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Back You are here: Home Stories Words for the People Poetry February 2011: Bleeding Hearts BackBaby
Monday, 31 January 2011 18:44

BackBaby

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What if words had more power than we thought? What if they could make something real simply by being written or typed? Maybe it’s not just black on white, it’s something more and all it takes is a belief and it’ll become real.

My room is blank and cold now. The posters leer at me, everyone in them happier than I am. I stand there slouching, then fall into my blankets and pillows. I want to keep sinking into them, into the better world below them, swallowed by nothing but fluff and warmth. Instead they’re blank and cold, like the rest of my room. If you were here I could feel everything but you’re not. Blank and cold it is.

I think I let you get too close, that’s why I went distant. I always withdraw anytime things get too deep. Maybe I’m tired of the hurting, all that bullshit pressure. I sabotaged myself again. I teased you when you were mad after that restaurant. They were jerks and I’m sorry, next time I’ll stand up for you instead of ignoring them. If there is a next time. You didn’t talk to me the entire next day. I think I knew then where things were going. I felt the disconnect.

I hated relationships for so long. Dread always creeped in when the thought of one crossed my mind. I don’t want to be one of those couples where we’re sitting at a restaurant and we’re both on cell phones ignoring each other. Or I sit at home playing video games while you watch reality TV and grow to hate me. I don’t want to grow old or boring. I don’t want to sit there like my life finally passed me by and I’m floating in the wake. But somehow I stayed with you for three years. And they were good years I thought. Most of them were good.

I spent most of my time at your place; mine was in such disarray all the time. Three guys in one spot will do that I suppose. You’d have breakfast for me if I came over in the mornings. Pancakes, you were great at those. You stood there in your pajamas poking at them with your spatula while I banged around with your coffee machine. You don’t even drink coffee, you bought that for me. You never told me but I knew. Was I too passive? Did I let too much happen inside your pretty head?

I remember that video we made, I hope it never surfaces. We spent so much time in bed reading books and kicking each other. Our relationship was built in that bed. We twisted sheets and blankets, bunched up pillows, pulled hair, squeezed hands together so tight it hurt. We fought over what music to listen to, mine was too depressing and yours was too whiny. I laid there silent and despondent, you poked me in the ribs and brought me out of it.

I never saw your parents very much; they were always somewhere between coming and going when we were around. I liked your sister though; she was like a younger, ruder version of you. But she wasn’t you, you were so much cuter. Your spark flashed much brighter in my eyes. We had that sync, that understanding. Your sister mostly just gave me sour looks and rolled her eyes when we sat together. She shared the same disdain I had for your parents though.

I think I really won you over that one Valentine’s Day. All the girlfriends I’d had and I never sent them flowers. It took me days to find the right ones. I scoured over the internet; I must have seen a thousand different bouquets. I meandered around grocery store floral departments, pinching petals, thumbing stamens. I didn’t know shit about flowers. Then I found them, those orchids. They were on a website and the picture was small but the colors struck me so I sent them to you. I wasn’t trying to win you over; I just wanted to make all your coworkers jealous. Then I saw them in person and I was stunned. No wonder they won you over, I’d never seen flowers like that before. Maybe I’ll send them more often.

You were such a good flirt, so subtle and confusing. I hated it at the time, questioning everything I did. When I look back though, it was so much fun deciphering your advances and quirks. Those early days were kind of a torture but I knew the fruits would be worth all that picking. I walked around corners, hoping you’d be there. I spent the day nervous, wondering if I’d see you and when I saw you, it was always a surprise. I’d instinctively smile, even if you weren’t looking. That’s the kind of power you had over me. I suppose I loved you, even back then.

When I first saw you, you were just another pretty girl. Your looks were unorthodox, you had what me and my brother used to call a comic-book body. Wide hips and a slouch. You knew how to move when you walked too. That’s what first struck me about you. Then one day we were alone for five minutes or so and I decided to talk to you. I couldn’t sit there and be quiet, it didn’t feel right. So I made fun of the DJ on the radio and you looked right in my eyes and smiled and swallowed my heart and I knew I wouldn’t get it back. It was such a forbidding rush and it filled me every time I saw you after that. I couldn’t stay away from you, it wasn’t my choice anymore. It was new; it was a warm comforter on those blank and cold nights.

So I’m writing this in reverse. Because I want that back, I need you back. Did it work? Do you love me again like you did in the beginning? Am I Superman? Did I spin the Earth in the opposite direction?  Do words really have that power? Or is it really just black on white?




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Stephen Conley

Stephen's single claim to fame is interviewing crime master James Ellroy, which may or may not be published in a 2011 collection. His work can be seen at Pulp Metal Magazine and in local rag SWIRL Magazine. When he's not writing or drinking himself into a stupor, he can be found watching Peep Show on BBC or fruitlessly chasing girls with boyfriends.

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