I knew it was you before you even knocked. Three years since the last moment we shared, yet I’m still familiar with your presence. The air changes when you come near. I felt it take shape when you were on the stoop. While you took deep breathes to prepare, to contemplate, I stared at a mirror, wondering if this me is the one who opens a door for you.
You could have turned around and never knocked.
The brown stains on your hands are distracting. I can see small drops of your skin peeking through what I can only assume is deep, ground earth. I’m finding it hard to follow anything you’re saying. You’re speaking faster than I ever knew you to, your hands are shuffling and punctuating every word you leave out as your search for reasons to stay. This is new to me; you are not new to me.
The man in your car seems to enjoy staring at us. His shirt, with the owl perched on a tree branch, is endearing, but only because it does not match his bulbous frame, or his scattering dismissed look. Though I cannot see I’m assuming his stomach stretches out beyond the shirt.
He is not a cute man, so I cannot call his stomach a belly.
He should not be drinking a two-liter of Mountain Dew, not for any reasons of his health (as I do not care about his well-being), but because there are things only reserved for Frank Black.
Your friend never wrote “I’ve Been Tired”.
You always knew when to fight, and who to fight. That night you stood on the bar and declared your greatness I wondered why I had stayed so long, why I didn’t tell you that the bowling trophy you stole — and hoisted over your head as you chanted victory — was nothing more than an oversized cologne container. Your sense of smell was diluted well before we met.
Then that man challenged you. He was an unmovable force that you knew meant us harm. I was wishing I had never met you until you punched his closest friend instead. That punch was your message and I got it. We had some time left.
Your knuckles were so enlarged, my feet were so bruised from the run; no one expected the man in the wheelchair to take such a beating.
I still think back on our public dinners, the ones where we said nothing and just listened to the voices around us. You signaled at the football couple arguing two booths over. You giggled frantically when the woman poured beer on her phone as she yelled, “You can’t see who I called now!” The bar seat bowl champ scurried out the door taking only a beer and a fork. That was the truest affirmation of love I saw living on a street with five places all claiming the best wings around.
That city was the titanic of the Midwest. When we got out I forgot the names of everyone we left behind.
The man in the car is reading my lips. He is carving words into your dash with a knife.
You should have never stopped. I always told you to keep on driving.
There will be a moment before I die when I ask to see Ohio again.
I’ll want to stand before the factories I worked at, the warehouses where I loaded trucks; I’ll want to find the place where I saw my first chalk outline, where I saw someone bite a curb.
I still wonder if the trees smell the same, if the wind blowing through the branches feels like everything matters. That was how I remembered it when I left.
Relentless & beautiful. Truly. Scott Cheshire’s debut comes out in July. Mark your goddamn phone calender.