Cities Where You’ve Lived, As Boyfriends by Leah Mueller

Portland is your hipster boyfriend with a tongue ring, the one who is always stoned, the guy who can’t be counted on for a commitment. He wants to have many other lovers, and doesn’t care if you have them, too. Portland will get together with you when he feels like it, not the other way around. Portland insists that you be hyper-aware of popular culture, and treats you as if you are stupid if you are unable to keep pace with him. You won’t be able to keep pace, because Portland lives for Doug Fir concerts, shots at the Sandy Hut, and standing in long lines for doughnuts and tacos while sporting a three-day beard growth. You and Portland have a stormy but loveless romance, and you finally leave him for Kalamazoo. When you see Portland again a few years later, you marvel about how much he has matured, and feel sad that the two of you met at the time that you did. Portland then acts like he wants you back, but he really doesn’t.

Kalamazoo is the boyfriend who gets drunk, smashes your possessions, and steals your laptop so he can sell it to buy crack. Crack this week, and meth the next. Who’s keeping track? Not you, because you’re too exhausted to keep track. Kalamazoo wears saggy pants and has a crew cut, and is always lying on his back underneath his car, working on the engine with a cigarette protruding from his mouth. The engine will never be fixed, because Kalamazoo never has a job and doesn’t have money for parts. Kalamazoo is always suspicious of your motives and thinks you’re sneaking around, but he’s the unfaithful one, not you. You don’t care what he does, as long as it’s not with you. Kalamazoo makes Portland look really, really good by comparison. You can’t wait to get away from Kalamazoo, and you leave him in the gravel, staring at his defective car engine, while you split for Chicago.

Chicago was your first boyfriend. He’s still standing in the yard of his four-flat, grilling something. He welcomes you back as if you’ve never been away, and asks what sort of beer you would like to have with your steak. Unlike Kalamazoo, Chicago always has money, and he is congenitally unable to think of much else, but you’re oddly okay with this, at least for the time being. Chicago makes good steaks and the beer is always flowing. He sports a stylish, short haircut, wears nice suits, and has a job in the Loop. You don’t really understand what he does for a living, but you don’t care because he takes you out to eat in fancy restaurants and shows you off to his friends. He’s a bit dull and routine-addicted, but that’s not really his fault. It’s just that you always felt claustrophobic in the relationship, so you eventually leave him for Tacoma.

Tacoma is much smarter than he looks, and that is a big part of his appeal. He’s not as important or as fashionable as Portland or Chicago, but although he is rough around the edges, he’s not nearly as menacing as Kalamazoo. Tacoma has steady, if menial employment. You’d be tempted to write him off as ordinary, but then he opens his mouth and says something surprisingly intelligent. Tacoma knows about many of the same things that Portland does, but isn’t nearly as invested in advertising that fact. You find this endearing. He also treats you with a touching deference, as if he’s actually glad to have you around, and would miss you if you left. You decide to settle down with Tacoma for awhile, and the two of you buy a three bedroom house with a fenced yard together, for a quarter of the price it would cost you to live with Seattle.

Seattle won’t even answer your calls.


*Leah Mueller is a Tacoma-based writer and astrologer/tarot reader/mystical type.  She has recently been published by Silver Birch Press, Cultured Vultures, Five 2 One, Quail Bell, Bop Dead City, Talking Soup, Nostrovia Poetry, Nysai Press, Dirty Chai, and The Rain, Party, and Disaster Society.  Her chapbook, “Queen of Dorksville” is available on Amazon.  Leah is currently at work on another chapbook and a collection of humorous erotic short stories.