A VOICEMAIL

Hey Michelle, so um, I’m in the line for the brownie sundae right now, and um, [emphatically] they have birthday cake ice cream! So I mean, do we want birthday cake ice cream, or like, do we still want the espresso chip, like, what’s going on here? So yeah, birthday cake ice cream, uh, is that a no-go or is that a full-on go, is that a full-send? Uh, let me know. [long pause] Also side note, I love you a lot. Thanks for everything.

One year, one month, and twenty-nine days (or, if you round up, two months– effective just two hours from now). That’s how long it’s been since you called me from inside the campus ice cream shop while I sat outside at our usual table, the one tucked in the hidden corner under the veranda. That night, I had lovingly forced you to order for two distinct reasons. First: because, at the time, I had crippling social anxiety that would’ve undoubtedly sent me hyperventilating in front of the delectable selection of various sorbets and custards, and believe me, that’s embarrassing for a nineteen-year-old college student, obviously. Second: because the sky looked particularly holy, so holy that I would’ve been delighted to die underneath it. Full moon, twinkling ether, accompanied by the chime of shrieking laughter from passersby. I was happier waiting. Besides, our meetings were secret. Hence why we had to camouflage.

So I ignored your call. I figured it wasn’t important, and your stupid grin through the glass was confirmation. You shrugged your shoulders in your usual fashion and that was the end of it. Minutes later, you came strolling out, two scoops of espresso chip brownie sundae dripping through the cracks in the cheap paper boat. Melted chocolate seeped through the hollow spaces between your fingers and I remember ugly-laughing at the sight of your foolishness. Typical. You’re a dork, I remarked, I hate it, and we annihilated our dessert like it was the Last Supper or a final meal before a gruesome electric chair execution.

For over a year now, that voicemail has been buried under twenty or so messages left by eager telemarketers hungry for identity theft and respectfully ignored by yours truly. Today I stumbled upon it, still unread, and decided to click play– only because it had your name on it and I wanted to remember what you sounded like before you swiftly decided you’d never leave another one. I played it. I choked back a burning lump of regret, the furthest thing from sugar-sweet.

What if I knew birthday cake was an option? Would I have chosen it, or would I have stood firm in our silly tradition of always espresso chip, flirtatiously calling you a traitor for posing such a blasphemous suggestion? Would I have said I love you back? Would I have meant it? Or would I just keep doing that thing I always did with you, apprehensively looking over my shoulder to see if anyone had noticed us? Would I have allowed myself to love you without shame? 

It wasn’t about birthday cake or espresso chip or even the stars that night. It was, instead, only about–

Also side note, I love you a lot. Thanks for everything.

Also side note, I love you a lot. Thanks for everything.

Also side note, I love you a lot. Thanks for everything.
For what? For letting my phone ring that night, pressing Reject because it couldn’t have been important enough? For laughing when someone would ask about us, playing dumb and protecting my reputation without regard for how you’d take it? I play it over and over, the voicemail and the memory of what happened under last year’s April stars, loving you but looking over my shoulder.

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