“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” — Ernest Hemingway
When everything I encountered
became a reminder of your beautiful existence
and gave me ideas for possible ways
to please, surprise, or accommodate you,
I knew I was falling in love.
Isn’t that always the first clue?
So with a glowing heart,
I set out an extra toothbrush in the bathroom
and installed a machine to make your iced tea
so you’d never go without when you stay over.
At the grocery store just last week,
I found myself standing in the checkout line
clutching four items to my chest,
three of them for you:
a Dr. Pepper, your go-to drink
before a long drive;
a mammoth blueberry muffin,
the sugary snack you can never resist;
and a bottle of men’s body wash,
to keep you from smelling
like a field of flowers or a fruit stand
after a shower at my place.
They say it’s the little things that count,
and I was busy building a mountain
of tiny, tender things,
all for your delight.
But I realized that my thoughtfulness would not be reciprocated
when I mentioned your blueberry muffin
and you, yet again, mentioned her –
your former Commonwealth bride,
the French-speaking ghost who haunts every corner
of the triangle I feel trapped in.
You regaled me with the unsolicited story of
the blueberry picking excursions you made with her,
including delicate, unnecessary details,
like how you both couldn’t wait to eat them,
and how most of the fruit would be consumed
before you could make the return trip home.
I’d already been forced to hear, and re-hear,
the facts and figures of her:
body size and type,
hair color and other features,
proclivities and bad habits,
sexual maneuvers she liked to employ.
And often – what a weird way to kick me when I’m down –
you would exclaim, I need to take you there…to Canada!
Why on earth would you wish to take me
to the place where you loved another?
Where each setting is stacked high with memories
made with the woman before?
The territory where your coupledom
was birthed and buried
is none of my concern.
It’s as if you wish to recreate a film
with me now cast in the role she played.
But I’m no one’s stand-in,
and this attempted remake is a disrespectful bore.
C’est moi, C’est moi, C’est moi.
Parrot of past endearments not meant for my ears,
you forgot to check your longing at the door.
I’m stepping out of her shadow,
and I won’t be part of this northern reverie anymore.
As I write this, I’m drinking your Dr. Pepper,
and I tried to eat the muffin, but it had grown stale.
As for the body wash,
which promises to smell like a fresh mountain spring,
perhaps I should pour it down the drain.
Because God knows,
the scent or the name or the bottle itself
will likely trip you backward in time
to the one country I never wish to see
and the one person you can’t seem to leave behind.
Jenn Howe, April 2016