After Helena lets out a little rush of air from her mouth, after she stops biting her lower lip and baring her teeth, and after her wetness is all over my thighs and hands and stomach, she stays on top of me, which is rare. Normally she rolls over and ignores me. In fact, most of the time, she doesn’t let me touch her once she’s done.
We fuck in the dark.
Sometimes, when I’m in her, I think about you. I hope that’s okay. If it’s not, I’m not sure how I can stop it. It happens when I lose myself in her flesh and open up the part of me that thinks I deserve to orgasm, and suddenly memories rise up, monolithic and colorless around me. Unforgiving. I’m looking through a Viewfinder chock full of all our stolen minutes last winter.
One moment I’m here, in the heat of dry-air summer with my therapist’s shock of black hair snaking across the backseat of her car like Rorschach test ink, pushing into her with my jeans around my ankles and my breath rank with dehydration, and the next moment I’m back in your bed tangled in your mess of magenta blankets and cornflower hair (and my mess of mania spilling out everywhere) and the smell of metal and snow is everywhere.
I can still smell you when I close my eyes: peach shampoo, bubblegum toothpaste, iced coffee from Dunkin. All that.
Time is whatever I want it to be when I’m this high on me.
To be honest, I sometimes even play that stupid Ellie Goulding song I hate while I’m with her, just because it’s your favorite. Just because, when I hear it, I think I’m dancing at that bar again, the one I snuck you into a few towns away that night around last Christmas when you wore white boots with a white dress and black stockings and I almost cut a lock of your blonde off while you slept later in the car, but I didn’t.
Just because when I hear it, I lock my jaw so hard.
It’s dark. We can’t see each other, me and Helena. The one who isn’t you, but is someone, certainly.
“I need to see my mother,” she says. “It’s been so long.”
“Did she ever answer?” Helena has been calling her for days, since before we left Los Angeles.
“Nope. But she hates the phone.”
Cicadas are screaming the proverbial paint off the proverbial walls. We’re parked in another field, surrounded by hazy thin purple forest. Another rural town. This is Arkansas, and I guess I like it. I don’t know. All we do is park in fields and sleep on the hood, or on the ground, or on the seats, if it’s cool enough. The car is our spaceship and we are cruising through the void. It sounds dramatic, but you know what? Everything’s dramatic these days. It’s hard not to be dramatic. The Virus is eating everything.
It’s hard not to feel like the center of the world when it seems like almost everybody else has already died.
The hospital. The winter of our quiet joyrides, our bedshapes fleeing from my futon to your California King. You never needed all that. We didn’t. We stayed glued together. Asleep, attached.
“Hey,” Helena begins, then stops.
“Yeah?” I look at her. Her silhouette rises and falls with respiration like a ghost on the thick fecund ground. Lavender and manure are in the air. I have a moment of separation, of Where Am I?, but it passes. I stay in our memories. This is just the backdrop before which I can smother myself in the rank heresy of our misremembered era.
“I think I’m going to go back,” she whispers, and even in the dark I know she’s thinking of another face while addressing my silhouette. “Eventually, we have to stop driving. And I miss him.”
I don’t know what to say. I’m less bothered than one would think. I’m just proud she spoke. She never tells me anything. I used to pay her to let me tell her things, and now I can smell her on my lips.
Forgive me, dear. When I reach the east, you will be on my lips again.
“I can feel him.”
We’re silent for a few moments. Everything is quiet and sleeping.
We are the only two. We are on a planet of our own, and it’s gentle. Gentler than this other world, the real, new world.
I wish you could have been a part of our bubble, Addie. I can’t wait for you to, some way, understand what I’m talking about—that feeling of home, the one we pretend we have out here, but we don’t. I think I’ll find it with you. I know that, actually, because you used to be my home, back when we did our thing. I haven’t felt it in a long time. You’ve got it with you, waiting for me.
It’s not just because you’re beautiful. I promise. It’s not just because you saw me cry and never spoke of it. And it’s not because the world is coughing itself to death and everything but the essentials are becoming harder to see. It’s not even because you’re absolutely vital.
It’s the way you’d ride all night with me deep into the woods on gravel to slowly roll through vacant, erased neighborhoods and talk about souls and talk about life and death and talk about where we’ve been.
You’d let me talk about everybody I ever loved, told me about what you fell asleep thinking about. All of that was real. But what remains, what is the most real, is the way you saw me as someone of value, Addie. In a world that just screamed all the time, yours was a voice that whispered, molasses-slow unto me. You never wanted me to change, or at least it never seemed that way. We never talked of the future, right? You just gave me moments of your time. And you really gave them to me. So, I always think of you, my sweet cornfield sweetheart, my rush of wind from the whisper of the North. I think of all of it all the time, Addie.
I think of all the moments we could have had, the Eden we’d have built out of this wasteland.
Cash Compson‘s poems and stories have been featured in Expat Press, Hobart, Forever Magazine, and elsewhere. He has some poems coming out in the upcoming Expat V anthology, available soon from Expat Press. He lives in America.
image: “Hope:” Amanda Rabaduex is a poet and writer based out of Knoxville, TN. When she has writer’s block, she plays with watercolors and a Canon EOS 90D. Find her on Twitter @ARabaduex or on her website amandarabaduex.com.