between us on the couch, and you lap up the extra space with gladness. Everything is sound until it is not.


J.L. Seaton is a Chicago native with their sights set on the world. They are simultaneously anxious, black, and queer. You can follow them on Instagram @middreaming where they may post the occasional inspirational quote.


image: Amee Nassrene Broumand