March (from Oblivion Only) by Danielle Chelosky

Wednesday afternoon. My head buzzes with depression, the kind of floating I chase in a nicotine head-rush. I cover my face with my hair as Colin tries to talk to me. When he asks questions, I feel interrogated. How do couples have serious conversations without the fear of an abrupt ending? As if words are blades and if I’m not careful I’m going to get cut. Stressed in the sunlight. “I don’t know. I don’t know.” Time stretches out and I try to breathe. On my couch, I put him in my mouth then I put him in me. I get blood on his boxers. We move to my bed and he touches himself while I use my vibrator. But it just makes me feel numb and pushes me deeper into this soaring disorientation. Lightheaded, I’m static as he moves in and out of me. I don’t want it to stop either. He goes soft, kisses me as he makes himself come on the towel we laid down. After he leaves, more and more weeping.


Thursday evening. The sun takes time while it sets, lingering at the bottom of the sky and keeping the city/town a warm blue. I’m walking to Paul’s, sauntering next to the road with a large reusable ShopRite bag full of White Claw and Coors Light weighing me down. I shift it from my left hand to my right hand to my left hand to my right hand. I wish I didn’t have work tomorrow.

Up the stairs, Paul’s apartment feels like a lodge in California, where he talks about wanting to move. The ceiling is slanted and a fan blows air like there’s a heat wave and we’re sweating. Things that catch my eye: his red cabinets, a framed John Coltrane poster, a weed bowl, a Hunter S. Thompson book. He takes me to his balcony and we watch the birds convene in his backyard, chirping and nestling into what looks like a big dead plant. “I don’t know what that is,” Paul says, hitting his Juul. I’m clad in baggy pants and my yellow slip dress as a top, shoulders exposed. I say I weirdly feel like I’m at the beach. A feeling of déjà vu settles into me. I’m a kid again, leaning on the railing of a hotel balcony in Montauk. I’m absorbed by the view of the water. I’m overwhelmed by the gentleness of everything. I wonder how life could ever be violent, how it could be anything but still and quiet like this.

There’s an album I’ve been listening to constantly since stumbling upon it: The Sophtware Slump by Grandaddy. The guitars soar, fuzzy and kaleidoscopic. If this moment were a movie, “The Crystal Lake” would be a backdrop to the scene. The aquatic synthesizers would bubble like this nonexistent ocean I’m getting pulled into. It would play quietly at first before taking over everything, waves crashing onto the shore.

I open a White Claw and a brand-new pack of cigarettes, breaking my nineteen-day clean streak. I thought I would feel guilty, but Paul’s balcony feels safe. We talk about our families and our hometowns, alcoholism and addiction, sex and suffering. He asks if I think intelligent people are inherently depressed. I trip over my thoughts trying to answer. I make him list all of the drugs he’s done: weed, acid, shrooms, cocaine, molly, Adderall, Vicodin, Ritalin, and more I can’t remember. The ombre sky spills blue into pink. Usually I assumed drinking while it’s still light out had the texture of a crime, but instead it feels like proudly getting away with one.

After our pregame, we head to the local art gallery. The stroll makes me inexplicably nostalgic also, maybe because I haven’t experienced a warm night in so long. I smoke a cigarette as we walk. He points out stores and talks about them. Everyone is my own personal tour guide since I moved here.

“You have to write a poem in the poetry porter potty,” a man says to me. Intimidated, I instinctively reply: “Do I have to?” Like a kid, I’m always on the defense. “Because of the gentle way you said that, no,” he says. I turn around and see the cardboard fort.

Paul follows me in. On scraps of kraft paper, we scrawl out the immediate thoughts from our tipsy brains and tape them to the walls. Big dicks and daddy’s and sincere lines surround us. Script and chicken scratch. We’re cramped like Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in the Before Sunrise listening booth scene. I tap the transparent ceiling like it’s a sunroof I can open and stick my head out of.

We walk around the gallery for a little while, admiring paintings by local artists, psychedelic and expensive, and fidgeting with stuff that’s for sale—shirts, hoodies, jewelry, crystals.

On the way out, I talk to the man about hardcore bands. I overhear him saying to someone else: “I’m just happy to be a part of something bigger than myself.” I wish I could relate.

Paul drives us to Brendee’s. Stick shift. I used to have secondhand embarrassment watching a man’s hand gracelessly move back and forth, gliding the gear stick. But Colin told me the other day that he wanted to drive stick shift. “I want to drive the car,” he said, like it was manly. I watch Paul’s hand move, curious of how I should feel. He talks about how the car had about $4,000 worth of damage about an hour after he bought it.

I descend further into drunkenness at Brendee’s, surrendering myself to the pleasant vibration. I put songs on the jukebox and gradually sing louder and louder until Sean chastises me like I’m a kid. “Look who’s here,” Paul says, and I look behind and see Jules wandering around alone. I yell her name and she comes over. I vent about my rough patch with Colin after our awkward fight that ended with disconnected sex. “I feel like I’m going through a divorce,” I say, chainsmoking. I hand out cigarettes to her and Paul to prevent myself from having too many. She goes to the bathroom to take off her uncomfortable underwear. Later, when Paul goes to the bathroom, she takes his seat and I rationalize it by saying it’s Women’s History Month. She does card tricks and fails. I catch the end of something she says to Sean: “I’ll do anything.” He perks up. “Anal?” He blurts. It’s early, we leave before nine. I crack open a White Claw I had in my bag and drink as we walk home. As we’re talking and laughing, we run into Colin and his friends leaving Alex’s, where they were playing Catan for Alex’s birthday because he’s sober and what do people do for fun as a group except drink or play board games? He points to my White Claw. “You can’t just be walking around with that,” he says. “This isn’t Vegas.” I take him home with me like a party favor.

Cigarettes on my front porch. I drunkenly cook pasta. He breaks my choker opening a beer bottle, fitting the cap into the metallic heart. Gushing over and over: “I can’t believe we ran into each other. I’m so happy we ran into each other.” Our problems evaporate. Eventually, I can’t drink the disgustingly sugary watermelon White Claw anymore. I sip beer, resenting it, too. I try a Truly—can’t do it. I put on record after record, singing along to Pixies and Ovlov and Television and Pity Sex. Somehow, we’re in bed by midnight.

In the morning, he says he couldn’t sleep. I was making noises and flailing. He says I hit him in the face twice. Still, when I say I’m horny he’s hovering his body on all fours over mine to kiss my neck and I take his cock from his boxers and crawl through his arms to put it in my mouth. He moans. Then I’m on all fours moaning when he fucks me and it’s like I’m not even hungover and I don’t have work in an hour. We come at the same time. Afterwards, on my sofa, he asks about the scar on my thumb. He shows me the scars I left on his arm the third time we had sex from my nails digging into him. I feel guilty but also proud to have marked him. Scratches speckle his skin like the work of an animal.


Friday night. After ordering sushi and indulging in hungover scrolling, I read and shower. I find out that legendary indie-folk epic “Farewell Transmission” by Songs: Ohia was recorded in one take. Twelve or so people in one room going through the song for the first time. I don’t listen to it often, but when I hear that distinct opening spurt of twang, my heart skips a beat. It brings me to a place that is safe and warm. I don’t remember how I felt about it the first time I heard it, but I must’ve instantly known it was inexplicably special. I can’t tell whether Jason Molina’s quivering, candid voice is hopeless or hopeful; I just know that it radiates acceptance: “I will try and know whatever I try / I will be gone but not forever.” I try to picture him and these people playing it for the full seven minutes, this masterpiece unspooling almost accidentally. “Listen,” he sings at the end, so matter-of-factly, like a preacher. “Listen.” Apparently, he’s helping the players tie it up. Imagine he didn’t, and they went on and on, a never-ending paean.

Often, I worry I will die tragically, the way he did—organ failure due to alcohol abuse. Or the way Mark Linkous from Sparklehorse did—walking away in the middle of the conversation and shooting himself in the head. Or the way Elliott Smith did—a stab in the chest, ruled self-inflicted. But at the same time, the thought provides me relief, like the magnitude of my pain will finally be recognized. Sometimes I wonder if that’s why I’m an alcoholic—I want everyone around to see me plummet into the abyss of my suffering, drink after drink after drink until I’m no longer there. A competition to get the closest to death and I always win.

“The real truth about it is no one gets it right / The real truth about it is we’re all supposed to try.”


Saturday morning. Waking later than I’d like to, I remain sprawled out on my bed, reaching my finger vaguely to my clit over my underwear, not putting that much effort in. I think about riding Colin on his couch. Sometimes I just ruminate on the night we met, attempting to relive that moment and remember my first impression of him. I like returning to the beginning and feeling that cluelessness of what’s to come. It’s almost like a childlike wonder.

But then I realize that one day I’ll look back to now and think about how clueless I was/am.

Colin, I learned early on when I would bombard him with intrusive questions, lost his virginity at nineteen, which is later than I expected. He was sitting in a chair at his desk in college. I found this incredibly sexy, but he didn’t get why. Maybe he was just playing dumb, as to not seem cocky. He also told me a story about going home with a girl and later finding out she was a stripper. They didn’t sleep together, though; she spun Radiohead records while they talked. He told me he didn’t experience attraction toward someone until he got to know them.

I see him at night. I’m in black jeans and a risqué black wrap top with long sleeves. We meet with Nate and walk awkwardly to Quip’s because I wanted to try out other bars. Paul’s on his way too and Jules is coming later. On the dark, quiet stroll, Nate and I rant about our landlord and Nate and Colin talk about Philly, where they both lived for a while.

Hidden in the empty night streets is this house-like restaurant with noise bursting inside of it. There’s not enough open seats at the bar so we linger. Paul finds us as we’ve caught the bartender’s attention and have our IDs examined underneath a light. Nate has a Georgia ID and I have a New York ID. I crack open my first White Claw, and I feel like I’ve made some progress since I didn’t pregame this like I used to pregame everything. For all of 2022, I would prepare to see friends or attend shows by drinking White Claws or chugging wine. Something about Colin and Pennsylvania makes me feel like I don’t have to hate my sober self, though I sometimes miss the invincible sensation of gulping pinot noir on a train platform, the sun like my own personal spotlight, illuminating the purple liquid in my transparent water bottle because I had nothing to hide. In those moments, I was gloriously alone, no one was responsible for me, and I could do whatever I wanted.

Whenever someone goes out for a cigarette, I tag along, desperate. I hate non-smoking bars now. I hate how big and clamorous this place is; I love the intimacy of dive bars and the way I always feel like the center of attention. We talk about refuging to Brendee’s. Nate and Colin get dinner first, scarfing down sausages and mashed potatoes with onion broth because it’s a British establishment for some reason, even the prices are shown in pounds on the menu. I smoke cigarettes on the porch with Paul, talking about his interest in Jules and his knowledge about cars. When I say that Colin flipped a car, he says his dad did, too, when he was drunk. Paul, I can tell, is a deeply sad person, which is why I’m trying to set him up with Jules. I met him during my first date with Colin. As I waited for Colin to arrive, I sat at the end of the bar and an older man named Randy started hitting on me. “Oh my god,” he gushed dramatically. I was wearing a T-shirt with a short skirt and knee socks. I only felt slightly uncomfortable, more so flattered. “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked. “Yes,” I answered, assuming that was the best thing to say. “Oh man,” he grieved. “Is he big?” I nodded. He groaned. Paul returned to his seat next to mine. “Is that your big boyfriend?” Randy asked. I said no. Then, I felt awkward, to be caught by another man in the midst of this, as if I were doing something wrong. “Come on, Randy,” Paul said, somewhat exasperated, lighting a cigarette. That’s how I found out his name; I wondered how he knew it. I pulled a cigarette out of my pack and Randy reached over with his lighter. I pulled out my lighter and lied, “I don’t let men light cigarettes for me.” He left after a few minutes and I began talking to Paul, asking his name. He sounded uninterested at first, far away —I assumed he wanted to be left alone. But then he asked me what I do. “What I do?” I asked, perplexed at such a basic question. I told him I was a writer.

I’m talking to Colin about Jules as he says, “Speak of the devil,” and I turn around and see her inquisitive head bobbing around, looking for us through the throngs of people. I wave and she comes over. We’re planning to leave. In every direction she looks, she sees someone she knows. When I first met her, I invited her to my housewarming party and told her to bring a lot of people. “I know everyone,” she flexed. She wasn’t being hyperbolic.

In the bathroom, Jules and Liv and I engage in a conversation with someone who works at the restaurant. They’re talking about how they just saw a friend of a girl they went on a date with years ago. “I brought an edible and her dog ate the whole thing,” they said. “I felt so terrible, but she said the dog was fine.”

Colin, Paul, Nate, and I pack into an Uber, talking to the driver about zodiac signs. Three Libras except for Colin—always the odd man out. We arrive at Hildy’s, the bar down the block from Brendee’s. Everyone’s smoking cigarettes before we’re even inside, stepping through the door mid-exhale. I claim a table and we all get drinks and talk about Catholic guilt and I line up a whole array of songs on the queue and dance while everyone goes back and forth from the bathroom to do Jules’s coke. The night slips into chaos. At one point, Jules makes a cigarette run because I started smoking all of hers. Old men at the bar keep staring at me as I jump up and down to The 1975. I serenade random girls. I ramble about bands that no one knows about. I put earbuds in and sing along to Joyce Manor, in my own world. Colin tries talking to me, but I shout the words to “21st Dead Rats” over him. This all snowballs until it’s last call and we’re back in an Uber, this time going home. In my living room, Colin says he can’t sleep over because he has to be up early to get brunch with his family. I cry on my couch.

I’m reminded of the torturous texture of a hangover spent alone. I wake up wondering how and when I’d made it to bed. I’m passive aggressive in my texts to Colin, leftover resentment still bubbling in me. I wish he was next to me, holding me, making me forget about the heaviness in my head and the aching in my lungs. Instead I suffer by myself, masturbating the day away and staring at our texts waiting for him to reply to my self-pity and misdirected frustration. When I ask if he wants to see me, he says he’s not sure.

I almost throw my phone at the wall. I think of all the times he wanted to see me, was excited to see me, rearranged plans to see me; it made me feel so special and now he doesn’t want to see me at all and maybe he never will again. I spiral into immediate misery and panic, weeping and wailing like a dying animal. I text all my friends screenshots and proclamations that I’m going to be dumped and will have to move back to New York. I plunge deeper into despair with every second he doesn’t reply to me. I call him and he doesn’t pick up. He’s ignoring me, I decide, and making up his mind to break up with me.

My friend tells me to count to twenty-three and back. In the comfort of my shower, I take my time in between numbers to whimper under the stream of hot water. I imagine driving home to Long Island, but I hate driving in the dark. It’s already the evening—the day gone.

Aware of my tunnel vision, I can see myself from the outside: a girl with her hands up against the bathroom wall, sobbing and dripping, like she might fall over from this heartbreak that isn’t even real to begin with.

“How’s your day?” Colin asks me on the phone when I’ve calmed down an hour or so later, when he finally accepts a call. He explains he just got home. His voice lilts like nothing’s wrong. Briefly, we talk things out. He says he’ll come over later.

All I can do is scroll my phone while lying on my yoga mat next to my space heater before he shows up around nine. I turn on a movie and we cuddle on my sofa. We talk about everything some more— my selfishness when I get drunk, my unfair lashing out in the morning because of my attachment issues. He’s sleep deprived, yawning and quiet.

I kiss him and he puts his hand on my underwear, laying one finger on my vulva through the cotton. Slowly, he makes me wet, because he knows that being teased is my weakness—to feel just the shadow of pleasure, his hand touching me from behind a barrier. He makes me come as he finally grazes my skin. I bite his lip as I moan.

The movie is gruesome, a girl on the ground with a box cutter to her neck. For some reason, we’re talking about guns. He pauses the movie, takes my laptop in his lap, suddenly energized and reading out statics about shootings. Then he looks up dinner reservations and reads the menu in an Italian accent. He’s online shopping, he’s showing me videos of bunnies, he’s rapping to Pusha T. I accuse him of being on drugs, half-jokingly. He claims he is just wired.

When he crashes, saying he has to go home as he slouches further on my couch and pulls me closer to him, I say, “I thought you were going to break up with me.” He laughs. “I never break up with people,” he says. “I just get dumped.” He is like my exes— checking out of a relationship but being too weak to end it, making the girl eventually sever the tie.

I ignore any thoughts of how much it will hurt when what we have fades. I felt enough pain today.


Monday morning. I read manuscripts at a café in another town. I sit by the water for a few minutes, where a girl passing by hands me a purple flower out of a batch she’s holding. For me?” I ask. She nods. I take it and she continues ambling down the path, hidden in her puffy jacket.

Colin meets me outside my house and we walk to get a late lunch. We keep talking about the weather; the sun beats down on us, but the wind blows hard. I’m sweating and freezing at once. He points out places he hasn’t explained to me yet and we talk about drugs and old friends.

“I feel like I’m retired,” he says as we settle into in a dark, homey restaurant with tables draped in red cloth and old guys drinking beers at the bar. Old music plays through the speakers. He eats a crab cake croissant with chips and I eat a veggie sandwich with potato salad. I prefer this quaint life we have to anything else.

When I come back from the bathroom, I accidentally pull the table cloth, causing some of his beer to spill. A running joke: “You can’t take me anywhere,” I blurt after I do anything embarrassing.

“Guess how much our tab was last night,” he says. I utter, “Oh, god.” He smiles. “Twenty dollars,” he says. I don’t know how that’s mathematically possible considering how many drinks we must’ve gotten. I was so drunk I lost my jacket, probably leaving it there. “I tipped twenty dollars for putting up with us,” he adds. I smile. “You mean me?” I say, thinking of my obnoxious dancing and singing. He shrugs and nods.

It’s golden hour as we prepare to leave, the decadent yellow pouring in through the windows behind him. I admire the color it paints the walls and tables, permeating them with a feeling of holiness. He puts on his sunglasses and it’s colder as we walk home, the sun descending, hiding behind buildings.

He kisses me on my couch. I take him in my mouth before taking him inside me, a new routine. I wrap a blanket around myself because I don’t have curtains for my living room windows and there’s a large apartment complex across the street. I don’t know why the room is sweltering when I turned the heat off earlier. I’m in an erotic, buzzing daze as I ride him, lightheaded and passionate. We retreat to my room and he turns me around and pushes me against the edge of the bed and I moan into a pillow. Then he pushes me onto the bed and turns me around again, looking at me as he fucks me, my legs on his shoulders, my toes touching behind his head, messy kissing and heavy breathing until he comes on my stomach. Fifteen minutes until work—we clean up, we cuddle, I kick him out.


Tuesday morning. Windy walk to the café for avocado toast and some reading. Colin offers to pick me up and drive me home to save me from the cold. I decline, almost blowing away in the streets like a plastic bag. Though I’m drawn to quitting cigarettes, I can’t help but sit on the steps of my front porch and smoke just one. I feel adult, like I own this whole house. I think I may want to live here for a while if I can afford it, but it’s only a momentary urge, an ephemeral yearning for permanence.


Wednesday morning. After Waffle House, I drive to Colin’s because I made him confiscate my cigarettes and I want them back. With one hand on the wheel and the other holding my phone, I listen as he unmutes himself and says, “I was urinating,” but I mistake it for “I was yearning.” Somehow we get to talking about porn. “I hate when an ad comes up,” I say, “and it’s like, ‘Are you beating your meat again?’” We discuss the female equivalent of that phrase. At a red light, I blurt: “I’m… vibrating my vulva.”

On the corner, I can barely taste the smoke I inhale because of the fervent wind. It’s freezing and I’m not dressed for it. “I finally read ‘Desire Diary pt. III’ this morning,” he says. “I did not expect to be name-dropped and then described masturbating.” He has an unbothered smile on his face as he says this. I say I never expect boyfriends to read my writing. Usually, I don’t want them to. But I’m flattered that he did, especially when I didn’t ask, and relieved that he doesn’t mind the specificity. I used to think—maybe I still kind of do—that I would never find serious love because of my devotion to writing. Many times in relationships I’ve had to hide pieces, or never allow them to reach paper at all because of denial. I’ve said that writing is my boyfriend, and it’s true in the sense that I could never be closer to anyone or anything else.

Colin comes over later and turns on Mad Men. I love watching shows on his absurdly large television at his apartment, but instead we’re squinting at my laptop on my coffee table because his place is “off limits” while he gets his shit together.

An hour before midnight, he shows up again while I’m working. He hands me mac and cheese from Wawa and says it’s amazing. We smoke cigarettes and make crude jokes. He tells me that whenever he tells people his girlfriend is twenty-two they say congratulations. I fetishize my youth, so I can’t say anything about it; but I frown, wondering what that means for when I’m his age. Will I be twenty-seven—his age—and intimidated by twenty-two-year-olds? It’s why I usually go for guys at least ten years older than me—I want to feel like a rare find, something special.

I ask him where he wants to go for our honeymoon and he says Lake Como.


Thursday morning. Another fight. Throwing my phone across the room. At work, I cry into my hands. I fantasize about chainsmoking to get me through the last hour of work. I can hear in my voice how I’m terrified he will leave me even though I’m the one upset with him. When he hangs up on me, I think I never want to see him again. He apologizes and I put my phone down and distract myself, longing to dislodge him from my mind for just a small sliver of time that will feel like forever to him, so he can miss me and feel bad and treat me better than ever.

When Colin and I went on our first real date, we pre-gamed a screening of Fargo with wine at his place. I impressed him by name-dropping Burial while a techno playlist filled the room with fuzzy beats. My stomach started hurting and I said, “Can you do me a favor? Can you turn up the music really loud? I have to shit and I don’t want you to hear me.”

More wine at the theater, overpriced. He warned me that a man did lectures before and after the movies. He clicked through a PowerPoint and waved his hands dramatically as he spoke and we rolled our eyes and I felt like I was in liberal arts college again. He asked if I wanted to step out for a cigarette and then Godard was mentioned and he sat back down even though I’d said yes. We ditched not even halfway through Fargo because a table separated us and holding hands was not enough. I looked around at the people surrounding us and then brought my face down to put his thumb in my mouth, somewhat covertly. I was turned on because when I finished my wine he casually handed me his shiny, red credit card.

The first time I watched Fargo was with my first boyfriend but I didn’t really watch it because we just had sex the whole time. The universe does not want me to watch Fargo. But I love the fragments I have. The vast whiteness of the snow looks extraterrestrial, cleansing. The accents. Cigarettes and landline telephones.

As I write about Colin, I’ll randomly slip into using “you” instead of “he” or him.” He is the you in my life, the person I am always addressing, always thinking of. The one I write for even though I don’t mind whether or not he reads it.

I weep because every disagreement is a preview of destruction. I worry he is not who I thought I was—lashing out at me at the semblance of a conflict. Unsustainable. I think of how I was reading Sartre when we first met. “Hell is other people,” Colin quoted upon seeing my copy of Nausea. We agreed with the sentiment.

I keep working and decide to do laundry because my clothes are overflowing in the hamper. I drag it down the stairs to the backyard and bask in the physical labor. It’s so rare I’m doing something that’s not sitting down at my laptop or lying down scrolling my phone. I sift through my pile of quarters, counting to see if I have enough for two cycles. I nearly slip into a panic attack out of existential frustration when I realize I am just one quarter short.

In the midst of this, he calls and apologizes again in a resigned voice.

When I finally have a cigarette on my way to pick up drinks and more cigarettes and more quarters, the taste of tobacco bothers me, like I don’t even enjoy it anymore. I try not to have a panic attack again. Everything is setting me off, a dark veil splayed over my mood. He calls again. “I miss you,” he says, sounding like a divorcee.

I start drinking as the sun sets. A White Claw while folding my towels. I give up, texting Colin to tell him he can come over whenever. He takes his time and I hate the waiting. No music I put on feels right. The growing buzz imbues me with hope, the gloom slowly subsiding. But it’s still there as I sit on my sofa and wait, restless. I call him and he doesn’t pick up. I’m craving a cigarette, but want to wait until he arrives. Every sound I hear makes me look toward the door wondering if it’s him, but it’s just my hollow hallucinations. It’s in moments like these I’m convinced he’s a figment of my imagination. Then, the door gapes halfway, and a hand knocks. “You already opened it,” I call out. He comes in and I hand him a White Claw and we head down. I thought it would be hard to see him, but we slip into easy conversation outside in the cold. He has a specific kind of softness to him, the kind that follows guilt. His smiles look sorrowful.

At Brendee’s, I sit between Paul and Colin. Johnny Cash is playing, then Elvis. They start doing Elvis impressions. Otherwise they’re quiet. “I don’t think I can be the fun one tonight,” I say. “It’s too much responsibility.” I put songs on the jukebox. Soon, I give in and be “the fun one,” which means I get drunk and sing along obnoxiously while chainsmoking and building an immaculate queue like I’m a DJ. The bar fills and Jules shows up. She and Paul sit next to each other. I sit between her and Colin. Paul leaves early because he has work and Jules talks about getting coke. “Can you guys not do that thing where you only talk to each other,” she pleads.

Something comes over me and I can’t stop thinking about Ryan, who I loved for the past two years. Suddenly I’m in his room again. Sometimes I can really revisit a memory, inhabit it—it starts off fuzzy and gradually sharpens, enveloping me. I can feel his floral sheets in my hands and see his smile. I can taste the bitter wine I drink too much of. In the bathroom, I open my camera roll and zoom into his place on a map to see all my pictures from there. I delete the videos of our sex and then go back out.

“You gotta get out of it,” Jules says when I explain this to her while Colin is in the bathroom. Sometimes it’s weird to remember I have a new life now, after moving to a random city/town in a new state and found love. In a way it feels like everything’s been this way forever. “But I kind of don’t want to,” I say, grasping for the familiar smell of Ryan’s room, a comforting mix of incense and weed. I think I’m allowed to momentarily hide within the safety of a past life, even if I’m frowning at the bar, spaced out.

I slip out of it seamlessly, I’m giddy and taking selfies with Jules and she takes my face in her hands and kisses me. We read each other poetry off our phones. She raps to “Bonfire” by Childish Gambino and I try to keep up. Death Grips. Playboi Carti. Fall Out Boy. Doja Cat. I am an insane DJ. I unite the bar with “Bad Habit” by Steve Lacy, a rare popular song that’s actually worthy of its ubiquity. I can never get enough of it. Jaunty voices fill the room singing along, an inebriated choir. Toward the end, there’s a moment when all background chatter pauses and every single voice comes together: “Can I bite your tongue like my bad habit?” We’re there until the lights flicker, last call.


Friday morning. Colin and I nestle into each other, instinctively fucking our hangovers away, sweaty and loud. He takes me to brunch and I have a mimosa for the first time. I enjoy it so much I order another one and he drives us back. I get horny watching him drive my car. We have sex again and then fall asleep. I’m surprised when I wake up; I’m usually never able to take naps, especially with other people. It felt like only minutes, but it was hours. It’s the afternoon and I hear the rain. I’m full of desire. We have sex again and then he leaves.

Towards midnight, Jules drunk-FaceTimes me as she drinks beer in her room. She tells me she was a cross country runner in high school until she fractured her shins because of anorexia. “I don’t want to enable you,” I say about going out tomorrow. She says, “I make my own decisions.” I blurt, “Poorly.” “Fuck you,” she says while lighting a cigarette. “Sorry, I shouldn’t say fuck you.”

She says that everyone thinks she’s happy because she’s always energized and positive, but actually she is deeply sad. I realize that everyone I’ve met here is. Paul, who sits quietly at the bar at 6 p.m. and drinks every day, once asked me if there was a point to anything. Colin, too, seems perpetually distant and alone even if we are as close as possible. He is funny and caring and sweet, but he is passive in his own life. He is sitting on his couch getting ready to leave yet not moving an inch, always keeping me waiting. He is desperate for a new job but not searching. He is living in the same city/town he was born in. Everyone’s sadness here is subtle but big.

Jules reminds me of my old best friend Alex I haven’t spoken to in over a year. From the ages seventeen to twenty-one, we got into all sorts of trouble sneaking into abandoned buildings, drinking until we threw up, dating older guys who manipulated us. We drifted when she was doing coke all the time, partying until sunrise. I could never keep up and I didn’t fit in with the new crowd she was hanging out with. I wanted to get out of Long Island anyway.

Pain is the best source of bonding, until it’s not. I’ve been over it.


Saturday night. We said we wouldn’t go out. I’m in a skirt drinking White Claws and reading a book on his couch while he vacuums and rambles. I was wrong when I said he rarely talks; he is now comfortable enough around me to babble about things I have clearly no interest in—cars, sports, rappers—with such passion it almost sounds cocaine-induced. He says it’s his friend’s birthday in case I want to go out. I’m feeling torn between getting drunk at a bar and having sex at home, the only two things I ever want to do. Ultimately alcohol wins, a sad feat, to desire dizziness over intimacy. Oh well.

I cook us pesto shirtless, swirling the ladle through the spaghetti while Colin comes up behind me, lifting up my skirt and grabbing my ass with one hand, holding my tit with the other, his lips gravitating toward my neck. I giggle. He puts on Italian music—a pasta playlist. He pours the merlot I got him into a glass and sips it. When I serve our dinner, he scarfs it up even faster than I do. It tastes like sex.

In the Uber to this bar I’ve never been to, I make small talk with the driver about jazz. He says so many jazz musicians die tragically. I get territorial and excited at the same time when he says he likes Chet Baker. “He fell out of a window in Amsterdam at a hotel,” I say.

The bar isn’t really a bar. It’s a massive space that Colin likens to a food court. The arched glass ceiling reminds me of an airport. Everything echoes like it does at a mall. It’s mostly empty, closing soon. I’m nervous approaching these people I don’t know, having to be likable even though Colin knows I am very rarely often that. I am an acquired taste, to say the least. They’re all very normal. They call him by his last name. Introductions make me feel like I’m at a business meeting. The girls have real jobs, one being a nutritionist talking about how a Juul will put you on a ventilator. “It’s my birthday,” her boyfriend says when he tries to hit his friend’s vape and she tries to claw it out of his hands. He pleads, “Just one hit.” I take four like a shameless fiend. The head-rush sedates me and then wakes me up. Colin and I take smoke breaks and he apologizes. “I told one girl I’m a music journalist,” I say, “and she said, ‘I don’t even know what that is.’”

We talk about how we met—a story I don’t mind telling over and over. People always laugh or gasp when I reveal we found each other while I was on a date with someone else. Then they start asking about that date, and I don’t really care for talking about it. It was fine. Sometimes I feel guilty that we had sex after, as if I was prematurely cheating on Colin. I don’t want Colin to know—I don’t want to think of me as a slut for anyone else but him. I chug my cider, resentful that they don’t have White Claws.

Soon we refuge to Brendee’s, Colin revealing this to his friends as if we’re committing a crime. I wonder if he’s embarrassed, if he wants a life of grandeur and class rather than our drill of dive bars and cigarettes and sloppy intoxication.

Another Uber ride. It’s packed when we arrive, smoke everywhere. The bouncer asks for our IDs. When I’m scrambling to find my wallet in my bag, he just says, “Birth date?” I say, “10/11/2000,” and he motions for us to walk through, like I gave a secret code. I’m trying not to stumble over people. There are no seats anywhere. Colin sees someone he knows sitting at a table, a mustached man I’ve seen around before, and next to him is an older woman smoking a cigarette. “I love your energy,” she tells me. I reply, “You mean it?” She says, “Yes, I never say things I don’t mean. You have a very calming energy.” I tell her to guess my zodiac sign and her first guess is correct: Libra. I jump up and down and cheer. Colin gets us drinks and I talk to the man about The Strokes and Interpol. I have not seen Meet Me In The Bathroom, I say, feeling like a fraud. He leaves shortly after and I grab a seat at the bar. The woman says her ex is at the end of the bar. I ask what happened. She says that the guy next to him—in the blue hat—had sex with her, but she was unconscious. “So rape?” I say. She pauses and nods. For a while, I don’t know what to say so I just rant about hating men and how she shouldn’t feel guilty and how he should die. I say that Colin won’t even have sex with me after we go out because I get very drunk, which makes me feel safe. She turns to him, standing behind me, and gushes, “You’re such a good man, Colin.” He says, “I’m not so sure about that.”

Eventually, she finds a seat further down at the bar. I feel weird, explaining to Colin that I just got trauma-dumped on. I put songs on the queue but none play. We only stay for a little longer until I decide I want to leave, head to Hildy’s. After the freezing walk, I make too many jokes to the bouncer about my ID being fake. The bartender remembers our orders and we smoke and drink at a table. I ramble and ramble. I wish I was drunker. I feel too lucid when I’d rather be floating. But there’s no hope, last call is approaching. He encourages me to sneak my drink into the Uber home and all I needed was his validation to run over to the bathroom and put it in my tote bag.


Sunday morning hangover. When we wake up, he drives us to Wawa. We get food and he gets cigarettes, directing the woman behind the counter to where the unfiltered Lucky Strikes are. “When I was a teenager and my parents found out I was smoking these, they made me eat a whole pack,” she says.

The breakfast sandwich and hash browns are unexpectedly phenomenal. He’s immediately caffeinated and I’m slouching on his shoulder, sleepy. We nap for hours in his bed. “Can you say something in French,” I ask when we wake up. The language leaves his mouth quickly and with ease. Every time I am stunned by how natural it sounds. “What does it mean?” I ask. Shyly, he says, “I love you forever.”

I give him head, which I can’t stop doing lately. I love feeling the bigness of him in my small mouth. I like to initiate sex this way, doing it until I can’t wait anymore to get on top of him.

Time stands still as we fuck and sleep all day, our inside world only penetrated by cigarette breaks on his corner. In bed, I ask him if he can say “I want to eat your pussy” in French. A string of silly, seductive utterances leave his lips. “Why was that so long?” I ask. “It’s slang,” he says. “It means, ‘I want to lick the cream off of your strawberry.’” He pauses and looks pensive. “I’m not totally sure about that so don’t quote me.


On Monday, we text all day as I write as much as humanly possible. He tells me that “Out Of My Hands” by Caesars was playing when he flipped his car when he was sixteen. I listen to it as I type, imbued with a sense of power from the heavy riffs.

I only see him in the afternoon a half hour before work. He shows up on my porch for a cigarette. I mention that everyone I’ve met here is deeply sad. “You think I’m deeply sad?” he asks, donning black pants, a black hoodie, black shoes, and sunglasses. I remember what I wrote about his passivity in his own life. I wonder if he’s unaware, if I’m being unfairly psychoanalytical.

We talk on the phone later. Randomly, he’s shot with energy as he remembers something that happened this morning. “I walked out of my apartment,” he says, “and this guy comes up to me and says something. I have my AirPods in, so I don’t hear him. I take them out and say, ‘Sorry, man, what did you say?’ And he says, ‘You got two seconds to break my neck,’ and pulls out a box cutter.”


Tuesday night. Why do I feel sad and betrayed when he drinks without me? Like it’s a form of cheating… or just my own jealousy. Tearing up to Neutral Milk Hotel. The weeks have been moving at just the right pace. Somehow fast and slow at the same time. Tomorrow is only Wednesday. But also, it’s already Wednesday.

Colin, five whiskeys in, comes over despite the relentless wind. He keeps saying he’s not drunk, like me when I’m drunk. His eyelids droop and his voice is softer. All boys are the same. Jealous, I drink two White Claws while I work, longing for more. “Thank you so much,” he says, “for everything.”

I tell him about that day when I was so terrified he’d break up with me that I was texting friends about moving back to New York and having to find someone here to sublease my apartment. “You can stay here,” he says. “I wouldn’t make your life a living hell. I would stay away from the bars for you.” Touched, I said, “You’d let me have the bars?” He nodded.


Wednesday morning, everything’s the same. No amount of cigarettes satiates my compulsion, no amount of coffee or intimacy. The wind keeps blowing. Colin and I get breakfast at Wawa and eat it in the parking lot. For a moment, I might feel fleeting contentment, but it’s gone as we drive back to his. Sex and conversations about our exes. Their names roll off of his tongue indulgently, and I’m at once thrilled because of my curiosity and devastated because he did not always belong to me. His last relationship didn’t work because it just wasn’t the right timing. Inhaling smoke. “There are some people you’ll just love forever,” he says. “I’m sure you have someone like that.” The words spark a pang of jealousy within me I don’t want to acknowledge. I desperately want to divorce love from possession, allow Colin to experience attractions and emotions the way humans do, but sometimes my blood boils without my brain’s consent. I long irrationally to be the only one his eyes are on.

But he’s right. I talk about the December night I showed up to Ryan’s after months of not speaking and I tried to buzz into his apartment. The worst part is that there’s a good chance I will never see him again. He’s not the type of person you run into in public, though I dream of it.

I don’t feel like writing lately. Maybe I should let the moments blow away in the wind.


His hands on me, I haven’t written yet, are delicate and thoughtful. I’m always enraptured by his fingers. I’ve only ever been in love with men with skillful traces around my clit, always boys who play guitar. I love when he touches me, when I touch him, when he touches himself, I love when he comes on me, I love when he says, “Im gonna come.” I love the warmth of his cum on my back or on my tits or on my stomach. I’m always surprised by the thickness of it, whereas mine is closer to liquid. I love his quick breaths, the kiss he gives me afterwards, the way he almost trips over a towel or a piece of clothing on the floor or nothing at all. I love the simultaneous roughness and sweetness, the closeness and the hardness, when he pulls me in for a kiss or spreads my ass.


Thursday night. I can’t help but get drunk. Colin shows up matching me—white T-shirt with black jeans and a black jacket. “Are you ready,” he says, “for another night out on the town of showing each other off?” I giggle, always blushing around him. Outside it feels like spring and it makes me feel emotional like I’m already hungover. The lingering daylight at 6 p.m. intoxicates me, I’m walking with a pep in my step down the sidewalk through this town/city I apparently live in. A car is being hotboxed; the echo of music swirls through the streets; we run across the crosswalks as the lights turn green. He makes a right. “The bar’s the other way,” he says. “I’m just making a small pit stop.” A casual kidnapping—I get nervous as we enter Everett’s condo, not ready for social interaction without alcohol. I sweat as they make small talk in the kitchen, the blinds closed, casting a dimness over the room. Everett gives him weed and I open my tote bag for him to throw it in. I make small talk about his synth, his records, cigarettes— it’s like I’ve forgotten how small my voice can be, how anxious I get.

After a few minutes, we say goodbyes and approach the sketchy bar, the neon sign outside no longer lit up anymore. Colin has only been here once, but he was blackout. A piece of paper says in scrawled Sharpie that it closes at midnight. This is the only other bar you can smoke in around here, finishing the trifecta. The vibe is immediately strange, like I’m in another century. I keep thinking about how the sun is still out though you couldn’t tell from the inside. It’s like sitting in a movie theater in the middle of the day; when you leave, the white light that opens up when you push through the doors to the parking lot is jarring.

We sit next to Paul and I put songs on the jukebox. I consume my first White Claw quickly. I chainsmoke and Paul says he quit because he thinks he has “inflamed lungs.” I tell him he doesn’t. I explain I get the same pain, a sharp pain in my abdomen. He shows me a meme about it. I know it will be bad tomorrow and I’ll hate myself, but it’s OK because tomorrow doesn’t exist yet. In a way it never does. Oblivion only, as I inhale and sip and dance and kiss and talk carelessly, words unimportant, unspooling inconsequentially.

They’re already talking about fleeing to Brendee’s. Always happens. To be fair, this place is cash only. I watch as Colin slaps bills on the countertop. It is weird to be perpetually paid for. I get looks from men when I get up, my tits plump through my thin white shirt. I trip on my way into the bathroom.

On our way to Brendee’s, we pick up cigarettes. The woman at the gas station doesn’t ID me. When she says the American Spirits are $13, Paul chuckles and says Lucky Strikes are almost half that. “And they taste like shit,” I say. “Facts,” the woman says. Paul gets his pack of cheap, shitty cigarettes.

We decide to walk to Paul’s car so he can drive us instead of walking all the way. We stop at his apartment to pee and then get in his car, Colin in the back, pushing the passenger seat forward because the vehicle is a two-door, which I forgot existed. Paul puts on the saddest song imaginable. “Is this really what you listen to when you’re drunk?” I reproach. He changes it to a blared-out, twangy indie-rock anthem we bonded over upon first meeting. Together, we sing along: “I love drinking, too / Yeah, I love drinking, too.”

There’s not enough seats for the three of us. Thursdays seems to always be a big drinking night. For me, it’s just when I can’t wait anymore, not even just another day, and am willing to be hungover at work because of this desperation. I’m already drunk upon arrival. I sing loudly, queueing an array of tunes. I always make sure to fit in The Strokes for Colin, when I long to hear him sing along and for me to drape myself over his shoulder, drunkenly harmonizing. The night slips away into a blur of bright lights, loud music, and my slurred voice. I talk to the girl next to me about emo bands, only to find out she’s this pest Paul told me about on several occasions, always striking up conversation with him until she inevitably just asks him to fuck. When he leaves, she turns to me and says, “Does he only like skinny girls?”

I’ve been desperate many times in my life. Desperate to be desired, desperate to be loved, desperate to be secured as someone’s girlfriend. One time I continued flirting with this guy named Dan because he was the first person I felt genuine feelings for after Ryan. I thought he could save me. He told me he wasn’t interested, but occasionally flirted back, mostly when drunk. I didn’t give up until I sat sober and solemnly in our go-to Long Island bar and he confessed his love for my best friend at the time. She was all laughs. I went home and never returned.

Next to Colin, I drink and drink and descend further. I play The Shins and some guy strikes up a conversation with me about it. I’m transfixed by his glassy eyes and keep telling him he looks like the lead singer of a canceled band I used to love. I repeat it over and over like an incantation, as if the more I say it the more it’ll matter. It doesn’t matter to anybody but me.

I don’t want to leave. Colin coerces me with a six-pack of White Claws and I finish my cigarette and prepare to go. We walk out the door to our Uber during “Freaking Out The Neighborhood” by Mac DeMarco, the jovial chords ricocheting against the walls that seem to contain an endless stretch of ephemeral space. The door closes behind us, the music gone in an instant.

At his, we kiss on his couch and I pull up the playlist I’ve been working on for him and sing along to every song. I could go on all night. Oblivious to my obnoxiousness, I want reciprocity in my excitement, but Colin is eventually sitting with his face in his hands, not feeling well. I get upset by his detachment, as if he’s done something wrong. I storm off with a White Claw and my things and get in an Uber home, a ride only a few blocks away. I climb out my bedroom window for a cigarette on the balcony and then fall asleep in my bed.


The next morning Colin comes over with two Wawa breakfast sandwiches, two Gatorades, and a bottle of Advil, all for me. This is way too nice of a gesture, especially considering I was an asshole last night. “I just threw up,” I admit, my body still fiery from the awful eruption. I’m at work, not even attempting to do the bare minimum. As I eat and we watch Mad Men, I tell him I want to give him head. He asks if I’m sure, like it might break me. “It’ll make me feel better,” I assure him, and undo his pants. Soon, I’m riding him on my sofa again, and then we’re in my bed. I’m not a big fan of fucking in my bed; it’s unmoored in the center of the room, prone to rocking back and forth raucously. It’s at once comical and sexy, but I’m not in the mood for it right now, it feels vaguely humiliating. He leaves and I continue to do be shitty at my job, eyelids drooping as I slowly slip into half-consciousness.

When my shift is over, he comes over again. He says he has to shower and then changes his mind. He arrives, hair thin and greasy. We try to nap but we just end up fucking again. He falls asleep after and I slip out of his arms easily, knowing he’s a heavy sleeper. I read on my sofa and write a little. When it gets dark, I start making pasta. He’s peaceful and it’s like he’s not even here, but I’m happy he is, just his silent presence is comforting and sweet, it’s like we live together. He gets up around six, the sky a big murk. In my yellow slip dress, I do the dishes and stir spaghetti at the same time. He sits on my sofa wearily, watching me like I’m a television show. When I sit next to him, I notice he’s hard. “Oh,” I say, surprised. “It’s because I was watching you,” he says. “Should we fuck?” I ask, like it’s a logistical thing. He’s tired and says maybe. And then as we kiss, he asks if I want to ride him. Again, I slide him into me. I never need foreplay, though I love when he fingers me and eats me out; there’s a special charm in my perpetual wetness for him, the way I’m always ready to take him inside me. It’s dizzying and sweaty and I’m trying to hold this blanket around me while I bounce up and down on him because I still don’t have curtains for my living room windows and probably never will and there’s an unspoken but obvious voyeuristic pleasure in it all.

The pasta is still on. After coming twice, I wordlessly disengage and continue to stir at the stove. I pour it into the strainer, then try to splay it all out on one of my heart-shaped plates, but I accidentally made too much. I assumed he didn’t want any since he said he was going over to his mom’s for dinner. I split it up and put some in a heart-shaped bowl for him because that doesn’t seem to be happening anymore. Plus, the mountain of spaghetti would’ve been way too much for me. I infuse it with pesto and let it sit. He’s looking at me, touching himself, his hand skillful on his cock. Sometimes when I watch him do this I try to learn his exact technique—the placement of his fingers, the pace, the precise movement.


Saturday morning. A weekend devoted to a 600-page book for a course I impulsively dropped hundreds of dollars on the day before, not realizing it begins early next week. Upon finishing a hundred pages, I throw my laundry on and have a cigarette on the front porch, a cold black coffee in my hand, my dwindling second cup. I remember when Ryan used to flinch at my creamy iced beverages and say, “That’s not coffee, that’s milk.” I’d roll my eyes and say I couldn’t understand how he drank it black. He said I’d understand when I was older, when I was an adult. He was right. Throughout our love, I was a kid.

I’m reading a prose piece my friend sent me when my mom calls. Reluctantly, I pick up. She’s asking when I’m going to get a new phone since mine has been glitching, a flashing green light lining the bottom of the screen. I explain my busy schedule. Before she can ask what class it is I signed up for, I’m saved when she interrupts to tell me to say congratulations to my cousin who’s getting married. Muffled movements and a medley of voices permeate the line. Finally, I hear her giddy alto. “Do you want to be a bridesmaid?” she asks. I spit: “Really?” She says, “Yeah, if you want to.” Again, I’m imbued with the powerful feeling of adulthood, frazzled but amazed to be in it. I don’t give an answer, but I assume I have no choice, and I kind of like that, though I can’t picture myself in a dress.


I miss Colin. Only a couple hundred pages left, so I invite him over for a quick cigarette. The wind is back when we’d thought we were finally free of it. It flings open lids of garbage cans, sends cardboard boxes flying across streets. I tell him I almost stepped on a dead bunny, its bloody corpse splayed out beside the sidewalk, a murder scene. “It’s in bunny heaven now,” he says, and I crumble at his tenderness. Later, he asks, “Have you ever eaten rabbit?”

He asks for a to-go coffee and then admits it’s an excuse to let himself inside. While it brews, he sits in my couch and kisses me. He thanks me for dating him. “Don’t say that,” I say. He asks why. “It’s not a favor,” I say.

He gets up and motions for me to get up, too. I let him lead me to my bedroom and undress me. When he’s inside me, I feel weirdly detached. The lightheadedness I get when he penetrates me is suddenly unpleasant and worrying. I’ve been irritated by my body all day—stomachaches and chest pains. I’m insecure and in my head. Though part of me doesn’t want to say anything, doesn’t want to ruin it, I tell him I’m tired and stressed. I lean against him while he gets himself off, his breaths against my shoulder as I kiss his neck and his shoulder, hoping he likes it like I do. That area of skin is a soft spot for me, yet I’m unsure if it’s the same for boys. I drag my tongue across it, desperate to cover him in my saliva. He moans and quivers and I smile at this uninhibited display of pleasure men so rarely indulge in. Sometimes he apologizes for his shaking, and I have to assure him I enjoy it.


“Would you still like me if I were a pile of ashes?” Colin asks me on the phone, standing outside his apartment smoking a cigarette as three firetrucks linger in the parking lot of his building. “Would you sweep me up into a dustbin?”

“Yes,” I say, “and then I’d eat you.”


Tuesday night. As soon as my class ends, I call Colin and ask if he wants to go to Brendee’s. I am reminded of my anxiety in academic settings, my inability to speak up and articulate my thoughts properly. I want to drink my disappointment in myself away.

Drink after drink, cigarette after cigarette. A drunk walk to his, a drunk drive to pick up cigarettes. I blast music loud enough to get us pulled over, but we don’t because we’re privileged and lucky and in our own world and in love and in Pennsylvania. He lets us smoke in his car, which he never allows. I lose him in the Wawa. Back at his, we go up the elevator and I’m disoriented when he leads me to his roof. It’s expansive, set up with tables and chairs. I smoke a cigarette and he says he’s gonna get evicted but I don’t care. I order food at two in the morning, accidentally sending it to my apartment. Another drunk drive. I devour the mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. Sex even though we rarely have drunk sex—sex until it’s nine in the morning and I have to go home for a meeting.

When I get home, I realize my meeting was canceled, so he comes over with breakfast and fucks me more, torrid and moaning, he spits on my face and my back and my clit, I’m covered in his saliva and sweat.

I turn on my vibrator while he touches himself. I’m too aware of being watched by him to cum from the sensation; I can only ever orgasm with it alone, taking my time. The pressure is too much. But he slides his fingers in and out of me as I use it. He spits on me and says, “Come now, you slut,” and I’m enchanted. I love the degradation. One time he told me about an ex who wanted him to throw her in the trunk of his car. I was jealous of her devotion to seductive abuse—I longed to be darker, more disturbing, without knowing why, as if that would make him love me more, or maybe he would feel so bad for me he would never leave me.


An eager urge to stalk my ex’s Instagram, knowing that it will now longer hurt. While Jeremy holds a special place in my heart, I no longer long to talk to him anymore. I used to ache, to rationalize reaching out. I see posts with his girlfriend. I smile at how in love they are. I think about how in love I am. Somehow it all feels connected—I feel like we are loving each other by loving our lovers, like our romance is a tree with branches reaching in different directions. No matter where it goes, we are at the roots, we are still there, together.


Iridescent glass shards in the sink, fragments of rainbow glow underneath bubbles. I cannot write linearly anymore, or even coherently; life is a series of nonsensical vignettes. But I will try my best.


Thursday night. Colin holds an umbrella as we flit from his car to a dive bar in a raging storm. Water dripping from the overhang in a waterfall, water turning the streets into puddles, water flowing along the sidewalk in an intense stream. Inside, everyone is clueless to this madness. Wire is playing. I eat fried cauliflower drenched in General Tso sauce; Colin devours a tuna burger. The bartender is wearing a big black T-shirt as a dress, which I often do in the summer—I make a mental note to don even larger sizes because hers goes way past her knees. Wipers plays, Sonic Youth plays—a delicious post-punk whirlwind.

The storm subsides by the time we’re out. We stop by Paul’s after because I gave him my pack of cigarettes in my attempt to quit but I just want one, I claim. We pick up White Claws on the way and the woman compliments my top, which is really just a slip dress. We drink and smoke on his porch and talk about music and drugs and I don’t remember what. We begin with indie music (MJ Lenderman, Big Thief) and suddenly switch to punk (Ramones, Wire again). I’m ranting about the Sex Pistols and then queueing “Bodies.” Paul accidentally knocks his White Claw into the yard and laments, “My poor neighbors.” We linger late in the night, the sky a black blanket over us. I could stay here forever but I have work tomorrow. We leave around two and Paul gives me my own Juul. At mine, Colin and I stay up for a couple more hours talking excitedly and listening to Yung Lean.

He says he doesn’t want to stay over because he doesn’t want to leave his car parked out front (A common excuse of his, which I never understand. His parking lot privilege, I guess). But when I kiss him and lead him to my bed he follows. I climb onto him upside down and we taste each other. We’ve been doing this a lot lately—always desperate to use our mouths on one another. When I give him head, it doesn’t feel transactional or like a favor—even the phrase “give him head” feels wrong, like I’m losing something. It’s quite the opposite. I feel myself expand while I run my tongue along the tip of his cock, then taking it all in my mouth until I gag. Rhythmically I’m up and down like a buoy in rough waters. We try fucking, but he goes soft and I lie on top of him, engulfing him like he’s a stuffed animal I’m holding, and it’s better off this way so we can actually get some sleep instead of having sex until sunrise again.


Friday night. I’m floating through a gloom after work. When I’m away from Colin and he barely texts, I grow uncomfortable, like I’m withdrawing. I’m reminded of why I hate relationships—the constant waiting, this unshakeable sense that my existence revolves around another person and if they don’t acknowledge me soon I will vanish. Checking my phone, sighing, grunting, ready to shriek out of longing. I thought I was invited to the event he was going to tonight, but he tells me he’s not allowed to bring anyone. I text Paul; he’s at Brendee’s. After some deliberation, I inevitably get dressed and start walking, knowing my ill fate. I have no choice anymore; a magnetic force drags me toward alcohol. I hope movement will make me feel better, but it just plunges me further into anxiety. I shuffle out of my house, Velvet Underground playing in my ears, thinking of Jeremy again. I’m not even down my block before getting catcalled by a smirking man sitting on his steps. I don’t hear what he’s saying, so I just glance at him, smile, and look away, his voice still ringing through the streets underneath the hazy instrumental and Lou Reed’s croons. The days have been dreary for a while. Sometimes the days are sunny, and when they are, they’re blinding. But mostly they’re white. I like the emptiness. A child pushed on a stroller ogles at a candle through a window. Boys chase each other in the streets. I feel so away from everything, an observer, never a participant. I feel bad, bad, bad, so bad it’s almost amazing. I could die.

When “I Found A Reason” comes on, I’m swimming through a vivid memory with Jeremy. Broken up and yearning, he drove us around his new Pennsylvania town. He was staying in a sober house, constantly relocating, a man on the run from himself. Finally, all that pent-up want burst when he pulled into a parking lot in front of a walking trail. The rays of the sun gave life to everything—the grass a glowing green, the sky an unabashed blue. We made out dramatically, gasping and biting, breathing hard enough to cry. He slid his hand down my pants, his fingers into me. I writhed as he looked around to make sure no one was nearby. I imagined the faint echoes of my moans and shrieks outside the car. “I Found A Reason” was playing from his Loaded CD. The music danced in the air, a backdrop for this scene like we were in a movie, and the bridge arrived: “And you better come / come, come, come to me / Come, come, come to me, better come / Come come, come to me,” Lou sings. We erupted with laughter and held each other and in a way I don’t think either of us ever let go, we’re still there, a perpetual embrace.

I feel like I’ve lived a million lives by the time I get to the door of the bar. Encumbered by my inexplicably sullen mood and the haunting of my past, I slouch into the seat next to Paul and pull out a cigarette. We talk about sobriety and relationships and moving. He tells me he needs to get out of here. “But this place is a black hole,” he says about our city/town, “I’ll get sucked back in.” He tells me about dating a sorority girl, recounting a glow stick party that ended with everyone breaking them and splattering the liquid onto the walls. I try to think about Paul when he was younger but I can’t. He’s twenty-six; I tell him he seems perpetually sixty. “I am an old soul,” he agrees pretentiously, “which just means I’m weird.” He reminds me of Jeremy in a way— quiet, somewhat solemn, thoughtful, old-fashioned, always reeking of cigarettes. I ask him what he thinks happens when we die. “Nothing,” he says.

He leaves me for a few minutes, going to his place and leaving me to fend for myself against Randy, who I haven’t seen since the night I met Paul and had my first date with Colin. I pull out a book and when he asks me how I am I look up and drawl, “Im fine.” He gives me a weird look and I turn back to my book. Later his hand pats my back and his voice behind me announces he’s leaving. “OK,” I say. His touch taints me. Paul calls him “harmless” because men don’t recognize the depths of harm. Ironic, I think, for this to happen as I read a novel about the casual cruelty of men. Randy talks to me again, apologizing for bothering me. “OK,” I say.

When Paul comes back, Randy is still lingering. He nearly trips over a chair. He tells Paul that he has a pretty lady sitting next to him. He says we look good together.

Slowly I slip out of my depressed daze as Paul and I talk and play songs and drink more and more. Elliott Smith, Joy Division, The Smiths. Sean stumbles in, a blasted smile on his face. “Is he drunky,” I ask Paul. “Yes,” Sean replies, “I can hear you.” It’s fun at first, and then he tells us that he contemplated suicide many times today. We ask what’s wrong; he says everything. Aside from that, nothing. He asks if Colin knows I’m here. He asks if Paul and I are “banging,” saying he won’t tell Colin if we are. “You’re being rude,” I say, uncomfortable. “I’m honest,” he slurs, “and you guys are not honest.”

I begin talking to the guys next to me. One of them compliments my tits and then runs away. We play tic tac toe on the back of a coaster. I’m yelling and waiting for Colin to text me back. He doesn’t come until ten, when Paul is already gone. Matt shows up with him, his eyelids drooping, his face unavailable. Colin explains he’s depressed and we watch as he stumbles over to the slot machine in the corner. I try taking to him to cheer him up, but he ignores me. An inexplicable sadness builds around me, like I’m looking into everyone’s eyes and see their deep despondence. I wonder if that’s why I gravitated toward this city/town—its magnetic misery. I belong in this home of hopelessness. Yet I feel above it all, like I’ve achieved contentment and can fix these people if they would let me, like I’ve cracked the code to depression after being immersed in it for most of my life. I wonder if I have a God complex, subconsciously feeling superior for my specific suffering.

We stay until last call. “Nine White Claws?” Colin says before signing the tab, almost impressed. We get a pack to go. Outside, we watch a girl puke in the middle of the street as her boyfriend holds her.


Danielle Chelosky (b. 2000) is a music writer at Stereogum with bylines in NPR, Billboard, & The Fader. She has prose & poetry in Spectra, Muumuu House, & X-RAY, as well as literary criticism in Observer & The Rumpus. She is an editor at Hobart Pulp & an editorial assistant at Amphetamine Sulphate. Her debut full-length book, Pregaming Grief, arrives on SF/LD in 2024.

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