the peony

They didn’t notice the vultures overhead until it was too late, and ran panting from the house of Rocco’s mother, passing all the things they used to love; the red brick, the black cat that she had grown so fond of, and the blue stain that had manifested after Jane’s last visit. He had tried to be sweet, not asking questions, and simply taking her hand and leading her towards the ice cream shop down the street. She hid the fear behind her ice cream sandwich that day.

Rocco stopped outside of the Robertson’s house when he noticed the blossoms, their pink and white heads shining in the mid-July sunlight. He reached out and plucked one from the bush. As he handed the pink peony to the lovely brunette standing to his side, he noticed her lip quivering. She looked up at him through her glassy brown eyes. I suppose he can’t hear the screams, she thought.

“Thank you,” she smiled through her grimace, and let him wrap his arms around her waist.

“It’s almost as beautiful as you,” he stated matter-of-factly. His façade of sweetness had faded in her eyes, and she winced. When he asked her if she was okay, she replied with a quick “I’m fine,” and turned her face to the ground. How awful, she thought, to give someone a dying thing, especially when it was not yours to begin with.

She held the soft, pink flower in her right hand until the car ride home, when she placed it on the seat next to her. She could feel its eyes burning holes in her body.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered to the blossom, “I wish I could’ve stopped him.”

When at last she reached the kitchen, she took the blue and red porcelain teacup from the cupboard, filled it with water, and, as gently as she could, placed the peony inside. She knew it was too late as soon as she heard the screaming. The once beautiful petals began to dry and crack. The water turned a sickly brown color. The girl stood looking at the blossom until it was dark outside, and she set it on the windowsill, hesitant to throw it out.

She was startled by the ringing of the landline, and she picked up after the first ring. It was Rocco, as expected, calling to say that he already missed her. She was glad that he couldn’t see her shaking, and she ran her index finger over the petals of the blossom.

“It died,” she said in her soft voice.

“What died?”

“The peony. I put it in a cup of water but it died. I tried to save it.”

“Why not dry it?”

“Isn’t that a little morbid,” she took her finger off the blossom, “to let a thing die and keep its corpse?”

“No, love. That’s what forever looks like.”

how to find heaven without leaving the suburbs (conversations with straight men)

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

Yes. She was beautiful. She was almost holy. She looked at the world with eyes full of wonder that resembled nothing less than moonstone. We spent days sharing mittens when the snow came. Nights were spent on top of stained quilts, close, but never touching. She sang like a robin in spring, and created worlds with the touch of her index finger. She made videos of me singing to musical theatre soundtracks, and laughed at my ridiculous mannerisms. She held my hand once in the dark. When the winter came for us once again, she took her things in her father’s car and drove towards New Mexico, shedding pieces of me out the window. Interstate 25. 434. 376. Santa Fe.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

No, but we’ve watched hundreds of films, and I’ve thought about kissing her hundreds of times. She makes my skin itch. We were never closer than a head on a shoulder or a kiss on the cheek. We never did. We never have, and I’ve danced on the edge of action with her so many times that I’m afraid she might break if I touch her. I think it’s possible to love a girl too much to kiss her.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

Briefly, in high school. She was stony-faced but straight laced. She wore combat boots but always did her math homework. She self-identified as ‘butch’ but loved winged eyeliner. She lived her life on the in between’s, a perfect balancing act of can’s and can’t’s, should’s and shouldn’t’s. All of my fears burned up in her atmosphere. She taught me how to climb barbed wire without scratching my palms, that fear is pointless, and that there isn’t a thing that can’t be solved with rumpled sheets, cups of earl grey, and David Bowie. She forgot how to love me. She was everything, and then she was nothing.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

On a date, once. She was bathed in swirling lights; pink, yellow, lavender. We danced in a crowded room of strangers. Her hands were smaller than mine, and when she kissed me I lost track of time. She shielded me from the eyes of strangers. We talked about her plants, her ex, her brother. There was mold growing in her lungs, destroying her from within. She took pride in becoming nothing.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I reply.

“That’s hot.”

love was here

We fell in Love here

Beneath string-light stars and white drywall.

Cracked palms on smooth skin,

decaying kisses.

 

We fell in Love here

above grass as green as the sea.

Kisses in darkened closets,

Love on

living room floors.

 

We fell in Love here

within forts of crumpled sheets.

Quiet whistles,

guitar picks.

 

Love came

With short brown hair

and an easy smile.

With long legs,

pearlescent skin.

 

Love came

with desire,

hope.

 

Love came,

and Love left.

 

We fell in Love here,

and out of love,

in an 8 month

migration.

 

I fell in Love here,

and I watched you leave

like a housewife

in wartime.

 

For you have battles to fight

and I cannot fend off the monsters

for long.

 

Darkened closets

and forts of crumpled sheets

can only provide so much shelter.

 

For they will come,

baring teeth,

clenched palms,

and they will try to take you.

 

But dear,

if nothing else,

do not let them take

your tenderness.

 

Remember that it is a virtue,

Love on living room floors,

in darkened closets,

is a virtue.

 

Remember to find tenderness

in the darkest corners,

to climb the barbed wire

and stand with your face in the sunlight.

 

And when you find it

in the nape of another’s neck

remember me.

 

There was a time before,

And there will be a time after.

 

And when you think of this,

remember:

 

Love was here.