The first love I lose to a yellow taxi.
We run along the Rhine River in Germany, stopping only to gaze at the wildflowers. We hike up the steps to El Duomo in Florence, looking down at the blanket of orange rooftops. I watch her make her first snow angel at age twenty-six in Switzerland; I am eighteen. Tonight, we go to a discotheque. She is drunk and though I have never tasted alcohol I think this means she needs someone. I take her home in a cab and open my mouth to say goodnight, but instead I feel her lips on my neck. I feel shy, unable to tell her that I am not gay, but I have forgotten how to breathe. Why am I thinking of the way she danced on a mountaintop, her bleach blonde hair brighter than the snowy sky? For days, I agonize over wanting to kiss her, and when I do, I think I hear her whisper, “I fucking love you.” Her imaginary words escape into the sky.
We try on love this way for two years. By the end I will start calling myself a lesbian. The last time she visits me she is distant and I'm afraid that we don't have what we once did. We pass notes back and forth to one another in my school library because she says she needs silence to work on her thesis. I tell her that she doesn't love me anymore. She says, "No. You don't love me." I consider it and say, "maybe I don't." She grabs her things, races towards my apartment and demands I open the door. I ask her to stop and plead that she talk to me, but she insists. I open the door. She immediately packs her bags and asks me to call her a cab. I ask her to wait, but again, she insists. I am yelling now, "Stop. What are we doing! Please, let's talk." She presses her lips against mine to soothe my anger. Her taxi is here. I watch her get in, and I watch the driver take her away.
A week later I call her and she asks me why I didn't follow her. A year later she calls me, drunk, to tell me I broke her heart.
The peaceful love I lose in Penn Station.
As we sit and drink tea on her off-campus terrace, I share with her my monsters and tell her I want an Alice in Wonderland tattoo on my thigh, "Alice is the Red Queen. She has only to defeat herself." She calls me a philosopher and later that evening kisses me in her bedroom. A week later I find out she is fourteen years my senior, but we date anyway because I think I have already started to love her. She takes care of me: she walks me to my psychiatrist appointments, stays awake with me when my meds keep me from sleeping, and makes me Pakistani style Chai with Paratha.
We try on love this way for ten months until it is time for her to move back to Pakistan. I leave first and can't stand being apart from her so I ask her to come to New York City to be with me. After a few days, I drop her off in Penn Station and cry openly on the subway back to my best friend's apartment.
Two years later, my grandmother lays dying, and the love I lost in Penn Station is back in the U.S., ready to hop on a plane to visit me. She is visiting with friends in Boston. I expect she will call once she's booked her flight. Instead, she calls me in tears, gulping for air. She arrives back home in time to prepare her father for burial. Two weeks later, my gram passed away.
A week ago my peaceful love called and asked me to visit; I imagine she is lonely.
The love I lose to because I thought we were different.
I stand, leaning against the brick exterior to a pub one town over from me. She walked up to me and saw me reading with my leg propped up. I remember the dangly earrings she wore and the new drawstring pants that I helped her remove later that evening. We spent the weekend together; mostly cooking, sleeping and making love. Once, we walked to the lake and in the dark, I read to her. I cried the morning I thought I might never see her again, and before she left we talked about all of the things we hoped we could do together one day. We called it our Hope List.
She and I go to the Women’s March together in Chicago. We make signs and hold hands. We both thought it meant something. Barely a week later I confess to her that it’s not the right kind of love we share. It’s hard to admit to her that I’m leaving because I love someone else—the girl with the rectangle garden—but I do, and she'll hate me for it for a while, and then one day she'll see me riding my bike and ask if we can catch up sometime. Later, after she has applied a noticeable amount of perfume, we’ll meet at my neighborhood bar and she'll say that she likes it there.
The love I lose, and her tears stain my shirt.
Our first date lasted twenty-four hours and in the morning, I asked her if we’d be friends if things between us didn’t work out. She laughed at me and said she didn’t know. Together we try on love in the backseat of my navy-blue Jeep at the top of an empty parking garage; it's lighting. We try on love together in Palmer Square Park as we lay in the grass and daydream about bike riding together, and going away for a weekend to my grandmother's lake house. Together we try. Our days include errands like going to plant nurseries and hardware stores, where I take her to pick up the wood for her garden bed, which she refers to as her Rectangle. In the evenings, we share cigarettes and talk into the morning.
Watch, as the words come out of our mouths—not in arcs but rather in a series of shapes: a triangle, a circle, a square. They are closed phrases, not leaving room for attachment or conversation. This is where I live now: in between shapes. She utters shapes that have opened and closed around mine. She and I speak rectangles and circles. I somehow love the asymmetry of our language. And I love her rectangle tongue.
We look like lovers, or I think we do. And I never say it out loud that I love her. I never say it until the last time she comes over to my apartment. She meets my neighbor and waits with me while I call the power company because I forgot to set up the electricity when I moved. I break up with her because that is the only logical thing to do when you love someone who can't love you back. We cry gross tears and she offers me her shirt sleeve. It's the only time I ever see her cry. And that feels so fucking sad.
It's Saturday in mid-September, which means in three days I’ll have missed her birthday twice. I nuzzle my hips into the wooden steps behind my house, my back against the brick, my feet between the slots in the railing. It’s my makeshift porch for pondering. I inhale tobacco and exhale my disbelief. Perched on my pondering step, I inhale hope, and exhale all of the women I’ve lost. I pick loose tobacco off of my tongue and tap the remainder of the cigarette into my late grandmother’s ashtray. I leave burnt remnants in the glass bowl, my hands now empty, though the smell lingers. I keep mementos from all of my lovers: a scarf, a few photographs, some books and a Hope List, and I wonder what I will dream of for the next two years.
About the author...
Ari Marion is a twenty-five year old poet and amateur singer/songwriter from Logan Square. Ari has taken classes and workshops to transform her long-time ramblings into fluid poetry and prose. She has sang and read at The Nightside at Uncharted Books, performed slam poetry at The Green Mill, and continues to edit and prepare her poetry for submission to literary magazines.