emiliano and josefina

don’t fall in love

working two jobs

don’t fall in love

going to class, finishing up

you got goals, I told myself

don’t do it

Whatever you’re thinking

Don’t. Fall.

. . .

Mind goes blank

Like a starless night

Flips back on

And I see her again

she’s at the other end of the apartment

everyone else has drinks in their hands

she only has a pen

she starts jotting down notes on a pad

i clear my throat and ask her what she’s writing

she at first ignores me

I tell her that we have the same creative writing class and that I’m a student at Rutgers too

This time, she looks, tilts her head to the side, like examining a painting,

And says,

You’re short.

She goes back to writing.

. . .

I wasn’t in love then

I just thought she was cute

I just thought of her, a lot

I saw her again in class

We had an assignment to do

We went around the room, and read aloud our poems

I looked at her the whole time when I read mine

Of course she didn’t notice cause she was still writing

But after class, after everyone else told me what a great job I did,

I went to her and smiled.

She was packing up.

I asked her what she thought.

About what? she said.

About what I wrote.

She shrugged.

I waited.

But she flashed a smile and left the room.

. . .

I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, and always wanted to read my work in class

And every time I would she would always be looking down at her own page

I got good grades, which is ironic to have in a creative writing class in the first place,

but eventually, she would start talking to me.

She told me she liked one line in one poem that I wrote months ago.

That’s it? I asked.

What else do you want to me say? she said. That you’re the best writer of all-time?

I smiled. That would help.

She grinned, and wore her backpack and left.

. . .

Coffee, meeting up at the library,

Rallies to join,

Groups to feign interest in.

Her name was Josefina.

Her parents were like my parents: Mexican-American and working office jobs,

buttoned-down, and faceless in cubicles,

walking clichés of the white-collar world.

She preferred to paint, she said, than to write.

I asked her why.

Cause painting is more creative.

I disagreed.

She grinned, and we had more coffee at the main shop on college ave.

She kissed me one night and the moon was illuminated, like a large spotlight on a Hollywood red carpet

She kissed me after i shared with her another poem I wrote

I was shocked. I was jittery.

I almost felt like laughing.

So, is the poem that good? I asked.

Oh no, it’s terrible, she said, smiling.

. . .

I did end up laughing with her and I shared my poems every day.

I did like him

I liked his determination

I appreciated the way he snorted when he laughed

We moved in together of course

Customary when you’re supposed to like each other so much

I got a job

He continued to write

We kept to ourselves most of the time,

found things to do, like watch movies or explore the neighborhood

New Brunswick was changing

Sometimes, for the better, with new stores

And sometimes for the worse

I think I saw Christie buying a sandwich from downtown once, surrounded by cameras.

We kept to ourselves and then did our work

I painted all I could

Mostly buildings but i would try to include little spacemen in the windows

I was trying something new

Painting a picture like you would take a photograph, like a scene of a highway

but then including a dinosaur running over the cars

I showed it to Emiliano and he would smile

He would ask me to sit down and watch TV with him

And I would

Like I said, I liked him.

. . .

Don’t fall out of love

I kept telling myself

Don’t fall out of love

You got a good thing here

He cares

He really does

Right?

Of course.

Don’t. Fall.

. . .

I remember the exact date.

July 13

Saturday.

He had woken. Was typing on his laptop again.

I had a hard week of work behind me.

I too got up eventually, had some breakfast, saw that he had a cup of coffee next to him on the table

I painted for the remainder of the morning.

When it was cloudy outside,

I showed him my art.

It was another drawing I did of a building but this time, I included an image of a painter with his easel and brush standing inside an abandoned hallway.

The painter also had a goofy face, like he was a cartoon and he needed to pee real bad.

What do you think? I asked.

He glanced.

He looked and nodded.

It’s good, he said.

I glared.

What are you writing?

A story.

I know that. But what is it? Something new?

No. It’s the one I told you about.

You’ve told me about a lot. I can’t remember.

How can you not remember? This is my most important one. This will get me published finally.

Sure.

Excuse me?

I said, fine. I’m gonna go get something to eat.

But you just ate breakfast.

What does that mean?

Nothing. I’m just saying maybe you just need to drink some water instead.

Maybe you need to mind your business and finish up whatever goldmine of a story you got there.

He glared too. But didn’t say anything.

I got dressed and went out, the sound of typing echoed in my head.

. . .

After we moved out from our apartment,

I didn’t call or contact him for months

We had the same group of friends,

So we would bump into each other

but not say much.

I lived with my sister in Piscataway.

He went away I think to Queens.

I met someone new after a while, who was nice too, but who didn’t really have a sense of humor about things

That didn’t last long either

For a while, I just kept painting, kept working

Ate. Slept. Dreamt.

. . .

Emiliano called me one night. I was surprised he still had my number.

He told me a story of his was finally published.

I at first didn’t know if he was calling me in some way to rub it in my face

But I congratulated him and asked him how he was

He said he was fine and that he wanted me to have the first copy.

Without your constant soul-crushing criticism, I wouldn’t have improved, he said.

I chuckled.

Don’t. Fall.

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