Some beer-soaked dance floor in a bar outside Boulder. I’m twenty-eight or twenty-nine, wild inside a pocket of bodies and an I’ve-gone-away mind, lifting a sweaty bottle of two-buck beer above my head like a lantern. He’s watching from the crowd’s edge.
Since he moved in months ago, I devise ways to disentangle, disappear.
Distance has become a habit.
Night after night, I sit on the end of a faded futon while he sleeps in the next room. I drink until the wine takes me down the back roads of bad choices, where I retrace missed exits, check my rearview for deleted messages and unanswered knocks on the door of my last apartment in Lubbock. In the dark, I stare at the snow-burdened trees outside our windows. Glass after glass after glass.
One Saturday afternoon, I slip away to the patio of a pub, where I sip Chardonnay and listen to the skitter of leaves (brisk wind). He pulls up a chair. I pull a book from my bag. I have a history of this: leave me be.
It’s been years, almost twenty, and I remember how he and I moved in the dark—his chest against my back, the way I asked him to do it. The way my cries rang as loud as our neighbors’ wall phone upstairs. The way our neighbors shyly smirked at us most mornings. Those mornings he lumbered up the steps and ducked out the door on his way to work in those Carhartts, that beard.
I’m thinking of this because a few nights ago, I fell into bed with a bearded stranger who wore Carhartts. That cotton gold like a lantern. It takes so little to take me back. It’s like that moment in Sarah Manguso’s The Guardians: “I know it isn’t him, but when I see someone who resembles him I stare, take in as much information as possible.” So how much could I take in when I took him inside me? I can’t be the only one who sometimes moves in the dark with memory.
I can’t remember my way around any city I’ve left behind.
So much gone.
I have a history of going, of going back, of thinking go away, go away, go away. Right now I’m sitting in the booth of a faded bar along a highway on my way back to Texas. I’m staring out a dusty window (wobbly table, sweaty bottle). Greyhound bus, UPS double-trailer, white construction truck, car, car, blue pick-up, SUV, cement truck, semi, semi, semi.
On the other side of the highway, trees bend
in the spring wind.
Jill Talbot is the author of The Way We Weren’t: A Memoir and Loaded: Women and Addiction. She’s also the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction. Her essays have appeared in AGNI, Colorado Review, Diagram, Ecotone, Hotel Amerika, Longreads, The Normal School, and The Paris Review Daily, among others.
Photo by Paul Bilger