Words By April Dávila, Art By Clonerh Kimura
The first time you fucked Alex for the last time, you were nineteen. Afterward, you pulled the cool sheet up around your breasts and lit a Camel cigarette to buy yourself a few more minutes in his bed. He was already up. When he reached for the cigarette, you let him take a drag, and as he passed it back his eyes sparkled with a smile that you had come to understand meant this has been fun, but you should put your clothes on.
So you did.
A few hours later, you made sure to run into him at a graduation party. Alex wouldn’t be walking in the ceremony. He would be back in the fall to finish up a few credits. He would be back. That was all that mattered.
You made a place for yourself in the corner and struck up a conversation with a boy from your intro bio class. Holding a red plastic cup of PBR, you leaned back against the wall and glanced up every few minutes to see if Alex had noticed you talking to another guy. He hadn’t.
You sipped and smiled because next year would be different. You would be a sophomore, no longer a child. He would pay more attention.
When Mahvish found you at the end of the night to tell you it was time to go, you were drunk enough to approach Alex where he stood in front of the house with a circle of other guys. You smelled the pot before you saw the joint.
You wondered if any of his friends knew about you, if they knew how sweet he was when he kissed your fingertips in the morning and got you high before class, if they knew the way he called out your name when his hands were buried in your hair and his hips jerked against your face. You doubted it.
You tapped him on the shoulder, trying with all your might to be flirtatious. He turned. His eyes were bloodshot and his sleepy grin said what’s up. The other boys fell quiet.
“I’m leaving,” you said, gesturing to Mahvish, who was loading her blotto boyfriend into the passenger seat of her Civic.
“Okay,” he said. You hugged him, feeling foolish when his arms stayed slack, and said something like see you next year.
“Yeah,” he said, and turned away.
You spent the last night in your freshman dorm room listening to Mahvish and her boyfriend grope at each other and you cried, just a little, in the dark.
The second time you and Alex fucked for the last time was the summer before your junior year. He would be a senior again. He visited you at your parents’ home in Sonoma and shopped with you for the things you’d need on your semester abroad. You bought the money belt he recommended and ignored him when he insisted that you could buy shampoo once you got there.
You drank red zinfandel on the porch swing overlooking the sleepy neighborhood of your youth and watched the sun go down. Then you took each other’s clothes off slowly in the comfort of your full-sized bed, surrounded by the forest-green walls you had painted yourself years before.
He held you in his arms afterward and you thought he would tell you how much he was going to miss you. Instead he told you that you should feel free to sleep with other guys while you were gone. He didn’t want you to feel obligated.
Your vision of romantic, trans-Atlantic emails evaporated. Instead of professing your love and swearing to be true while you were gone, you opted for a quiet shrug and a whatever, and spent the semester fucking a beautiful, long-haired Spaniard with oil paint under his fingernails.
The third time, your ass was balanced on a metal handrail in the rooftop bathroom of the Viceroy. His belt jingled around his ankles. The sequins on your dress scratched your waist and the tiny blue hydrangea in his boutonniere had come loose. It bounced against his suit jacket. The soft petals fell to the checkered tile floor.
You eyed him as you straightened your panties and he buckled his pants. He had fine lines around his eyes that made him look older than he was, and the way his hair fell in his face looked messy. You told him to fix it before he left the bathroom, and joined your date on the terrace overlooking Los Angeles.
The last time you and Alex slept together for the last time, you could hear water lapping at the black rocks of the river. Late morning light filtered through the pines and landed on the fabric walls of the tent, turning everything puke green and making the air unbearably humid. Your head throbbed and your mouth tasted of stale beer.
He peeled off the layers that had kept you warm in the night, and coaxed you back into sober consciousness. You let his kisses fall on you and thought back over the seven years you spent wanting nothing else.
You had accumulated so many heartaches by then. You could tell by the way he touched you that morning that he wanted to fix them, to find every wound and kiss it until it healed.
He lay grunting and heavy on top of you. He had gained weight. You both had, but you took pleasure in the fact that you had gained less. His sweat dripped onto your face and when you turned your head you noticed that a fly had died entangled in the mesh screen of the tent door.
Afterward, lying there swollen and sweaty on the sleeping bag, he made no move to get dressed.
The slippery fabric of the sleeping bag twisted beneath you as you lifted it and bent to pull your clothes on in the cramped tent.
He looked at you and smiled in a way you had come to understand meant please don’t leave me.
But you did.