I wasn’t going to love her, I told myself. Not that again. Not all those feelings—colors vibrant, songs meaningful—just to be followed by the void of them. Doreen, take two.
I’d asked her to meet in the park so I could head this thing off. I wanted to hold her hand, but I didn’t. I prepared in my head to say I was seeing someone, which wasn’t true unless that someone was her.
I was going to.
But she wore a tank top, her shoulders early sunburn pink. When she opened her mouth to speak all I could think of was thrusting my tongue inside of it. She was talking about how good the Moondance album is on vinyl.
I had met her in a record shop. It was the only time I saw her pay for anything. I asked her out there in the impossibly slow line. She giggled innocently, as if she didn’t expect it.
The first time we went out, she begged to stop in a souvenir shop on the pier. Inside, she slipped a tiny ship in a bottle into her coat. I didn’t say anything, just followed her out of the store. Then I asked why she did it. She told me the shape of what she stole against her pocket made her insides wake up. I said I would be a cop one day, after this job in the mail center of an insurance company. Her eyes turned from full moons to crescents and she said, “don’t arrest me, officer.” I lifted her little body right up into the air, hoisted her over my shoulder, said “you’re coming with me.” I carried her away from the water, back toward my place, careful not to crush her precious trinket.
She smelled of turmeric and sweat and industrial soap cleaner. She worked in a shampoo factory and her hair always looked depressed by a hairnet even when she hadn’t worn one in days. After that first date on the pier, we made a habit of meeting for drinks each night after work. We petted each others’ legs beneath bar tops while we sucked froth off Guinness. We howled with laughter at the songs people chose from the jukebox. Our lives then were quiet while we, in the middle of them, were loud.
When she invited me back to listen to Van Morrison, I opened my mouth to say “no,” although I was thinking of sliding that tank top over her head while she giggled, smearing aloe on her skin while “Into the Mystic” played.
Before I said anything, a woman with a long gray braid took a lid off a Mrs. Fields cookie tin, dumped cracked corn all over the sidewalk. From nowhere, a pigeon swooped in and then another, another, anotheranotheranotheranother.
Anne who isn’t Doreen—who isn’t afraid of flapping wings, of germs, of anything as far as I can tell—laughed loudly and held her arms out and walked into the pigeon flock, spinning around and singing a song I had never heard but instantly liked.
I watched her with my mouth open, wondering why songs about falling in love get so much airplay when I couldn’t think of a single one about staying in love. In that moment of the birds, I don’t know what else I thought, I just know I didn’t think of Doreen. I didn’t conjure up how this would end before I allowed it to begin. I wasn’t cynical at all; I just watched her, Anne who I love, take one.
Holly Pelesky is a lover of spreadsheets, giant sandwiches, and handwritten letters. Her flash fiction has most recently appeared in Monkeybicycle. Her poems are bound in Quiver: A Sexploration. She holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska. She cobbles together gigs to pay off loans and eke by, refusing to give up this writing life. She lives in Omaha with her two sons.