YOU CAN STAY
Emma said that she was with Tommy the night he died. Told us that they had been watching a movie. That they had been kissing. That they had gone out on a date and he seemed like he was distracted the whole time. That the look he gave her seemed sad. That he didn’t try to make any more moves other than pulling her close and kissing her, kissing her like he was trying to steal the air in her lungs, like he couldn’t breathe without it. She had work in the morning and stood to go. Tommy said “You can stay,” but Emma couldn’t. She said that next time she would. Tommy rubbed the shamrock tattoo behind his ear, like he did when he was thinking, and stayed silent.
The next night, worried that he wasn’t returning her phone calls, his mom went to his apartment, used the spare key she had, and found Tommy face down in a small puddle of vomit.
This was years ago now. Emma, though she’ll wear red again, still walks differently. We all walk differently. And when we are all together, all save for Emma, and we are thinking about Tommy and we are thinking about how things are different but not, and we are thinking about thinking and not thinking, sometimes we’ll say to the others “You can stay.” And we will.
You think that this would be good lighting to break up with. Your girlfriend is apologizing and the midday sun is illuminating the blinds, catching dust, making everything golden, and you think that this is either the lighting to fall in love with or the lighting to break up with. But you’re already in love, or at least you’ve already fallen in love with her, so all that’s left is the breakup.
Your girlfriend is saying sorry again for the things that she’s said. She’s apologizing for saying you weren’t good in bed. She’s apologizing for telling you that you needed to change your wardrobe. She’s apologizing for asking you to be someone that you aren’t and you are trying to remember each instance of these things happening. You had said something as an offhanded remark. The light is golden and she’s wearing the shirt that your ex-girlfriend bought you, that your ex wore and sprayed heavily with perfume so that you would have something to hold when she went away, something that smelled like her. But that was years ago and you washed it and wore it and put holes in it with cigarettes.
And you think about the letter you wrote your ex-girlfriend. The one that sits in a drawer, her new address written on it, the stamp attached, the things you said on the inside. The way you said you still loved her and the way you said that things could have been different and the way that you wished that she could see you now, see you for who you are now, though the now you were talking about and the now that exists at the moment are different.
And your current girlfriend cries and asks why you are so far away, and the light tricks you into thinking that you are going to do it, you are going to say something like I am far away because you have pushed me away or I am far away, but I am not far enough away or something that will really cut, will really put you on top or whatever you think will be accomplished by being a dick like you always are. But you say It’s because I don’t have anything to say, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m just confused right now. And she cries harder and you think again how great the lighting is right now. And maybe tomorrow the light will look the same. And maybe tomorrow you’ll work up the nerve to end things sooner rather than later, because if you do it now it will hurt less for both of you. And maybe tomorrow you’ll take that letter to the mailbox and drop it in. But maybe you won’t. Because maybe tomorrow the light will be better for saying you’re sorry.