Your Goddam Gardenias

I’m going to visit my ex-girlfriend this weekend. I hate her. I can’t wait to bicker about who broke up with whom. I hear she’s wearing jean skirts now, and likes to care for her gardenias. She never used to be into plants, but she has since our fights abruptly ceased which happened because we abruptly ceased speaking to one another. I’ll greet her at the door and she’ll shake my hand and ask me why I used to kick her dog so much. I can’t wait to look her in the eyes and scream out how much I hated her pink polished toes.

She’s nervous. I can tell because she said so. I can also tell she’s been looking forward to this because the apartment is immaculate. It smells like potpourri and flowers and candles and burnt toast. She smells like everything I ever loved about her. I opt for an embrace and she holds tight and buries her eyes into my wrinkled shirt. I’m remembering how much I loved her hair products and how godawful she was at cooking. Even toast. The stereo is playing Lisa Loeb and I know this song and we know this song and we knew this song together, once, before, long before. I want to kiss the back of her neck, the top of her spine where her hair hits.

We sit cross-legged on the floor, the tension thick and nerves wracked already. I can’t sit in chairs because I’ll end up doing that thing she hates, that thing where I cross my legs and my pants don’t hit my ankles quite right and I love me and she doesn’t. She didn’t love Thom Yorke either, and that too caused so many problems. She wants to know why I broke up with her right after she broke up with me and I have to remind her. It’s because I’m so sad I say. You couldn’t stand it. You couldn’t stand a lot of things, but particularly not my feelings. You couldn’t even stand my feelings for you. Remember when you laughed in my face, when I wanted to die and run and run and die and love you and you just laughed? God I must’ve turned red. She’s going to cry again I know it, she’s probably remembering how much she hates me, how badly I ruined her life. Her best years, wasted away on a boy too in love and too sad and too angry. She’s remembering how happy I made her and I know this and I remind her how much we laughed. She was never funny, is still not funny, but made me smile and so I laughed too because she wanted me to and because I didn’t want to be the only funny person in the room.

She doesn’t eat pizza anymore either, the colors are too ugly and the sauces too grotesque. But she gardens, it’s true. My life’s the same and she knows it so I have nothing new to tell her. She wouldn’t be interested anyways, not the way she’s interested in painting or the color red or the grapefruits at the grocery store. The crackle of my kretek is the only sound in the room and I like it that way and she knows this, from knowing by habit, from familiarity, even though she’s never seen me light up. I knew you so much better I say and she agrees and we mumble together for minute after minute until I can’t stand what she’s doing to me again and she can’t take my cleverness and my anxiety and god it’s warm in here. I’m glad this stopped working I think myself, then say it aloud and she nods and I immediately regret it because I still feel and care and want to affect but can’t. This time, for now at least, she’s not bored with me but I know it’s time to leave here and leave her and leave the country for some place where I won’t have to sit and ache and look at the gardenias. The music has stopped and the breeze from the window is stronger now and so the smoke swirls and curls and dances on my lips, as do the words on hers and the tears on both our cheeks.

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