I focus on the small crabs, whose bodies were grey, but I remember them as perhaps blue or purple. I focus on lettuce leaves, the smooth surface of hard boiled eggs, the scars on your hands, the way the counter presses into my collarbone. The lights, the lamps, the rugs, the guests.
I think about you at all hours, but only when it’s late can I leave the house, drive into the wooded veins of town, and dream. Music heightens the experience. If I focus too much, if I am too influenced by my surroundings I get drawn out of it. With proper inattention I become lost, I am crying, I can see you.
It’s always about the ocean, even though we’ve never gone there, not together, anyway. I know you love the ocean, too. I wish I knew if you loved me.
I have gone to the ocean several times this past month, and every time I message you. Here are my feet, wading through the too-sticky water, the waves are so small, I’ve nearly stepped on forty hermit crabs. Here are mollusks I’ve placed in my pocket, hollowed out and broken, just like me. Here are my hands, I wonder where yours are. I daydream about the way you used to lean on the counter. I wonder how you would lean if you were in the sea. Would you lean into me, or the sand? Perhaps I should come back in my bathing suit. I’m far too afraid to sit in these goopy lines, which run all over the ground. I hear the woman behind me asking her husband what they are. He doesn’t respond and she says maybe they are eggs, maybe they are trash. He says he doesn’t know.
I lean on the car to scrape sand off the bottoms of my feet. Later that night I return to watch the sun set. I am not alone, and when the strawberry moon appears, it’s so beautiful I want to cry. I try to take a picture to send to you but the clouds intervene. They don’t want me to give everything away. I can’t help myself.
Melted berry compote you would reduce on a stove in the back. The idea of connecting each of the walk-in refrigerators to create one chilled experience. The blue apple eggs I have created in my mind’s eye, they contain ghosts, you cannot cut them without a proper knife. The food in the kitchen is unreal, surreal. No matter what I do I am always thinking about your presence in prose. No matter what literary space I try to occupy myself with, no matter what reaches of my memory I dive into.
I always return to the foyer, I return to your hands, ghost cookies, wax paper, grease pencils, pearl earrings, skull earrings, candy corn, rotary phones, freshly vacuumed rugs. Swamp dust and storm puddles, alligator balloons, stuffed animal gifts, a plate that a child drew a smiley face onto. Sitting on hands, exchanging secrets for birds, watching those same birds fly in and out of the chest like it’s nothing, like magic is just another Tuesday. Loving five o’clock, loving everyone. Everyone loving everyone else. Everyone losing everyone else, then everyone gaining. The gentle way that rain falls on the house—this house. The house lit from within. The house yellow and soft against the night, though painted gold, paint flaking to reveal brick, brick stretching into the earth. I’m in love beneath the storm lamps. When I get home I’m coated in bugs.
The restaurant splinters in my mind’s eye, the way it splintered in Fall. I remember holding hands above filled sinks, forgetting the alphabet when weeded, beer hidden in the fridge, cookies tucked away where the butter should be. I was a nested sentence, I was a hostess, I was a panic attack, calmed only by strangers’ hands on my body.
I love the birds you love. It feels like they make a nest in my ribcage, maybe my heart, though perhaps that’s the lingering effects of a panic attack. What are the other parts of my body that I have completely forgotten existed because I am so completely obsessed with the heart? There are so many. I fear I cannot remember anything beyond hands, heart, lungs, veins. What else is there? I am not taking care. I am relapsing in the employee restroom with my wine key pressed to my left shoulder.
I wish you would write on me with grease pencil. Tell me the secrets you have left. I have only one, and it’s that the bird fits perfectly inside of my mouth just like a jawbreaker, but I have to be careful not to squish its feathers.
Tell me your favorite phone number. Tell me what you think is lovely about the world. I miss the cobwebs and the caramel hallway that was always cold. Privately, I want to write softly. I only want to feel soft things, to encase my memories, to come home with shoes in one hand, keys in the other. I want the smell of summer soap in the air, the healthy green hue of trees whose leaves are wide as my palms, sky full of arbor edges and stars. To walk around the edges of the lake, to hold your hand as you guide me.
Sometimes I am in love with the emptied husk of a restaurant, replaying conversations with every guest, incapable of pause or indifference. These days it’s all head-first, all of the time. And when I’m not daydreaming about you, I am afraid.
Samantha Moe is a queer creative writer and editor. After receiving her M.F.A. in fiction from Converse College, she wanted to pursue her PhD, and is currently studying creative writing at Illinois State University. She writes about food, researches restaurants, and she loves nature writing. Her work has appeared in Overheard Lit Mag, and she is the recipient of an Author Fellowship award from Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. When not writing she illustrates a 1,000-foot art piece.