How It Should Have Ended

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On their last night before the party 

she locked herself in the changing room

ate four arancinis one after the other,

like an animal, 

heart racing and cheese dripping,

and her hands losing their grip,

her legs shaking with the force of it, 

and she cried.

 

She cried tears of desperation

for the months she’d spent pretending

for the weeks she’d tried to hide it;

hidden like oh my, 

look at this mess 

look they’ve made a spectacle

now.

 

Things would’ve been different, 

if she’d heard him come in.

 

Her dress was itching 

and she tried to make a joke,

when he put his hand on her leg

and the arancinis threatened to come up.

 

Things would have been different.

 

She ran out on the street but November’s a real bitch

and she almost froze to death trying to shove two fingers down her throat.

 

Not very glamorous, 

but that was their goodbye;

that was how it died

with a hiss and a clash,

in the clamour of the night

in the cold,

in silence.

 

 

 

November Love

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It started as a fantasy, like all the best stories do. It started with a promise, long nights conversations / summer breeze sweeping us up in temptation.

I had a dream we’d move away, before my chest started aching / before your song started fainting / and your hands lost their touch while you played and I laughed ‘cause I was young but I wasn’t stupid.

It ended when it came to be the realest thing I’ve ever felt, because I’ve moved two cities and lived five lives but I think loving you was still the bravest thing I’ve ever done. 

There was a red light blinking in the distance and there was me playing a different song, counting mistakes / but when the tide washed up you hadn’t changed much anyway. Much like I couldn’t tear my eyes away, while you were looking over, much like I dreamed of a different life. What’s a little pain, anyway, what’s ripping your soul out, anyway. 

I got in the tub filled with lukewarm water and thought back on bike rides and goodbyes, not forever, but for a night / how you held my hand under the table, and asked to be excused ‘cause we were being so obvious. 

You picked me up and I laughed like a kid, I laughed in their faces, ‘cause more than anything I wanted them to see. The way your fingers digged into my naked thighs, the way your brother cheered as we ran through the crowd, freezing and soaked and young and so in love we couldn’t breathe right.

You gave me your sweater because I was shaking, one you’d found in a forgotten drawer / and I say I’ve forgotten but still I hide in the bathroom, sit on the floor, and think about the fabric on my skin, your lips on my skin, that knock on the door when you were gonna ask me to stay / and I smile like the actress I told you I’d be, I grit my teeth and I think, the sun can’t touch me here.

//

I have a different name, now, one you haven’t heard of. I move to different rhythms, move to foreign cities, find myself pretending. Sometimes for a living, sometimes for the hell of it. 

There’s arms ‘round my shoulders and fingers in my hair. There’s eyes on me now, there’s an ache in my chest / persistent, like it wants me to listen. 

He takes my hand and drags me through the crowd, through the mass of bodies stuck together by sweat, and music, and the fact that we’re all out here looking for something, staying for nothing, crying for everything. 

It's hurried, and frenzied, and there’s nothing romantic / about it. But it’s real and it’s happening and it’s better than the three before him.  

I’ve changed my tune, too, you wouldn’t believe. 

I breathe in and out a couple of times, and I start shivering because my legs are cold and my face exposed. One, two, three buttons. Let’s make it all up, pretend we were out there all along, there in the lights where the magic happens. 

“Are you staying?” He beams, bright and hopeful.

“I’m going.” I say, before I can regret it.

“Let me walk you out. Strange city, wouldn’t want you to get lost.” 

I tell him, “You don’t sound like you’re from here yourself.”

“Seattle, moved a few years ago.” A pause. Then, “It’s the place to be, isn’t it?”

Four, five, six buttons. This is where the magic happens.

“I guess it is. Maybe next time I’ll see you on the big screen.”

Something flashes across his eyes, and I almost ask about it. Almost. 

“When was the last time you had an epiphany?”, you asked all those years ago.

I think I knew all along. Even though it hurt, even though I couldn’t see, even though she was staring right at me / while you kissed the side of my face and I prayed for closure when all I wanted was another day.

You felt like butterflies in my veins. And home, you felt like home.

This is how you start over

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The first thing you notice is how green his eyes are. The second is that you’ve seen him before, and you’ve had the same thought, and your heart skipped a beat last time, too. Old habits.

 

Then you’ll notice how you gravitate towards him, and that your lips tilt into a smile every time he looks in your direction. Which is often. You steal a glance and he returns it, you bump your hip and he takes your hand. It works.

 

Next comes a revelation: that maybe, maybe this is how it was meant to be all along. Maybe this is why it didn’t work out with that other guy, and the one before him. Are you crazy, lady, you only just met. But we didn’t, this was months in the making. Don’t you see?

It’s the blind leading the blind.

The fifth thing you notice is how you can’t stop looking, touching, laughing, wishing. How you feel like a teenager again, and for the first time in a long time, that feels like a good thing. Maybe it’s a new start. Smile for the cameras, here comes the good bit.

 

You can’t stop fixing your hair,  your ankle, your mascara. You angle your body the right way and look out into the crowd in what you hope is a wistful pose, a grainy black and white shot with a cigarette and rain and jazz playing in the background. It’s not.

 

Your hair is flat and there’s black smudges all around your eyes because your mascara is running out and has gone lumpy and your feet hurt and probably smell a bit, too. But you’re happy. So damn happy.

 

You go for the candle instead of the straw and you laugh, you laugh, you laugh.  He laughs with you.

 

Looks like your brain to mouth filter took an extended vacation, because none of what you’re saying makes any sense and all of it falls into the “things not to say to an attractive guy” category but hey, you only live once. His eyes sparkle. You’re doing good, kid.

 

The next thing you notice is how you never want this to end. 

 

You say goodbye and he says he’ll call. You almost get the wrong train, you almost forget where you are. Your legs are shaky and your head feels fuzzy, maybe you’ve had one too many drinks. Maybe you didn’t think this through.

 

Are you gonna wake up tomorrow and wish you’d never talked to him at all, wish you’d said you weren’t ready? Would you have meant it?

 

You go home to an empty house. You spend 25 minutes taking off your makeup because your hands are useless when you’re drunk so you sit on the floor while you do it, while you wait. Wait for what? Water, you need water.

 

You’re suddenly cold and maybe it’s the alcohol in your system or maybe you’ve been sitting on the floor for too long but it’s not a good sign and it’s not a good start and you panic. You’re terrified and shaking and this was a bad idea.

 

Maybe you’re not ready. Maybe you’ll sit on the floor a little longer.

 

Yesterday he asked what your type was and if anyone at the bar had caught your eye. You tripped on your words and mumbled something about bankers, and how this is not your kind of bar. “So, hipsters, then? You like them weird?” It took all of your willpower not to blurt out, I just like you. I don’t know what to do about it, but I like you.

 

What if you’ll never be ready?

Get up from the floor. Stop waiting for the perfect guy, the perfect night, or the perfect moment, and savour the taste and the touch and the feeling instead. Savour the moment. Kiss boys under streetlights, drink strawberry cocktails, get on the wrong train. Miss the train completely. Hide in the toilet, laugh 'til it hurts. Get yourself together, and then get yourself out there. Sparkle, sparkle, sparkle.

Summer drinks and fuzzy feelings

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He pokes my side and passes me another bottle. I turn away and smile into the basket where we keep the oranges, where I think he won't see (he will).

 

I think maybe this is a chance. I think of an Arctic Monkeys song. I think of the oranges. My friend gives me one look and laughs as she pours some more drinks.

 

“Anna, ma tu sempre così te li trovi!” Anna, you always fall for the same kind of guys.

 

She’s seen this scene before. Different set, different time, different clothes. Same me, same longing. It’s a strange kind of longing. Something more than just an itch but less than a real need. There’s no need, just want.

 

Like I wanted someone to break my heart in November. Like I wanted someone to remind me what butterflies feel like. Like I tried to ignore it, avoid it, and then deny it, until I went home one night and got in bed with my clothes on, and I couldn't breathe right, and I wanted to punch something, or run away. And it was over.

 

This is short-lived, and less painful. This is good. This is what it's supposed to feel like. 

 

A bar, a garden, oranges. 

I think of that song again.I can't keep the smile off my face. I walk back to the bar and the guy behind the counter gives me a look, are you okay? I don't know, sir. See, I'm in too deep. I'm not used to this anymore, I've forgotten what it does to me. And I want to remember.

 

I've got this stupid smile on my face and my heart aches for something more. I want to remember touches. Tender, light, almost a whisper. Just to prove I can.

 

He flirts with the girl in the leather jacket and it's suddenly November again, and Curly is sitting opposite me but there's another girl in his lap and I'm talking about greek philosophers, and why am I talking about greek philosophers? His hand on her leg, her fingers tracing his jaw.

It's November again and I'm desperate and lonely and I don't want to be there.  

 

I smell oranges.

 

I'm back. It's May and I'm light and I'm free, Curly's long gone. 

 

I bump into him on my way back. I touch his back just to see myself do it, because I want to know I can. It's carefree and fun and something I need. Just to feel something.

 

I'm never gonna see him again and somehow that soothes me, it makes me feel safe. It eliminates the possibility of running into him in Liverpool Street when I'm wearing leggings and no makeup, so at least that's different from last time. 

 

He calls me over and motions to the drink behind the bar.

"Look, I kept that for you."

"Thank you."

"It's a strong one."

A pause. I take a sip. It's a good one.

"Your name is Anna, isn't it?"

I nod. He already knew that.

My friend laughs again, yells "Sei impossible! Tutti così!" You're impossible, they're always like this! She makes another drink. I take another sip from mine. Then another.

Back in November I'd told her I could never be with Curly because he's the kind of guy who crushes your soul and spits you out before you've even had a chance to figure out what's going on.

It's been six months and that doesn't scare me anymore, it almost makes me laugh.

It's almost what I want.

 

We hug and say goodbye at the bus stop, and I watch him turn the corner and disappear from sight. I look up at the sky, and it's still bright blue. The sun is still out. 

It's late on a Saturday evening in May and the sun is still out. I am light and free and glorious, and November is just a distant memory, something I can't relate to anymore. Now I smell oranges and I feel butterflies, and I can't remember the last time I wanted someone to break my heart. I am anew.

I notice a group of teenagers staring, and then laughing. I instinctively think I must have something on my back. On my jeans. Maybe my shoelaces are untied. Oh god, did I have something on my face the whole time I was talking to him? One of them comes up to me and says, "Excuse me, I don't mean to be rude but... Why are you so happy?" His friends laugh. I look puzzled. "I don't mean it in a bad way, I just haven't seen anyone look that happy in a long time. You were walking around with this big smile, looking like you just won the lottery." A pause. "Did you win the lottery?

I laugh. You know what, kid? Maybe I did. 

Forget Saint-Saens

This is my fantasy, if I want it. If I take it for what it is, and look at the bigger picture instead of trying to get the details right, this can be it.

I tell myself I didn’t get what I wanted because my blue-eyed-guy isn’t here to play for me and I’m 5 pounds heavier than I was at seventeen and I’m a bit of a mess at being an adult, but I’m not. I haven’t fucked up as much as I think I have, and I refuse to be too scared to see that I got exactly what I’ve always wished for. I’m gonna call it what it is, which is happiness.

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