I’m sure I heard you say it.
The name fell awkwardly from your lips into the sullen din, the grace of its syllables made ugly by your clumsy tongue. I heard it and my skin puckered, each pore tensing and every hair standing up, as longing swept through me. My memories of there still steam, raw and hot, as if they’d just been born, just been made whole.
I will be patient if you are forthcoming with your secrets. Have you truly been there, breathed its air and tasted the salt of its shores on the back of your tongue? Has it put its mark on you? Did you too feel the heat of its scorned regard every day that you did not return?
I would call it my second home if it had not so thoroughly usurped the first. The streets there know my heart. They’ve mapped their twists and turns onto my veins so that the simple pumping of blood could teach my feet their permutations.
No matter your familiarity, somehow I don’t believe that place greeted you the same. It didn’t keep you awake for countless nights, singing the sweat from your brow until you could speak its name flawlessly like the benediction it should be.
I left before it was time; my string was cut short. An accident, it was promised. But once cut, the door creaked open in front of me. I remember digging in my heels, holding on for dear life. I can still recall the pressure of able hands at the small of my back. I think I was pushed. Though I scrambled for purchase on the threshold, my flight proved as impossible to prevent as catching a cresting wave with my bare hands.
You don’t look like much. To hear that name on your lips is torture. I know I heard you say it. Don’t deny it.
Oh, for another day there, for an hour, I would do anything. Do not speak to me of obsession, of contentment, of living in the now. I have savored those lands with every inch of myself and found this place a gauche echo, a paltry shadow. And so I will hunt for the means of my return until my feet falter, my eyes cloud and the parched winds of this sorry consolation prize have bleached my bones.
Speak. I will crawl into your esophagus if I must, to reclaim that homeland, one I’d forged of intention, rather than a circumstance of birth. If you’ve hidden the cipher for the reaching of it somewhere behind your incisors, I will pluck the teeth from your mouth like boiled sweets until it is mine again.
I know what I heard. And I lied to you earlier. I am not that patient.
dave ring is the community chair of the OutWrite LGBTQ Book Festival in Washington, DC. He was a 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow and a 2018 Futurescapes resident. He has recently placed stories with Mythic Magazine, FLAPPERHOUSE, Speculative City and The Disconnect. He is the editor of Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was, forthcoming from Mason Jar Press in August 2018. More info at http://www.dave-ring.com. Follow him on Twitter at @slickhop.