Alternate titles:
A Collection of Real and Fake Stories: All Involving Hand-Holding
Repressed Trauma, but Make It Art
These Characters Aren’t Real, so Stop Guessing
Or Are They? Perhaps Partially

Our song has always been “Sleep on the Floor” by The Lumineers. Months after it all ended I ran back to you out of fear of being alone forever (or maybe being with someone who wasn’t you) and we watched the movie adaptation of that song. You stacked your biology textbooks to make a suitable stand for your laptop. It was our makeshift theater: the tiny LED screen in your dark, empty room, the feeling that so much had changed yet nothing between us, and two bodies terrified of touching, of making the secret too real. I rested my head on your shoulder like I used to. You didn’t flinch. I grabbed your hand when the characters on screen did. You still didn’t flinch. It was like you knew it would happen. That I would cave, that it was inevitable. At least I did, the whole time.

The movie is a lot like the song. It’s your run-of-the-mill indie film featuring two runaway lovers hitchhiking across the country so high on young love that nothing else can matter, not even rationality. She’s sad and he is too. Aren’t we all? They build a life together: not of bricks and drywall and a mantle of framed photographs, but of adventure– getting married because why not, dancing in the desert, fighting on the interstate to nowhere, holding each other asleep in decrepit motel rooms. I remember you and I dreamt of a life like that. No white picket fence. We weren’t about veils and church and children. When we were younger I’d feel suffocated and you’d remind me. There’s a world out there. We could just leave, you know. The universe doesn’t care if we stay or go. I believed in the universe more than I did in God but I’d still play Devil’s advocate. I wanted a family then. I wanted a porch swing and a rocking chair and a place at the table set for me. I wanted to plant roots somewhere and watch our flowers grow wild and untamed.

Nobody knows about the night of the movie or what happened or how we pulled away but it rots in my memory like a sore that won’t heal. At the end of it, you asked me, Why’d she leave? If they were so happy, why did she choose to leave him in the end?

I didn’t have the answer then but I do now.

She was scared.

After everything they’d shared, she was still scared. Scared of what she would do if he asked her, without warning, to pack a toothbrush, her favorite blouse, to leave town with him under cover of darkness. No looking back. No proper goodbye to the life left behind. Decide on me. Decide on us.

Strange– there’s a part of me already sitting in your passenger seat, escaping with you before the rest of the world wakes up. I fear the same thing as her. I already know what I’d decide.

You, in the desert, in that place set for us.

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