“That’s Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”

“That’s Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”

You never knew this, but I have missed you more than I would like to admit

Especially on weeks when you fly back home

We used to talk mindlessly on your balcony,

Your balcony on the 15th floor, constructed of glass and steel railings that overlooked the 55 Freeway

Where the sun knew to tuck itself behind that high-rise apartment

The one that looked like yours

I still recall how hot it felt when I’d rest my elbow listening to you speak

Your words, neither pat nor insincere

Sentences, words, letters would run down your chin

Depending on your mood, letters would drop off

And the vowels would collect at the corner of your mouth

We shared shots of gin – not my thing, but yours

Your comforters held creases from our bodies following late-night video games

Call of Duty: Black Ops, game controllers tainted by greasy fingerprints

Your balcony sliding door open

None of the lights were on but the television in your bedroom

As the traffic 15 floors below us died down

You were a friend in a scene full of actors

“Touch base this, reinvent the wheel that”

Were our lines until we were able to drop our roles and the superfluous office jargon and just be twentysomething-year-olds

As the CEO flirted with the new hires

And account managers failed to take accountability

We continued to shrug our shoulders, roll our eyes, take smoke breaks, and stare into the abyss that was the corporate parking lot

While half the sales floor team congregated near that plume of smoke near the ashtray

Our lofty ambitions and deferred dreams were scraps of paper collecting at the gutter of the curb – gum wrappers, old receipts and Coke bottle lids

I met you on a Wednesday; it had to be

Two years ago when the days were golden

You caught a train to California from the Midwest

And one of the first things you did was laugh at something I said

We joked about how the weekend went with no pants on

You becoming a directionless 27-year-old law graduate

And me, an interior decorator, whose marriage was tethered to the wrong person

A Marisa Tomei-type receiving more calls from angry wives of men than from my own mother

You’ve cared for me

Knew when to ask questions

Knew when to shut the hell up

And knew when to let me be because I’d had it

Don’t tell me that the only few interests that connected us

Were cigarettes, exhausted discussions about our exes and aversion to corporate gluttony

Were you scared when I sent you that lengthy text?

About how much I miss us and how we don’t say any more than five words to each other?

This was no romance, purely platonic, but a relationship nonetheless

While our clothes stayed on

My words ran off

My heart, worn on my sleeve

And you never reciprocated the same way

Or at all…

Were the telephone wires in the city undergoing maintenance?

Did I miss smoke signals in the sky?

Should I have tried harder?

Should you have tried at all?

How did I know that when happy hours with co-workers were miserable?

You would be the only one to notice me walk away?

Go ahead – walk the plank

Walk, no stumble, into the role that we often used to crap on

I’ll be here

Jill of all trades, master of none

A generalist in a specialized world

I hate that we’ve grown apart

I hate forced small talk,

Wanting to finish your sentences, but can’t anymore,

Yups and nods and hands in pockets

Eyes that drift toward the Sparkletts water machine

The air bubbles floating to the surface

As they respond for you

Monday morning exchanges were reduced to, How was your weekend?

But this time, the pants stayed on.

What should we do?

Should we sit down and talk around the point of concern until I’m proven right?

Would you help me pick a scab that won’t heal?

Trash this friendship and start a new one?

Tell you that I think you should leave?

I remember your hazel eye with that bit of orange

The scent of bergamot inside your car

The cracked leather of your Nissan Sentra

Your week-long absence because you got Shingles

and how you quit smoking before me.

What happened?

Do you know what happened?

Does the sales floor know?

Are we playing a game of hot and cold?

Are we walking in a straight line like 3rd graders?

Is the kid behind me stepping on the back of my shoe as my sneakers fall loose?

Why does it feel like my sock keeps rolling down into my shoe?

Do I have a dryer sheet clinging to my fleece sweater and nobody is telling me?

Does this DMV line truly wrap around this building?

I can still recall the touch of the hot metal railing of your balcony as I hear you speak

As time shoves its way into everything,

I wonder if words continue to pour out of your mouth
And if the vowels still collect at the corner of your lips.

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