I’m sorry that I could not tell you,
that I never learned to speak,
that my silence makes you shift your weight as though turning or bracing for a blow and
that you say it makes you uncomfortable,
that you made his hands arch as though from aching or in pleasure,
that you thought I was somebody else,
that I never answered your call.
It’s a matter of burning, or how, at three in the morning, you were the only other person I passed.
It’s a matter of seeing and how you cannot exist because I couldn’t look in your direction, because I did not know you, because the light cast from a streetlight was in my eyes. A step to the left, a side-thrown smile. But I am thinking of sinking. I am thinking of the frost gathered like dust on cars. Of rigid figures melting under bedsheets, their scarves pulled close to their faces, their lips shaping howls and oozing steam.
I promise that I am more elegant in daylight. I promise that you would love me, and watch me burning, instead of slouched and sullen, icy fingers thrust into my pockets deep and self-aware. I can explain.
I’m thinking then of burning, of how you might look in sunlight with you thin hands thrown up against the glare, of water boiling, of the wrinkles crossing the forehead of a man you know.
I almost turn to thank you for your company, but the moment has passed. I continue to my door and think of feet retreating, leaving paths cut out of frost like snowflakes made of paper. I am thinking of his hands on the sharp corner of your shoulder; I am warm.
You are mostly electric. The water in your body boils and spreads, leaves the impression of a smell, something coiled in the shape of the fact of burning. At night you lie awake and listen to the crackle of machinery inside your head, nothing but radio static and wine. Your fingers touch and snap with invisible spark. He recoils, wounded animal. You wet your lips for him the next time to drown the shock.
You imagine the end like a burning. Celestial or smoking, the butt of a cigarette. You imagine a blinding light, and I’m sorry I didn’t see you. I’m sorry I didn’t say hello.
There are pieces of him in you, shreds of light beneath the iris, a tic in your hand, a way of looking right and then left as though searching, things you would not believe if I told you.
If you remember who I am, tell him I said hello and watch his hands struggle up to his cheeks, so he can play out again behind his eyes the day I passed him with my black umbrella tilted down around my face, the day I didn’t see him.
Try to think of me the way he does, created pair of legs and torso, marionette, the walking dead.
The eye contact was incidental.
Remember that you looked away first this time, while you ran your tongue over the edges of your teeth and pulled another strand of hair from your scalp, sharp between your fingers, stress response.
Anything short of defiance would have been murder, defiance like the cups of coffee your mother drank while you were still fast inside her, heart racing, blood pushing in blind haste to be released until the last of the caffeine had escaped through the tips of her fingers.
Defiance like the inside of the dresser drawer that you left open so he could see what you had on beneath your clothes, so he could want to touch you and there would be a reason.
By murder I mean premeditated, and by premeditated I mean only that you should have left the coffee when he offered, but you were marinated in its juices until you were born and could never have refused.
I am not talking about the shape of his hand as it traced the contours of your body, his hands he holds up against your face as though remembering, as though filled with something to give you, as though to ask why you never finished.
And by murder I mean you do not remember which parts of him you touched and which you dreamed after, or what parts of you have known the shape of his hands and which you covered. I mean that you still draw your arms around your torso when you see him though you both avert your eyes, that the wrinkled sheets pressing lines in your thighs while you sleep were twisted by your dreaming hands, that you were only pretending.
By murder I mean you should have looked the other way. By defiance I mean only that you caught a stranger’s eye before it dropped and held it in the cupped, open palm of your hand.