I can’t remember what was on those cups. Some sort of floral pattern maybe. I ended up using ones with chrysanthemums. I got them from the thrift store on Pearl Street. It took some doing, but I found that wine too. The one with the frogs on it.
“I can’t remember which cup is mine.” I say out loud as if you’re here, like we were years ago. I pretend to hear your response from back then.
“It doesn’t matter. We’ll be swapping more than spit before the night’s over.” And you grabbed a cup and swigged the wine like it was lager.
It took me years of smelling incense, essential oils, perfumes, and colognes to find that lavender you wore. In truth I never really found it. The closest I ever came was a bar of soap I discovered at one of those craft booths at the Fair one year. My girlfriend at the time handed it to me and said, “Don’t you love the smell of lavender?” No. I loved a woman who smelled like lavender. I take out the bar of soap and inhale. You’re almost here.
I sip the wine and close my eyes. The wine on my tongue, the smell of lavender in my nose, and Toad The Wet Sprocket in my ears. I can almost see you stepping out of the shower.
I didn’t know I was going to do this. It started with an innocent search for an Airbnb. I just wanted a place to stay that wasn’t home. I needed space to work on the novel. I clicked on the photo of the house because it looked familiar. I didn’t realize it was your father’s old place until I saw the interior photos.
I told myself it was a nice place and that it would be good to work in a familiar setting, but as soon as I reserved it I knew tonight was happening. How could it not?
I tap through photos of you on my phone. I finish the wine. I say your name. I say it again louder. I say it as if you’re still somewhere in this house, as if we’re still in our twenties, as if your father didn’t sell this house, divorce your mother, and move to Toronto. I say your name as if you can hear me.
“I’m going out for a smoke.” I say.
I step outside, light up, and look at the pictures on my phone again. And think of another memory.
“You don’t smoke.” That’s what you said that time I snatched a Newport from your mouth.
“I do now.” I say, inhaling the menthol then and now.
I think about actually calling you rather than calling your name. I imagine you coming here. I wonder how long we could fake old love if we tried. I bet we could get a good weekend out of it. I take a drag on the cigarette, blow out the smoke, and watch the smoke coalesce into the shape of you. It disappears before I can lean in for a kiss.
I drop the cigarette and step on it, smoldering whatever fire remains. I put my phone away, go inside, and turn off the music. I’ve conjured as much of you as my memory will allow. I try not to think of all the reasons we’ll never see each other again. Then I get back to writing.
Jack Cameron is the author of 15 Minute Stories, a collection of flash fiction and Ruin Your Life, a self-help book for hooligans. He is preparing to publish his first novel, A Better Lie. His work has also appeared in Creative Colloquy, Grit City Magazine, and The Pitkin Review. His website, TacomaStories.com covers local businesses and events as well as every homicide that happens in the city. He has an Associates in Human Services from Tacoma Community College, a Bachelor of Arts from The Evergreen State College, and is currently an MFA in Creative Writing Candidate at Goddard College. You can find him online @jackcameron on Twitter He also writes a weekly newsletter called Notes From Table 30 that you can subscribe to at http://jackcameron.substack.com