You said you liked when I slept over even if I just slept on your mysteriously stained couch, often fully clad, perhaps in that fur-collared suede coat. I tried to earn my keep; I made grilled cheese sandwiches to-order for all of our friends doing whip-its in the living room. I made yours with fresh mozzarella and basil, theirs with processed American. I lit your cigarettes with matches. I went along with our unspoken rule that we would never talk about high school and how I was in love with you, but we never did anything about it.
When I slept over at your house, you’d wake me up and we’d go to the diner where Audrey once found a wriggling worm in her pancakes. We’d count the quarters we collected in our wallets for this occasion: the jukebox in the corner.
“Do you want to hear Lou Reed or the Smiths today?” I asked. I could measure your mood by your answer.
“Lou Reed,” you said. “Let’s take a walk on the wild side.”
We scarfed down almost-raw French fries, threw our dollars on the table, and smoked one last cigarette before I trudged home alone, blissfully disheveled and my head throbbing, my fingers poking holes in the pockets of my coat because I was always forgetting my gloves.
That’s how it was, on the weekends that winter, staying up until dawn, playing records, and rubbing my chapped hands together when we parted ways. One night, you were rolling on ecstasy, and found you, and you told me you couldn’t handle the coefficients of being and doing, and I laughed at you because I couldn’t understand what the hell you meant, but I read to you until you fell asleep, and then I snored beside you in your bed.
On New Year’s Eve that year, I was fuzzy with false eyelashes, dripping sequins, and flailing in high heels. You wore a suit and burst into my apartment with a bottle of Jameson. I spread cranberry Roquefort on crackers as you pulled deeply from the bottle. I was on my fourth glass of wine by the time you showed up.
“I like that lipstick on you. That purple color,” you said with sincerity, and I was confused before brushing a hand across my mouth, realizing my lips were stained from the malbec I’d been drinking. I called you an idiot and punched your arm. More bronze sequins rolled across the floor as I tore to the bathroom and scrubbed at my lips.
Later, we were standing in the street, the year only a few minutes old, and you were still cradling the now-empty bottle of whiskey. Your eyes glowed, and I thought I might be barefoot, that glass dug into my heels, and we were both looking ahead and behind with our eyes fixed on one another. As everyone made a ruckus in the road, you kissed me briefly, but tenderly. My first instinct was to laugh.
The next morning, I woke up in my apartment to your knock, my false eyelashes stuck to my cheekbones. You had forgotten your cigarettes. I was wearing my robe, and I wrapped up the cheese and rinsed out the wine bottles as you looked for them. They were on top of the fridge. As you left, the door was closing behind you, but you stopped it with your foot and smirked at me.
“I’m sorry, I’m not sorry,” you said, and kissed my cheek. I said, me neither.
Months later, in mid-March, you stirred me from my customary spot on your couch and told me I needed to eat. We had spent all our money on gin and tonics the night before, so you made me an egg sandwich and we sat on your porch, adjusting to the unfamiliar sunlight.
Our toes skimmed the damp floorboards as I squinted at your face. This new greenness took me back to when I loved you and we were sixteen, sixteen in hamburger drive-in parking lots, refusing to kiss. When we sat on my parents’ basement couch, refusing to hold hands. When you ordered squid at Chinese restaurants to appear adventurous. When I made you mix tapes because your minivan only had a tape deck. When we talked a lot about fucking, but never did. When I drove you home—a three-hour trip—on the morning you found out your grandfather died. When we spun on stools after-hours in the hot dog restaurant next to my apartment, drinking beer, and chain-smoking, writing our names in cursive in the ketchup and mustard, speaking of how the rest of the night might shape up, and planning where we’d breakfast in the morning.
Kat Saunders is a writer and editor living in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Her essays have been featured in The Spectacle and are forthcoming in Cleaver and Into the Void.