Memories I Can’t Call Mine

Photo by Kayla Spaar

Photo by Kayla Spaar

I remember the last time I stood outside your house. I imagined it. You weren’t home, but I didn’t want you to be. I held a letter in my hand addressed to you and I couldn’t remember if it was the seventh or eighth draft because I rewrote it so many times. I remember walking up your driveway, breath shaky at the thought of you opening the door. I would be lucky though.  No one would open the door. I leaned the letter against the dark door and left, hands sweaty and chest hot with a fast-beating heart. I hoped your letter would be kept safe until you came home next, tucked away in your desk drawer, or left to rest on your unused bed. I pictured you reading it; I saw you flustered and ashamed. You would call me and confess the truth, ask for my forgiveness, and never leave. That is, my imagined truth.

The last time I really stood outside your house I can’t remember. Was it that August day we got sandwiches and watched the birds fly over the park? You spilled mustard on your favorite blue shirt trying to point out the swirling flocks above us, and I laughed as you cursed. The dewy grass itched the backs of my knees, but I didn’t want to move in fear of moving away from you. You sang to me that night. You gave me your best Bee Gees impression and I found myself humming Memories I Can’t Call Mine the rest of the week.  

Or was that last time in the fall? When we sat in your car, the stale scent of cigarettes wafting from your jacket to my nose as we shared our newest finds on the radio. Did you drop me off, or did I walk home after waiting for your bedroom light to turn off? The old you probably dropped me off, but that night you weren’t the old you. Your eyes were somehow darker and your brows always closely knit. Maybe I imagined that. I don’t know. 

I can’t remember the last time I was outside your house or the last time I saw you. I do remember hearing that song on the radio and thinking about your middle name. I wrote you a list, and you wrote me a list of all the songs we wanted the other to hear, feel, and like. I named mine after your middle name and you did the same for me. John and Marie. What a pair. I listened to only your songs that entire summer, and nothing else. Even when others talked to me I was singing them in my head, playing out like a broken record. You were always on my mind.

Do you still sing our songs?

I know the moment I thought I loved you. We were in your room, dancing in our summertime clothes, and you were there before I realized. Your hot, red lips smearing kisses on my neck.  I fell onto your bed laughingYou clambered on top of me kissing my face, my neck, my shoulders, my chest. Time warped as I felt the friction of skin against skin. If I pressed into you hard enough I could feel your blood pumping, beating opposite of mine. I pulled away and held your face in my hands. I looked at you, and I mean really looked. I kept expecting you to turn away, but you didn’t. You looked me straight in the eye. You stared back at me—into me. We shared the same wanting look.  

I wish I knew how long we held each other like that.  It seemed just as I realized the depth of what we had, we broke away.  You rolled off me and looked outside the window.  I pulled my knees to my heart, curling in tight.  I had goosebumps, but not from the cold.  I’ve never done that before I said.  You faced me to say done what?  Look into someone’s eyes like that, I said.  You turned away from me to say yeah, me too. 

Sometimes, I imagine telling you how I really feel. Sometimes, I imagine shaking you and squeezing you so hard that you start to feel how I feel. So often I would lie in the dark and think you, it hurts because of you as hot tears burned my lips and turned my cheeks raw. I would dream an awful dream of you, laughing, smiling, feeling no pain. I’d break open your chest to find nothing inside but a hollow box of collected items. A nail, an apple core, a necklace, a dog tooth, and an artery. The nail is rusted, the apple core rotted, the necklace broken, the dog tooth infected, and the artery empty. I try to remove the box but it is welded to your spine. You laugh harder. I am yanking on the box telling myself it can’t be true. I gave you more I yell. I am now breaking the box, shattering it along with my fists. As it cracks I see the pulsing from inside.  Beating like it should, dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum. I feel relief until I see its sickly color.  You are poisoned and I cry again. I cut you open now and instead of bleeding red, you leak spoiled honey. I would always wake up from that dream holding my chest tight. 

Do you ever dream of me?

Every time I hear that one song I think of when we lay in my bed that spring. My window was cracked and the rain was pattering on the leaves outside. I had that record on, and we didn’t care about getting up to reset the song again. Your body was warm and tired. I can still feel my fingers in the thick of your hair, soft and tangled. You smelled sweet, or maybe that was the wet earth and trees from outside, but it was sweet nonetheless. We were breathing together, chests rising and falling in unison. I felt one of a kind in that moment and I believed I could love you forever. I could hear the crackled voice on the record repeating we were not good enough, each time louder and louder in my ears. I think it was trying to tell us something.  

I wonder if you remember that time we got ice cream from that new place down Eighth Street. They scooped such big scoops I couldn’t even finish two. We walked to the music shop after and you bought me a new record for us to play when you came over next. You know, something to listen to together you said. The record was okay, but the idea that you bought something to see me again made me love it. I still have it sitting on my shelf and every now and then I think to play it. Sometimes I do, but I never finish the first side because I remember how much the songs meant and how terrible they really are. Instead I play the other record from the spring over and over, listening to nothing else. 

My favorite memory of us I think I made up. We were camping and we were with our friends. Sharing one big tent, we claimed a corner ours and slept facing one another. In the morning, it was so hot our skin was flushed and sticky. We were the first to wake, so we silently traced each other’s features, and held each other’s hands. You kissed me gently on my shoulder and nose. You brushed my eyelashes with your thumb to feel how soft they were. I followed your eyebrow with my index finger, sweeping up and down, drawing a line from browbone to jaw. You kissed me quietly on the lips. I remember the air was so humid and the rustling sound of sleeping bags against the ground, but I don’t remember what anything looked like besides you. I am remembering now that this was real.

What do you remember?

It has been two years and three summers since we last spoke and today is the last time I stand outside your house. Holding my final letter in my hand, I find my breath was shaky at the thought of you answering the door.  As I approached your front step, I feel my legs grow heavier with anticipation. I’m ready to face you, but I’m ready to let it all go. Not having the courage to speak, I leaned the letter addressed to you against your dark colored door and left without knocking.  As I make my way to the street, I turn to get one last glance at the house I envisioned so much happening in.  I look to your window, searching for a final sign that you were there and I see your light flicker on. Inside sat a young girl unfamiliar to me. She was blonde and light-eyed and she looked nothing like you. Your house now occupied by strangers unknown to me. I looked once more at your old house, then continued on my way down the street. Your letter stayed at your door and I imagined you reading it anyways.