Here is the crack in the mug: long, thin, reaching down the ceramic in a lighting-fingered absence. Here is the tree I felled: just a tree, really. Here is the cold that came after: tall, sharp, shaped like a fish. Here is the boneless, bloodless, shot of night I drank along with the coffee I swallowed once I knew you had unkissed me for the last time. Here is the tree I felled, again, because it is easier to look at.
I apologize for breaking in and breaking up. I wish you’d say something about how you came back down the dock two more times after I’d stopped talking. You were red, I think. I am already sorry for writing.
I wish I wasn’t sorry because if I could be angry, grab-a-fish-by-its-water angry, I know I wouldn’t be writing.
Half of this will be real and the other third will be lake water I mix in to hide the spit. My father wore socks. My father wore a cow pelvis on his head. I like him better with long hair but I don’t like him so it doesn’t particularly matter how many times he goes to the barber.
I told you I told you. I didn’t tell you but you were supposed to get it.
I am afraid of you now. I think I could punch you and land it well. I never will though, I promise, you were so so nice for most of it. No but, you were good. No but, you were real. No but, there is too much lake water here. Next time, I will make a priority about living far from water.
High school was fine. And this is not for you, by the way, this if for digging my molars out of the shoreline.
I think I liked the holding. Not the kissing, not the insides of mouths, but the holding was okay. Who’s to say anyone deserves good love. Who’s to say I should ever get another mouth again. Who’s to say I need one. Seriously, who? Because I need to speak with them about the sky tonight. Is it cold in here, or is that just the temperature?
I’d hate to think that this was about hearts, the idea. It might be about hearts, the muscle, but it’s got nothing of chocolates or the fifteenth day in February. Do you remember the time my mother walked up to you at the open house? All because I had not told her about how we’d gone about stopping? So friendly, my mother, her short hair, her fixed-broken leg that beeps when we go through airport security. I got terrified when she did that and turned my head to watch a girl with long hair who was leaving for college do flips on her trampoline. She was good. She was better.
I don’t know if I hope you’re okay. I hope you’re okay. Remember the lake water.
I wore my mother’s wedding dress to the school dance because it was a bare silk slip of cream and it came down my legs nicely. I saw your pretty gal. She was pretty. You were pretty. I hope I hope that night was good. I have a photo of a plastic toy potato from the same night. Our prom was held in a children’s museum. I spent time in the dark kitchen roped off from the music. I took a photo of a fake potato. I think that my English teacher, the one that’s right here if you stare, looked nice but I’ll never tell her. I had a dream once that I told her. It was awful.
Your dad is difficult and I don’t know you all that well. Your ferret made me bleed when I held her but I smiled and said her sharp, corks-screwed body was sweet. I have lied and called you abusive. I have lied and called you happy. I have lied and called you.
I don’t know where I thought I was going or coming from. I’m so sorry you don’t ever want to exchange another word. What a thing to say in words. Over text. Brave brave boy with his hair he cut before I asked him to cut it. I know you said never to speak again but I am here, pressing my mouth to some long-dead microphone, talking. You can decide to change your facebook cover photo to something publicly private that you meant to hurt me, but boy, did I smile when I saw that I had walked away from the kid whose middle-fingers were made out of pixels, not bones and blood and skin — not something to be afraid of with my bones and blood and skin.
You can decide you aren’t talking to me, you can decide to walk the long way home and never think about your parking-lot confessions ever again but you, you do not get to say that we are done talking. The word “we,” it has my mouth in it as much as your texting thumbs, so here I am with one last unkiss to take my lips back and lay them, with plenty of ink, into my own fingers. Sorry about the dock I ruined twice, both times, with my mouth.
It’s good neither of us fish, not any longer, it’s all catch, rip, and release.
Claire Oleson is a student and writer hailing from Grand Rapids Michigan. She is currently absorbing her undergraduate studies in English and Creative Writing at Kenyon College in Gambier Ohio. Her work has previously appeared in Siblíní Art and Literature Journal, Potluck Magazine, Tipton Poetry Journal, HIKA Literary Journal, NEAT Magazine, Newfound Journal, and the University of Kentucky’s graduate literary journal, Limestone, where her short story “Ten Degrees Below, Convection Bake” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Claire has a great affection for peninsulas, carb-based consumables, and language.