Sad Romance

“Chocolate chip or blueberry?”

Your breath catches for a second. The person behind you in the queue has taken their headphones out, so they can definitely hear you. The cashier has already opened the bakery display, hand hovering between the two rows of muffins. There are people waiting behind you, there is an easy decision to be made, there is your heart beating out of your chest.

You think about it the entire day, about who might have overheard, the ticking away of seconds, the thoughts scrambling to make it to the forefront of your brain. You can imagine them sprinting, all those thoughts, Me! Me! Me! Consider me, brain, say that, no, that. Blueberries have antioxidants. Chocolate is sweet. But what if it makes you fat? But why should you care? Own your body and your curves, body image issues are so out. But didn’t you have a chocolate muffin a couple days ago? But do you even want a muffin? Do you even deserve one?

That night, in bed, you can’t even remember which one you picked. You can still feel the blush on your face, the sweat making your shirt cling to your back.

Your fingers close around the handle of the bottle by the bed.


“So how you doing, Lil?” Matthew asks over the rim of a cappuccino. He has green eyes. He has kind eyes. You’re a little bit in love with him, Lily, you poor thing.

“I’m good.” You say, because that’s the least amount of words you can say. Is he frowning? There – his eye darted left, to the exit, like he wants to get the hell out. Why wouldn’t he, Lily, you’re not hat captivating now are you. “Tired, but aren’t we all?” Your fingers are tight around the handle of the cup, and if you focus everything you have on that feeling, on the porcelain and the harshness of it against your skin, maybe you can ignore your questions and you can ignore the longing in your mind. You don’t even want to touch him, you just want something, something like closeness, something like feeling special. You just want him to long, too. The tip of your index finger is burning where it’s pressed against the cup.

“Yeah, I get that.” You have to say something, Lily, come on, say something interesting. Something captivating, like those women in movies leaning against doorframes. Those women you can’t help but watch. Come on, Lily, keep him here a bit longer.

“Is your sister better?” he looks surprised – oh no. You think maybe this was overstepping, god Lily that’s none of your business. Get a grip.

But his hands closes around yours. “Better. Thanks for remembering.” You smile, automatically, and his hand is squeezing and just that feeling is so loud, like someone has turned up the music in your brain. (Warning: listening at this volume for an extended period of time might damage your hearing; be careful, Lily). You’re smiling. His hand is warm. His eyes are kind.

He’s pulling away and looking down at the table and you wonder what you did wrong. You shouldn’t have squeezed back, should have squeezed more, should have kept his hand there, shouldn’t have smiled like that, all wide and big and don’t you know your smile is crooked? You should know, by now.

You sit there and listen to him and smile at the right times and when he leaves he hugs you and you can smell him on you all day. “I’ll see you soon” he whispers into your ear, and the words float around. What does soon mean? You look it up, like you’re writing a presentation on it. Like you’re back in that life of making powerpoints and getting words out while everyone stares at you. “1. Without undue time lapse” but there’s a reason you’re not in classes anymore, and it’s always been this: when it comes down to it, you’re not one for digging into things you don’t understand. So you ignore that definition. “2. in a prompt manner” that’s better, at least, it makes you dig your teeth into your lip to keep from smiling. Does he want to see you promptly? “3. In agreement with one’s choice or preference” and then you’re digging your teeth deeper, and closing the tab, but life has never been about what’s in front of you or not. Life has always been this: could you be his choice? How exactly had he said “soon”? Had he meant it?

You toss and turn and then let the smokey taste of whiskey wash away green eyes.

Life has always been this: making it to the next day.


People always say “Oh Lily? She’s shy, but you should see her drunk. Totally different person.”

And you want to say that no, you’re not different when you drink, you’re real. You’re you without shackles. You’re you but someone has taken the interrogative from the English language. You used to want to fight it, as a kid, but now you know it’s no use.

“Soon” turns out to be the next week. You don’t know why you were invited, because no one is looking at you and surely you stick out. There are people here whose eyes pass you like you’re invisible, and that’s good, that’s fine, that you can deal with.

There are people looking, the blonde who is probably wondering why the drop-out is still getting invited to their nights out. There’s Marie (is that her name? You can’t quite remember), surely thinking that lipstick color doesn’t match your top. There’s someone passing you the phone, telling you to put on a song you like, there’s eyes looking at you, expectant, and there’s you excusing yourself to the bathroom, grabbing a beer can on the way out.

There’s Matthew knocking on the door and oh, have you been gone that long? You look down at the timer on your phone. No, it’s only been a minute and a half. You’ve learned that three minutes is the acceptable duration, enough and not too much, what will get you the least looks. Your timer is your second most used app on your phone.

“Lil? You good? Did Richie say something to you?”

This is a nice bathroom. You make sure not to splash water everywhere.

“Yeah. Yeah I’m fine.” You take a gulp. It’s cheap beer, but it does the trick. “Sorry.”

You open the door and he’s standing there. Are you annoying him? Why is he checking in? Is he trying to get you to leave? Are there signals you haven’t picked up on here, that he doesn’t want you?

“Hey, don’t apologize.” His hand is hovering. You move to let him through, so he doesn’t have to push you to the side. “All yours.” And you leave.

There’s no chairs available anymore. The armchair is free, but that’s a bit cocky. Why should you get that. So you sit on the floor, next to it, and you listen to the conversation and you try to find something to contribute.

When Matthew comes back, he stands over you and sighs. And grins. His eyes are glassy, like maybe he’s drunk too much. He grabs your forearm and shoves you onto the armchair and says “Lil, just sit there. I want you to be comfy.” And the alcohol has finally kicked in, maybe, because you say “Sit with me.”

And then he’s so close to you, and someone is handing you a glass and your eyes are trained on his stubble when he speaks and people leave you alone and with every swig you forget there are others here, and you talk. Matthew lets you, and smiles back and he laughs and oh Lily, you’re falling a bit more aren’t you? And then someone takes a picture, and when you look at it, his head bent, curls falling into his eyes, he says you look cute.

He walks you to the metro and then he’s squeezing your hand and when he kisses your cheek, it’s not to say goodbye but for his lips to brush the corner of you mouth and when he asks if he can see you tomorrow night, just the two of you, the only thought in you is “yes”.

You stumble and fall all the way home. But this is you, the real you. You’ve long given up on wondering why you can’t be like this all the time.


Good morning.

You’ve misread it. You’ve misunderstood. There, that sentence? That was embarrassing, that was wrong to say. You only catch a glance of yourself in the mirror, just for a second, but it’s enough, enough to think about how impossible it would be to consider you for a second. See that, there, here, why?

See you tonight! Is on your phone, with an address. It’s a bar, and you look at every picture they have, read every review. You don’t want to go, because how could he do anything but regret when he sees you? But you think it might be harder to say no, harder to lose him and never get those eyes on you again. So you go to work and the entire day you’re replaying the kiss goodbye, and every time you do it you notice more things; it hadn’t been that close to your lips, and his arms had stayed slack and he had only said he wanted to see you, not why or what it meant and when the computer shuts off there’s a distorted reflection of your face and you think about that face and his eyes and wonder.

But at six you leap out of your chair and it makes noise in the office but hey – you decide maybe it doesn’t matter as much as you think. Matthew asks what kind of flowers you like and you let the hope get first in your mind, let the questions fall away.

Don’t you dare get me lilies. You text, and you’ve just written it and sent it, there’s been no beat between the thought and the doing.

Carnations, you text right after, and then shove your phone down, put it on airplane mode, and you’re cursing yourself out but still, you’d done it.

His favorite color is green (right?) but green washes you out. So you try out a button-up but that’s too officelike, and pants? You should be more feminine than that. But it’s a bit cold, you’d need tights with a skirt, and that one has a hole and your legs, well… you don’t want to draw attention to them. You fall back on old classics, but even the blue blouse is not reliable. You look terrible. You look like you’re trying too hard. You’re late, from all the changing and the changing your mind and you have to do your make-up in the subway, and everyone is looking at you mess up your lipstick, you can feel it.

He has a bouquet in his hands and after a cocktail or two (or was it three?) after he’s talked enough, after he’s asked you enough, you’re you again, you’re smiling and saying things like it’s easy. His eyes are green and he says something like “I’m so happy right now” and you’re grabbing his hand. He’s looking at you but you’re too far gone to think about what he’s seeing.

He takes you home. His sheets smell like him, and his hands are strong on you. You’re thankful for that last glass of wine because when he undresses you, you don’t think about the shape of you, about what he must think when he looks. You don’t think about whether he can see your stretch marks or if he thought you’d be prettier than that. He digs fingers into your thighs and you don’t think that you should really hide them from him, from everyone. He whispers things against your skin and you don’t wonder if they’re lies. You don’t stop to wonder if it’s appropriate to kiss and nip and bite your way down, you close your eyes and your mouth around him and when you fell asleep, it’s to the smell of him.


Matthew wakes up alone. He grabs his phone, but there’s no message. He showers and he waits and he cries. His thumb hovers over Lily’s icon in his phone, like he’s done before, staring at her in his contact list. He thinks about what he did wrong, about her smile. He looks into the mirror and traces the lines in his face, his too large eyes, his unkempt beard.

What had he done wrong? Had he pushed her? Had he lost her? When she’d fallen asleep, she’d said she’s liked him for so long, but maybe she’d only said that to satiate him. Maybe he’d been too much, come on too strong. He does that, sometimes, says too much and goes on tangents no one wants to hear.

But he pushes that aside and thinks, maybe, she just got scared. Lily does that sometimes, show glimpses of herself and then snatches them back. He thinks calling might be too much, needy and pff, why would she like you? Her smile was fake last night, don’t you know? But Matthew pushes that aside and presses the call button.




October 14, 2022 17:21

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