“Down here where the heat’s so fine, I’ll drink to your health and you’ll drink to mine.”
-the Mountain Goats
– do you remember?
I’m holding your hand in the same desperate way we had grown used to. It was unthinking tradition, unblinking routine. Your name was a word I had said too many times- I turned the letters over and over in my mouth, bravely feeling the edges with my tongue. It felt foreign and strange.
I flinch as the needle digs into my arm a bit deeper than before. The pain brings me back to Earth, back to the small tattoo shop, walking distance from our first apartment. I squeeze your hand, watching the blood rush from it. I breathe out through my mouth and feel my chest settle
Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt.
The gentle whizzing whisper of the needle wraps around us. You barely hear it. I can’t catch your eye- I swallow your disappointment whole. I celebrate the lump it leaves in my throat.
Your fingers come alive suddenly, fidgeting, waking from a nicotine slumber. As you uncage a pack of cigarettes from your pocket I can already smell the smoke in the pit of my stomach; I can feel the thick, billowing boa of smog constrict our lungs. Your hand slips from mine so easily that I stare at where it had just been, wondering if I had imagined the whole thing.
“Ow,” I grip my knee as you turn to leave. My eyes meet your back. After you disappear from view, I turn to the needle. Watching it replace my skin pigment, promising its color to me. I’m trying to clear my head, but the needle etches this moment onto me forever.
You won’t remember that part. You weren’t there.
Our favorite band crashes recklessly through the speakers, filling the room. There are five of us packed into the space, but you and I don’t speak.
Blood like a watercolor slides down my arm and your eyes follow the trail. Your lips are set, managed, linear. My lips are broken, twitching, impelled. I’m not sure how they’ll ever fit together again. Two parallel corner pieces. Two sides of a coin.
The hum of the tattoo gun stops, slashing silence across us. The cool, stinging baptism of water over the wound leaves a collage of plasma and ink on the paper towel, and I breathe for what feels like the first time.
Then, we are on the porch. Your words are a susurrus of scarlet that take me off guard. The words don’t ring a bell now, but the emotions reverberate through. The way my heartbreak fell from your lips, the color of the wood speckled with tears.
I’m watching the interstate peak and dip in the distance. You are watching my eyes. You are measured, choleric, wintry. I am cluttered, heartsick, haunted. I bite a corner of my lip and release- over and over, until the faint taste of pennies trickles in. You look scared for a moment before it fades away.
Three blocks down, an unkindness of ravens discover a freshly dead raccoon. They descend, and I watch their heads bob in a sanguine medley. I feel a faint sickness rise into my throat.
– That’s how I remember it, anyway.
Caitie Davis is a freelance writer and poet from Jacksonville, FL. She attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts for creative writing, and focused mainly on poetry. Caitie has self-published multiple poetry chapbooks, and is currently working on a book. You can reach her firstname.lastname@example.org