Full Poem by Nisha Patel

I know you were thinking about me after the first night I drove you home, because you didn’t say a single thing even as I asked you twenty, and as the music played I didn’t stop to breathe once, a rhythm of words and glances between us that built into a melody for months, uncurling in the air when we spoke, I recognized you in my own shadow before we ever touched, felt like I could have lived forever in the front seat of my Acura as long as you were next to me, and thank god you never learned to drive, every night when you left the car I recited reasons to make you stay, rehearsed questions in the rear view mirror on the way home, I reassembled your laughter from memory, the way it starts out as a chord in the tone of your voice before cascading into a murmur, then a ripple, then an ocean, I felt the heat of my body melt into it like a sunset, I’ve never been appreciative of a breathless giggle, never been so impatient with the slow growth of our entangling ivy, never heard music leap from the background until I met you, until I tapped the steering wheel to the pulse between us, how hungry I was to learn you, to feel you in both hands, wanted you unspeakably from thigh to thigh, and as we aged by the day I knew our alphabets were reshuffling, trading in tiles for blanks, throwing out last names in favour of firsts, and then throwing out firsts in favour of none, and I still remember when I lost my hello to a moment, when seeing you walk towards my car felt less like prom and more like a homecoming, and for me it was clear that our nights stopped ending at the door when I stopped speeding on the drive home just so that I’d get the chance to see you again, and our voices took on a new language, new words we couldn’t pronounce out loud, talk of boys dying in the grass outside your building, talk of other girls long gone, just us and our tongues, lying to each other about what was really happening, my best friend called it a replacement, as if you’d resembled anything I’d ever experienced before, we were trapped between the heat vents and then the air conditioning for weeks, and I’d swore four years ago that I wasn’t ready for love or boys again, especially not ones who wrote poetry or Shakespearean sonnets, and I think in retrospect the sonnets don’t matter because I don’t plan on reading them, I think what matters is that everyone saw it coming but us, that we were stupid but smart enough to invent ways to fall in love without labelling it, like when I left you in Edmonton and missed you in New York, or when you left me in a church to fight climate change and all I thought of was you, or when I threw a party just to kiss you and we still didn’t, loving you through the spring felt like blooming, my body a tightly knotted bud and your eyes tiny suns that gave me reason enough to reach, my unfolding wholly your doing, but loving you in the summer was like touching the bottom of sandy water, complete and sensational lightness with only the silica of sponges to ground me, and I could have sworn I was made of water from the moment we stared too long across a table because I had no way of stopping my body from sweating for you every day and night afterwards, no way to keep chaos of the one time we’d touched hands in June and I’d wanted to set myself on fire to myself, and I hoped for weeks that you wouldn’t notice the way I had to breathe slowly when I started picking you up too, or the way our friends became increasingly less reliable and absent, how I stopped inviting the others because the others weren’t you, how that one haircut made me so shy I barely looked at you for hours, drinking your favourite wine in my own house, and I remember every moment I didn’t kiss you better than the last year of moments where I did, because isn’t desire a type of moment, too? Doesn’t it deserve a name or a day of the week – maybe Sunday, where we sat in a café and watched our friend play zookeeper for a day, or Wednesday, when I wore socks with two mismatched heights in front of the Mayor and not a single person including you had the decency to tell me, or maybe Tuesday, where we met in my worst outfit and your favourite colour, both of us hat people at the time, sharing our love of sound and song on a stage that flattered no one, and I think the thing about love at first sight is that October 30th was just another day of the week, that if you’d told me that I’d have the power to change my life in the 100 days between me falling in love with you and our first kiss, I’d have believed it, but I don’t think that’s true, I think lies are only lies if someone believes them and that I’ve been telling the truth from the start. the octopus has such a brief, but full life. crowding into spaces you would not believe a living thing would want to embody, like doubt and darkness. they are lonely except for a moment of touch, and baby I know that I’ve been lonely every moment you weren’t mine, so let’s have just one moment to start off our moments, see what happens if we squeeze into the backseat of my car once more.

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