by Rachel Harthcock
I remember Phil saying we should write a list of
all the people who bothered us, whispering over the phone
after the internet had cut out, ending our AIM conversation.
I remember the night we camped out
and I watched him walk into the pines to pee,
then realizing he was the only Polish person I knew.
I remember being in his family’s church
when we picked up the scent of my dad’s cologne
over the communion wine, walking back to the pews,
eyeing the yellow fabric.
And the afternoon he got so high on lased weed
that my sister drove me to pick him up off the ranch road by his parent’s house
and then she dropped us off at the mall
I remember how he was always known for not talking much
and the time he sat back in the theatre hall crying while reading Catcher in the Rye,
later describing the book to me as “aggressively mediocre” turning his face away.
At baseball games his Dad wore a Cubs hat and his Mom talked the entire time.
He disappeared in college and I thought of him
as Bertram from the Sandlot, “getting really lost in the sixties,”
But my mother ran into his at the elementary school choir concert,
he was studying geology, climbing rocks in West Texas.
Last night I was on the corner of the couch in my apartment, hurt by the misgivings of my pomegranate mind, my boyfriend needing a break
to figure out how to love me more
after carrying my skis down the side of a mountain, after pushing my car out the snow, half a mile past the No Outlet sign. His language of placing the heater on my side of the bed, of morning coffee, spliffs, of extra pairs of socks, I might need them.
I’m thinking back on Phil. Those spring nights in the hill country,
talking about the perfect combo of jalapeno cheeseburgers and butterscotch malts
or how it feels to love but not understand how.
I’m getting a hollow feeling today, the temperature up in the 40s
in the most glacial winter of recorded Midwest history
and I remember how I would always start laughing when he would look at me in the eyes,
which was wrong of me and I’d like to apologize for now.
No one deserves to be taken advantage of in these ways.