Uncertain Elegy

by Sarah Patrick

I am in bed with my boyfriend when I get the call
that an ex-lover of mine has committed suicide.

It sounds like a trick at first, a conspiracy
he would have wanted to mastermind,

I don’t believe it. I can’t believe it.
Not until I know it’s true, not until I’ve seen the body.

But this place is saturated with the past, the memories
I can’t stop falling back into, those three weeks

I sealed off, never to return to, that glow like
the dizzy blur of headlights through a dirty windshield,

like the insomniac distortions of lust as love:
my sticky cheek stuck to the red vinyl sofa top,

your arms holding me close to your chest
like some secret we’re not ready to let go of.

I wish there were a better version of this story:
one where I open my body without the murkiness

of hesitation, where I love you loud and soft
like a child that has not yet learned better.

The way you sounded, the first time you told me,
on so many downers that your words dragged slow;

I know you didn’t mean it, but sometimes I believed it.
You were so easy to get addicted to:

one-part crooked smile and two-parts that look
in your eyes; the reason I longed after you, lover,

even after you tore a hole in my chest and left me
wheezing like I’d lost any meaning I had.

The euphoria of us: even when the molly was bunk
or one of us passed out in the middle of the party,

your head in my lap while we watched Apocalypse Now
with no idea that there was a comedown coming fast.

I wish there were a version where I didn’t already know       
that love would grow cold in rose-colored bathwater,

that feeling would flee out of me like breath
when your back hit the pavement. A version where

we stay drunk on each other. Like that first time,
all sloppy around the edges but with the best intentions.

A version where I’m not left with all our friends,
who can still feel you here in the same way,

and wonder why we’re the survivors, when
we can see the same feelings that killed you:

two feet standing on the precipice, we’re not
on the edge but we’ve been there many times before.

You never lacked for impact, except for maybe,
in the most twisted sense, in the way you went:

we talked about the bang too much for you to choose
the whimper, but I suppose the last thing you need now

is my criticism, another noose to fit around your neck,
another reason for your feet not to touch the floor.

I wish there were a version of this story
that didn’t already have an ending:

how it was not that long ago—unfinished and
with the chance that we would meet again someday

and I could tell you that you broke my heart
in that way that’s more nostalgic than sad

and you could blame it on your youth and we’d
smile and remember what it was to be careless.

All I have now are memories I keep just out of sight,
like love letters hidden in a shoe box under my bed,

like questions that will never have answers,
I buried them alongside you in that coffin.

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