Creative Non-Fiction: 'Good Things'
Written by Lake Vargas
Dr. Espinoza says remember what you learned, and I recall the restaurant in a sea of boarded windows. I ordered a quesadilla and read your texts. Sorry, I’m late, I need to find parking.
When you finally showed, you ordered a quesadilla with guacamole. I talked about my job and mimed the clamp of a panini press with my hands. You smiled. You had doe eyes, and nobody had ever looked at me like that.
The 61 doesn’t run after 9, so you offered me a ride home. We strode to the parking lot; I listened to the susurrus of our puffer coats when our sleeves brushed. I said, let me know if you want to do this again. Otherwise, you’ll never see me again.
Dr. Espinoza says don’t forget that she taught you how to love and how to be loved. I remember when we clung to each other as the sun set over your ear. You’d lift my hand and plant it in your curls. Here, you’d say, before your breath curved over my shoulder.
I remember the white of lightning and the felt of peaches in our fists. The sweet milky citrus of morir sonando in the summer. In New York, we chewed on flavorless tufts of rainbow-dyed bread.
You held me to your chest like a cabinet clutches china. I wore a silver band with an emerald. In the winter, my hands cracked and reddened, but I still showed it to envious women and men who pretended they didn’t care.
When was the last time you had a drink? Last August, there was sunset in a peach Bellini, two sips of gasoline before I stopped myself. There was the cold swallow of coquito on New Year’s, the golden flash of pittoro on Christmas, and always, always vodka.
You didn’t mind until I passed out in the bathtub, framed by pink vomit with a towel over my head. I’m sorry, and you said, I’m leaving, doesn’t that work for you? You smiled. You laughed.
You held me when I resurfaced from nightmares of violet skies and knives in my mouth. You mended holes in my clothes, basted steaks in butter, drove me to my family until they disappeared. How could you do all that and say: you look pregnant in that dress. I lie to you because you have depression. And one blued midnight, your fingers gnarled into a pitchfork, you said I’m only fucking you because I have to.
There were acres of mattress and days of silence. I learned how to listen for the click of your knees in the hallway. I learned how to clamp my lips together when you pressed the mouth of a bottle to my own. I learned that I loved you more than you loved me. You said, I’m moving to California, and I don’t care if you come with me.
The summer before, I asked if we could visit the beach. I thought of your curls stiff with saltwater, the cling of your arms even though my feet skimmed against the rippled ocean floor.
Maybe next year, you said. During your first week in California, you drove your friends to the ocean.
I cut up the pictures of us laying in Central Park, when I was sick and you curled around me to shield me from the cold. A stuffed giraffe, a T-shirt, and my ring tumbled into the garbage. I rode the bus to Home Depot and headed straight for the cardboard boxes. Are you okay, the Uber driver asked me on the way back, and I said yeah, I’m okay. Actually, I’m great, thank you.
Remember the good things, Dr. Espinoza says, and I do.
A week later, I open random doors and find Faneuil Hall. There are charcoaled ribs, cubes of fish, mountains of ice cream. I float through couples and families, dazed and nobody’s ghost. Why didn’t we ever come here?
I am aware that I am alone. But it is better to be alone than to allow someone to hurt me.
I eat at Faneuil, at the market, at this Korean hot dog place that you always said was too far. I buy a blue hummingbird sign for the door that says welcome; you always said we shouldn’t decorate. I touch and I am touched. I am loved, even if it isn’t by you.
When I lay on a mattress, the other side always talks back. I don’t have to watch for red eyes in the mirror. Dr. Espinoza tells me to remember the good things. And there are so many. I can’t even think of half of them right now.