He kisses me before he goes. While I, still dozing, half-asleep, laugh and rub my face against the sueded surface of the sheets, thinking it’s him I touch, his skin beneath my hands, my body curving in to meet his body there. I never hear him leave. But I believe he shuts the bedroom door, as though unsure if he should change his mind, pull off his boots, crawl beneath the blankets left behind, his hand a heat against my breast, our heart rates slowing into rest. Perhaps all good-byes should whisper like a piece of silk— and then the quick surprise of waking, alone except for the citrus ghost of his cologne.
The Long Deployment
For weeks, I breathe his body in the sheet and pillow. I lift a blanket to my face. There’s bitter incense paired with something sweet, like sandalwood left sitting in the heat or cardamom rubbed on a piece of lace. For weeks, I breathe his body. In the sheet I smell anise, the musk that we secrete with longing, leather and moss. I find a trace of bitter incense paired with something sweet. Am I imagining the wet scent of peat and cedar, oud, impossible to erase? For weeks, I breathe his body in the sheet— crushed pepper—although perhaps discreet, difficult for someone else to place. There’s bitter incense paired with something sweet. With each deployment I become an aesthete of smoke and oak. Patchouli fills the space for weeks. I breathe his body in the sheet until he starts to fade, made incomplete, a bottle almost empty in its case. There’s bitter incense paired with something sweet. And then he’s gone. Not even the conceit of him remains, not the resinous base. For weeks, I breathed his body in the sheet. He was bitter incense paired with something sweet.