I watched the flaming trees of autumn bristle by the bus. A man got on, shoulders held taut, a light kick in his step, like he might take off and fly. It was you, but I didn’t think you saw me, so I hunkered down in my seat, pulling my hoodie over my wind-blown hair.
Just yesterday, as I dipped my french fries into my frosty, the salt burning the paper cut on my finger, you came barreling around the corner on the street. Again, you didn’t see me, but I stared blankly, slurping the ice cream off each individual finger.
After you left the bus, I saw a woman with your chin. There was a dent in it that gave it a bit of a hook. I wanted to march right up to her, twist her chin in the palm of my hand, bring her face to mine, but I sat there, blatantly staring. It was only when her eyes met mine that I discovered she wasn’t you. She narrowed her eyes into olive slits, frowned, the crease in her chin growing broader.
My therapist said that I am manifesting you, that my obsession with you is clouding my ability to reason, but I think I can still see reason well enough. When I see a man walk with a kick in his step, back facing me, it is you walking away. Every freckled constellation on someone’s skin is the view of your arms encasing me.
I can’t tell anyone else what I’ve been seeing.
There, the flash of your blue eyes simmering to black.
Sometimes I don’t even believe me.
If I still talked to our old friends they’d say, “That’s not him, Jenny. That’s a different man. Can’t you see, the stoop of his shoulders, too exaggerated. His hands not clenched tightly enough. No cigarette in her hand. No half-raised smile. No quirk of the lip.”
As if it were so easy, as if I can extract the dream of him, pry the pressure of his lips from my skin, his skin from under my fingernails, his words tucked under the tissue, the mesh wiring of a promised eternity.
I walk across the cool green of the bridge, steeples pressing up into fog and darkness. I hear the steps behind me. I hear them alright. They sound a bit like a heartbeat. There’s thunder above me, thunder below. Car lights fracture through the misty air and I feel a trundling in my ears.
The last thing he’ll see is the silhouette plummeting. A red sweatshirt dashing to the ground. And when they pull me from the river, my face will be bloated with memory.
And when he goes to his lover on the bed, he thinks, only for a moment, that there I am in the lift of her long eyelashes. A flash, and the image of me overlays on top of her, my body curled naked on his sheets, my body calling.
He’ll remember the words he said, they’ll ricochet like the drum of a bell.
And, later, there I’ll be, the sway in my hips of a woman crossing the intersection. And there, again, me, in the childish wonder of a seven-year-old girl, fondling the pointed dahlia petals. When he turns around: the sensation of me creeping up his neck.
Months later he’ll go to his lover, “Someone’s following me,” he’ll say.
From inside her face, I’ll smile out at him.
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