/ Ploy Techawatanasuk

Prose Poetry4 min reading time

The man beside me, I met him earlier in a bookstore like this, except the lights were a little paler, the floors creakier, the books worn more thoroughly through, but I met him nonetheless. His accent heavy, each word pronounced with new punctuation, new laws of a language I love, his tongue cutting air and touching teeth as he pronounces into the phone, I don't know what you want, just tell me what you want, while his fingers graze the fading spines that held together childhood dreams. The man beside me, his hair is light too, though I can't tell if it's his nature or his age, his eyes are bright too, his smile like yours with the same tragic gentleness that dug its sweetness like a hook of sugar into the meat between my ribs, pulling and pulling, my scales glinting as I thrash, and you, poor fisherman wanting only fish and not some siren sick in the head, siren without song, siren skinned so it might be easier to love her beneath the flesh, you, pulling and pulling until, in the singular splintering second it takes for the man to crack open his mouth and laugh into the phone, I am beached once more, all over again. The man beside me, I thought it might be you, I prayed it would be you, still praying a year later, finding religion in the crevices of a want that became too comfortable in my body, still praying like a mother in the fifth stage of grief and ready to invent fifty more because she can't bear to bury her baby, I can't bear to bury my baby, my want, my craving that became me, I can't bear to bury me. I wondered what I would say if it was you, if he transformed into you like a moon coming into its fullness, his features becoming lighter until he burned incandescent, his legs becoming longer, brows darker, skin softer, until suddenly you, in this bookstore with newer, nicer books, awash in the warmer light like you were heating up and burning incandescent, you, in this bookstore with newer, nicer me where you stand at six feet and this time I measure up, still at five-five and you don't see it but I'll show you how I've grown, all the little ways I'm better now, better than before, better than the girl at fifteen thinking she was in love with you, no, she didn't even know love. You, in this bookstore while I compete with a teenage shadow from the years that we lost, while you look at me and I still don't know what you are thinking, what you mean, my God I don't know what you want, just tell me what you want, and I am on my knees like I am laying at my ancestor's grave begging for forgiveness that becomes ugly defiance, why do I love him? do I love him? I love him! while your silence digs me my own burial, tossing soil like confetti for a party of two. If I keep standing here, keep you with me, maybe time would open its arms like punctuation, an em-dash on either side so we were a singular clause—no longer separate pages, no paragraphs in between, bracketed into my private reality where I am ageless and you are unmarried, childless, your smile only gentle for me, the girl with red hair who never ate any men—or better yet, a hyphen so we were one word, with nothing to make you you, or me me, and you were me and I were you like Russian dolls in an infinite loop. Then, all the want growing like vines around my bones would fall away, become light, because you are here, with me in a place like the underbelly of a heavy rock while the river of time flows around, ebbs over, and we are still, satisfied, together. The man beside me, his shirt white enough to make me feel like a stain, I wondered if it might've been you, but if I'm being honest, his hair might've been white, or brown, or black, and his accent might've been plain, flat like mine, and his smile might've been tired, or sharp, or maybe he never even smiled, because if I'm being honest, every man is any man is you, always always you, some sick joke where I believe, like every poet and artist and dying girl, I will have one great love, one true real final love and I'm scared it might be you. And for all the times I'll see you again in all the bookstores in the world, I will want to crawl inside you, curl up beside the warmth of your incandescent heart and listen while it beats, roaring like a fire halfway burnt, still fucking praying all these years later.