valero.

on

Things felt simpler back then. The summer nights were just as long and the mosquitoes bit at our ankles just as painfully, but the blue V of the Valero sign never ceased it’s neon buzzing as it lit up the parking lot while we held tightly to the cigarettes between our fingers and the confusions in our hearts. You used to say,

“The things that make my mind race are just more bad habits that I can’t let go of” as you’d flick embers onto asphalt.

I hoped that I was what made your mind race, but either way, my mind raced for you. I would have taken one last drag of the cigarette, letting tobacco smoke fill my lungs and drown me, pulling me under an ocean of leaden sadness the way saying good-bye always did, but there was always another cigarette. Not always another you.

You hadn’t worn a shirt that night. Your moles tracking distance across your back, and catching a glimpse of you, I imagined all the future space between us to be as far as mole one to mole two. My dad had told me,

“Life isn’t always that simple.” I’d always thought that he hadn’t learned to will it. I told myself that I would always find my way home to you if you left out the map for me to find. I started to wonder,

“Where is the map?”

We started to see the town taking shape out of the dark outlines. The day had switched on around us, and the people driving down the dusty road wayside of the Valero were multiplying as navy blue skies turned to water color cerulean. I would have to get back home soon just to end up packing all my things into my dodgy, scrap metal Mercedes-Benz. In the hours intervening, my brother, placing the disassembled pieces of my desk into the trunk of my car, would say,

“I feel like you’ll end up dying without someone taking care of you.”

Won’t I be taking care of me? I might have contemplated, but who would have thought it would end up being so hard. Sun had risen on the day and the Valero sign switched off as pure daylight shone down on those filling their cars with gas. I was among them. This time without the image of you standing facing me in front of it.

That was our end: known or unknown, that was our end. I wish I would have known it then.  I can’t even remember if you kissed me good-bye.

I hope you would have kissed me good-bye.

 

 

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