When we touch, it is with familiarities that belong to other bodies. The memories of expired intimacy cling to limbs and planes of flesh like stubborn cellophane. Thin, invisible layers of lost love keep us from ever really touching.
I can feel by the way he strokes my cheek that her skin had been free of blemishes or bumps, smooth and pale like cream settled at the top of milk. I can feel by the way he pushes his fingertips into my hipbones that she had been supple, more woman than my boyish body could ever let me be. I can feel by the way he awkwardly, painfully, hopelessly loses a hand to my matted curls that her hair had been silky and straight in an effortless way—the way I always wished mine were.
I wonder if he can feel me doing the same thing. I reach for your lips, firmer than his, more knowing in the way they parted my own, stealing the words from under my tongue. I search for your eyes, greener than his, the ones that have charted every inch of the naked territory that I now strategically cover with loose linens and self-conscious hands. I trace the scars his body does not have, and I sway into a choreography of kisses he does not know the steps to.
I don’t think of you quite as often anymore. Our moments fade into each other. I replace them with new ones, starring new people. But I feel you—always. In my hips and my thighs and the small of my back—with every touch of an unfamiliar hand. You have made a home here. You are a chill in my bones I can’t quite shake, a muscle memory I can’t quite forget. The topography of your fingerprints is branded into the paper skin of my throat—both your love and your rage were hot enough to burn them there. Which is why, now that I think of it, they felt so similar.
Which is why, so often, I accepted one when I expected the other.
This bed is haunted. There are ghosts in my sheets. The left side of my mattress sags with your spectral weight. I still sleep on the right side every night.
When I kiss him, our lips are awkward as they mash together in an out of sync way. He tastes like nothing in particular. His scent is weak, slightly sour. My body pulls away from his as I pretend to sleep, and with my eyes closed tightly, I let myself think of you. You tasted like dark chocolate filled with sweet marzipan. You smelled like rich forest loam, wet from the rain. Like red desert earth and a campfire made from juniper and wild sagebrush. You felt like home.
Kissing him feels like trying to un-kiss you. But you are a viscous amber honey that sticks to my mouth and compared to you, he is a single-ply tissue.
You have made a mess of me that he cannot clean up.
Author: Abigail Reagan
Image: Flickr/Dave Emmett
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock