Second Place Winner, 2015 Livershot Memoir Contest
About the Writer
S.M Whitfield is a writer based in New England. You can find her on Twitter as @sm_whitfield.
I take a picture of your coffee cup after you leave. Then I lick the spoon you used, still resting in the cup, still tasting of the warm, bitter liquid. But not of you, of course.
I take a picture of your half-finished wine glass from the night before. Later, I will drink the wine to help me sleep for a few hours.
I take a picture of the rose you gave me that morning. Standing there in the crowded market you asked me to choose a color. I picked the pink one with the darker edges.
By the time I take the picture it lies lifeless in the gray tissue paper I carried it around in all day. Afterwards I use my dinner knife to cut off its stem—I don’t have to be careful with the thorns because you have already snapped those off for me. I put the bloom in the only book I have with me on this trip—it opens at a chapter titled “Persistence.” I squish the dead flower between the pages.
I take a picture of our bed. Our pillows are rumpled, the shape of our heads pressed into the fabric that just a few hours ago was smooth, crisp. Our blankets dangle off the end, the light outside the window gray and cold. Your pillow still smells like your skin that night, so I sleep with it against my face, inhaling you. I briefly consider stealing the pillow from the hotel and taking it with me. But I know your scent will be gone soon. It’s no use.
I wanted to take a picture of you glowing in the candlelight in the church. You lit that candle for my child, you tell me later, and I wave you off and laugh because I can’t cry in the middle of the street. You laugh too and I think of how you raised your face to the statue of the saint that stood at the altar and I think that surely your prayers will be answered.
Two days later, at home, I am in bed with my son. My husband has left for work and I drink coffee from the white ceramic mug I bought with you—wholly impractical, without a handle, almost too hot to hold, but the cup warms my hands. I held a teacup like this with you at a coffee shop and then I warmed your hands with mine and you smiled and squeezed my fingers.
You have perfectly manicured nails that scratch me just so, just enough—down my stomach and my thighs and up between my breasts—careful not to leave a mark, but enough to make me feel like I am about to be devoured. I try not to think about that as I hold your hands. I want you constantly and insistently, but I know that for you that part of our meeting is finished. You think it makes things less complicated to have a few hours between our lovemaking and our good-bye. It all seems complicated to me.
The front of the coffee shop is covered in twisted vines—some sort of art installation. You say it looks like cancer. I say it looks like a nest. I suppose it could be both.
We walk on—your stride is easy to match with my steps—just the right speed and length and I tell you that I could walk to the ends of the earth with you like this.
We take a picture of ourselves right outside the city hall. We laugh at the bad angles and our double chins but when I look at the pictures the next day I barely recognize us. Are we this happy together?
I take a picture of the restaurant where we had dinner the night before. I am walking alone now and I happen upon it by accident. When we walked there together I just followed you blindly. You could have taken me anywhere. I am cold and hungry but I can’t get myself to walk in, to see the table where we sat together—in the corner, behind the coat rack.
I take pictures of food and bridges and buildings and, if anyone would look at them, it would all seem so innocent, so boring: a bed, a dead flower, a weird building with vines.
The pictures would mean absolutely nothing. And maybe they don’t.