Dear Vocab

By Alan Semrow


The next morning, you had me spinning. I walked from your place to mine to the bar, where I met Jack for brunch. I stepped into the room and, almost immediately, I was floating. A glowing face, a gleaming smile, something that gave off the impression of, “I could die today and all would be okay.”

Skipping up to the table, Jack’s first response to me, “Bitch. Contain yourself.”

I said, “I’m going to be honest. I think I’m floating on the periphery of something.”

We’d gotten around to spending two nights in a row together. I held your hand. We fucked all night, all morning, between sleeps, between me straddling your warm, pink body, and looking over to the wall and then back to you and then back to the wall. “I LOVE that picture.”

It was on the floor, leaning, like you had no intention of hanging it again. But, the strong political message, I guess, it stuck with me—with all that was happening in our world.

You said, “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah,” I told you. “I really LOVE that.”

Running a spare hand up my right arm and breathing into my ear, you said, “Well, you should have it then. I’m planning on getting rid of it. I’m planning on getting rid of a lot of this stuff I have no use for.” You said, “I want you to have it.”

I didn’t take it, because I think it would have been a little much for me to step into broad daylight, looking like I’d had sex all through the night before—hair shooting, eyes red and wild, carrying such a picture the six or so blocks back to my apartment on the busiest street in the city.

The night before, we made out at the entrance to the bar, right in front of the bouncer. Then we walked in to meet our friends, like nothing had happened.

It’s a deep attraction I have for you—you, who, every time we’ve run into each other since, gives me that look like, I could throw you down right now and you know we’d come out of it changed. And it’s a fondness—me walking around your sunlit apartment some morning, picking little pieces of clothing up, scattered throughout, shouting little innocuous jokes at you, and looking out at your amazing view and the orange sky and saying, “It’s a beautiful day. It’s a really beautiful day.” I meant that. I wasn’t selling anything. I stood out on your balcony, bare feet against the cold concrete, smoking a cigarette. None of this was mine, but in some ways, it felt like it was. In some way, maybe.

Back in bed, unclothed again with my arm wrapped around your body, your friend, Amanda, entered the apartment to unbag groceries for you—I still don’t understand why. You said her name. She looked in and then left. We fell into a fit of laughter and had sex again. When you were inside of me, you muttered, “You’re so hot.” Nothing in me desired to stop doing what we were. You wanted to explore every part of me—and I wanted to do the same to you, to eat you up in our moments together.

After spending time on each other for the umpteenth time, I looked back to the picture on the wall. You told me about your life before this city—about your upbringing, your schooling, about the guy that had you for all those years. After dousing my mouth with your spearminty mouthwash and applying your hair wax in an attempt to make myself at least semi-presentable to the people I would pass on the walk home, I kissed you four times at the door. I remember that. Exactly four.

You left my body in pain for three whole days. But it was the best kind of pain. The pain that reminded me. After returning home from brunch with Jack, I locked the door and collapsed onto the wood floor. I was outside of myself. I took a deep breath.

That all just happened.

I ran a bath. I think I sent you a picture, the scent of the bath bomb simmering me down. Spring was turning into summer and things were going well. In a way, I felt validated—for whatever reason. And I planned on always going back to floating on the periphery and looking into your eyes as you took me away. It made me question things. Like, what will this mean in the end? What could we have been? I can tell you with assurance—all good things.