Side piece/ Main piece

Ring on her finger

Frost on the apartment windows

A lingering smile, a warm touch

We talk, then migrate through the hall

. . .

I knew her when we were freshmen and our world was our town,

where we had visions of ourselves while in the shopping mall,

or, finding  moments worth laughing about, till all others were drowned out.

She returned years later, about the same time I too realized that money and power were the same.

. . .

Microwavable pizza.

Instant coffee.

Netflix.

Movie trailers, all day after work.

Friday nights spent at happy hour, considering the fall of ancient Rome.

. . .

The hall. The bed. The sheets soft and red.

“What are you looking at?” she giggled in the dark.

I saw the contours of the frames, and asked, “Could you put them away first?”

They looked so ideal within. She giggled again, and hid them in the drawers, and soon,

our world was in that moment, the night sky engulfing.

. . .

The rules: don’t text at work, don’t message too late, and definitely do not call on the weekends.

They were made simple on purpose, like TV dinners, and ordering fast food.

“I’ll have the number 4,” I said.

She held my hand, and ordered the one above mine, mostly bread and chicken and a side.

“So, what’s the plan?” I asked once we sat at our table.

“For what?” she said.

I paused.

She smirked.

“Let’s just focus on the here and now,” she told me. “Everything is going great.”

I nodded, took a bite from her sandwich, and we went back to the apartment, where the sheets were still soft.

. . .

The town of E.B., surrounded the city of New Brunswick, homes with lawns, roads splitting off into shopping mall entrances, billboards over the avenues filled with traffic, and over time, I’ve seen more vape shops opening up too, a White Castle as well, and even a hookah store for mostly white suburban kids to pretend they’re in a different place. My folks worked in the towns nearby, as clerks, and hers had retired and moved back to India. Mine thought of doing the same, but they decided to just go and live with relatives in Queens, while I lived with my older cousins. I found work as a store clerk soon, just a few blocks from the Dunkin Donuts where she was promoted to the person in-charge of the drive-thru. Customers usually would make fun of her, when they realized who it was. Once, a person spat in her face, and drove away, smoke trails like fog.

“Do you like it when I touch you here?”

I kissed her.

“How about this?”

I kissed her.

“And here?”

I kissed her.

On the cheek.

On each eyelid.

On her mouth, and on her neck.

. . .

Spent an entire afternoon cleaning vomit from an aisle, smelling of detergent and stew,

and I imagined instant coffee and Netflix, and,

while the store emptied, I called.

It rang, and rang, and rang,

Suddenly, she picked up.

“We had a fight,” she said.

“Don’t worry,” I told her, “I’m on my way.”

I traded shifts with a co-worker,

and moments later, I was where I wanted to be.

 

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