By Jill Talbot
Hand me that corkscrew, the black one in the middle drawer. I’ll grab a glass.
We shouldn’t have been up there, up on that roof. Bud Lights guzzling the night. I remember the first students shuffling the sidewalks before the sun. Their heads down, their backpacks heavy as the dark folded its envelope. Only then did we think about pulling our legs up from the ledge.
They tore that building down about a year after we both moved away. All that’s left is a story or two we’ll never tell. I loved you. Maybe I shouldn’t have yelled it from the shower while you sat on the edge of my couch, smoking a Winston six days before your wedding.
Is there more? If not, I bought a bottle today. Check the bottom shelf.
You’d always call from that pay phone in the back of the bar. The late-afternoons of your mid-drunkenness. I could hear the click and sweep of your silver Zippo, the whisper of blue flame. Your hair graying at twenty-eight, those plaid shirts you wore, the fragile frames of your glasses.
I’m just going to empty this one.
You remember the night the electricity went out and we sped down 14th waving at all the dark windows? No, it wasn’t that night. It was when I stood in front of my closet folding a sweater. A gray one. You were on the phone, telling me about a burrito place in College Station.
What about that bathroom in the bar, the one with the curtain instead of a door?
I like these nights, when the Chardonnay climbs the rungs of memory to the roof of the building, and I can see the city the way it was then. Like now: I’m riding in your Accord or I’m laughing in your office door or I’m squinting against the dark of the bar to find your silhouette in the smoke.
This second bottle’s tipped me toward fingers that used to curl into that hole in your jeans. And I’m climbing the steps to your apartment, that one with the iron spiral staircase and a futon I’ve slept on since you gave it to me. And I’m knocking, knowing you’ll open without getting up from that leather chair where you sit and watch the 4:30 of Seinfeld.
Pour me a little more, won’t you?
I’m going to sit here at our back table until the Texas sun turns all the way down. I wonder if any of the bars where you are in Boise have a pay phone.
Here, hand me the bottle.
Now I’m at the back pew of your wedding. The curved lights of candelabras are like streetlights speeding by the window on the long train of outcome. A man pokes me on the shoulder and hands me a stack of tissues. I’m so far back I can’t see you, so I stare at the tiny pencil in its holder and hold on.
Look, I’m almost to the bottom.
It’s dark in here, like the corner of a corner booth, and those years in Lubbock a folded envelope.
This night a ledge.
A whisper of blue flame.
Pour me another.
Photo by Christian Sorensen Hansen, West Coast based ocular illusionist. See More at http://christiansorensenhansen.com.