Droplets of rain struck my coat and dripped away, joining the puddle at my feet. I hugged myself as I stood underneath the lampost on the corner of the quiet street, waiting. Sighing, I checked my watch again. She was ten minutes late, which wouldn’t have been an issue if the coffee shop wasn’t closed and if it wasn’t pouring.
Eventually, the headlights of a car shone into my eyes as it parked across the street. Then I got a text.
I hurried toward the car, anxious and nervous to meet her. As I neared, she stepped out and took a long drag of her cigarette. Her hair was longer than it was in the pictures of her online profile, and the dark locks were draped loosely over her shoulders.
“Hey, how are you,” she asked nonchalantly, ignoring the rain.
“I’m okay. Wet.”
“I’m sorry for making you wait,” she said.
I shrugged, feigning indifference.
After some deliberation between us, and despite my hesitation to get into strangers’ cars, I climbed into the passenger seat beside her. The stench of cigarettes and cologne consumed me. She took one last drag of her cigarette before flicking it out of the window and shifting the car into gear. We drove a couple of blocks to another shop, which was also closing.
Desperate for a place to hang out, and despite my reluctance to invite strangers into my home, we were soon walking through the halls of my apartment building. She carried a case of beer and her backpack, and I fiddled with my keys in my pocket. I figured that my roommates would notice if something had happened to me in the living room.
The second we entered my apartment, I went to my room to change. The layers underneath my raincoat had become soaked not from the rain, but from my nervous sweat. When I returned to the living area, I found her already at home, sprawled out on my couch. I took a seat across from her, perched on the edge of my seat.
She passed me a bottle of liquid courage, which I graciously accepted. First dates are the worst. I didn’t even know if this constituted as a first date.
Was she having fun? Did she like me? Did she want to just be friends? Did she want to see me again?
My anxious thoughts were interrupted when she said she had just gotten out of a nearly two-year relationship.
I supposed dating was no longer on the table.
© 2019 Vic Romero
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The silver ring glistened beneath the clear water in the harsh fluorescent light. Stunned at my mishap, I gazed at the ring, which now rested at the bottom of the porcelain bowl. Thank god I hadn’t used the toilet yet.
Still, I wasn’t eager to stick my hand into the toilet bowl, considering it was a public one. I pursed my lips, also reluctant to flush the ring with all of its significance down the drain.
The truth was that that whole relationship had gone down the drain, so maybe the ring didn’t matter anymore. It had been two months since we stopped seeing each other, yet I still wore the ring religiously.
I brought my hand that usually donned the ring to my face, and frowned at its nakedness. My hand had gone from glamorous to dull in a moment of negligence. My hand used to wear a ring that symbolized love, but then the ring became a reminder of what I lacked.
I had gone from strolling beside her while holding her soft warm hand, to trudging along, empty-handed. My hand used to caress her smooth skin as she slept curled into my side, but now my hand only caresses the folds in between my thighs when I’m vying for a single moment of joy and bliss in my otherwise depressive existence.
Then my biggest fear struck me: Will someone be able to love me again? Do I deserve love?
I lowered my hand and stared helplessly into the toilet. I sighed deeply, and then flushed the ring down the drain.
© 2019 Vic Romero
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Most of you are alive, but to me, you only continue to exist on the page. Specifically, the pages of my blog.
The structured black words on my blog have memorialized most of you, so if you ever forget about those times we stayed up too late, got in trouble, kissed, or argued, you can probably find those memories here. They did happen, I promise. I was there and I wrote about them.
I’m not saying this because I’m trying to prove something to you. I don’t need to prove anything. Believe me or not, the evidence that we associated at all is here. It’s just a little unsettling sometimes.
My writings are all I need to be flung back into the past when we sat next to each other at dinner, slept next to each other in bed, or were even in the same room together. Every time I read my old writings, it’s like watching a movie I hadn’t seen in years. I know how it ends, but I forgot the journey to the ending.
But then again, that is why I maintain a blog: I write about the journey so I don’t forget.
Most of you that I’ve journeyed with are gone from my life, yet your impact is undeniably relevant even to this day. Your impact lives in my words on the page.
Thank you for sharing some of your time with me.
My reflection is dark and difficult to see in my glass. It’s a passionate red mixed with the heaviness of black, of nothingness. Or it’s blood that is bled slowly. Painfully.
I frown, and so does my reflection. This annoys me. What does she have to frown about? I bet her life on the other side of the wine glass is fantastic, I mean, she gets to swim in wine all of the time!
I may sound a little jealous of her, but I’m not. My life isn’t not fantastic, it’s just difficult right now. Wine-glass women probably don’t deal with any of life’s challenges, whereas normal people, like me, do.
I swirl the merlot around and I guess my reflection gets scared by the sudden tsunami because it disappears. Finally, I’m alone at last, lone for the screeching crickets on the other side of my front porch.
My knees begin to pinch so I uncross them from underneath me and rest them on the small foldable side table in front of me. A mosquito must’ve smelled my freshly exposed legs because it immediately begins to fly around them, so I swat it away. I should head back inside soon. First I want to finish my last glass of wine.
I take a meager sip and the bitterness of the fermented juice bites the tip of my tongue. Then I take a gulp and it burns my throat, but not as much as it did with the first glass. Still, I relish the slight pain and the way the wine causes my balance to swirl.
I down the rest of the glass. The rest of the expensive wine is gone at last. Thus, any remnants of him are gone too. I set the glass down on the table, next to my feet. Don’t drunkenly knock it down when I get up, I stress to myself.
Leaning back in my rocking chair, I close my eyes and succumb to the deafening screeching of the crickets. I reflect. I feel good…not great, but good. I feel different than how I was expecting to feel though. I thought that finally being done warranted a celebration, but instead it just feels a little empty. Not necessarily in a bad way. There’s just more room in my heart for other people.
Satisfied with this conclusion of a chapter in my life, I rock forward and pull my feet off of the table, and my feet gracefully knock the wine glass to the ground. Shit.
© 2018 Vic Romero
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The door slammed behind me, muffling his roar. Maybe I could no longer hear him at that moment, but I would probably hear him later because it was certainly not the last time we were going to have this conversation, if you could even call it that. Most conversations I have do not include faces red with fury, the slamming of hands on the walls and tables, spit from angrily enunciating words while shouting, and only one person vocalizing their thoughts while the other shrinks into their seat. Most conversations do not look like this, except for the conversations I have been having with him lately.
“Where are you going?” my sister asked from the stairwell as I powered down the hall.
“Out,” I replied tersely, grabbing my car keys and slamming the front door behind me.
No amount of doors slammed could quell the rage that I had to suppress while he had verbally torn me apart.
Tobacco and spearmint lingered on my tongue, and I touched my lips, smiling as I remembered why. With my other hand, I twisted the key in the lock and opened the front door. I froze in fear when I saw a figure standing in the stairwell, but then I realized who it was and relaxed, although annoyance quickly replaced that feeling.
“It’s past 11. Where have you been?”
“Out,” I stated.
“An eleven PM curfew means you have to be here at eleven, not leave where you are at eleven,” she explained, irritated.
“I lost track of time.”
“Who were you with?”
Exasperated, I threw my hands up in the air. “I already told you!”
“Don’t raise your voice at me. Remind me.”
“Marisa…the usual,” I explained, struggling to level my voice.
“Where did you go?” she inquired.
“Dunkin, Starbucks, whatever was open.”
“Those places close at ten. What did you do for an hour?”
I narrowed my eyes at her. “I’m going to my room,” I replied, shrugging past her and heading up the stairs.
“Answer my question!” she yelled after me.
“We were outside. I’ll make you an itinerary next time,” I said, slamming my bedroom door behind me.
My bedroom door burst open and she stormed in, leering down at me as I lay in bed.
“Good morning,” I sarcastically greeted her, sitting up.
“What does this mean?!” she asked, desperation evident in her voice as she threw papers onto my lap.
I briskly shuffled through them and then calmly met her watery stare. “Where did you find these?”
“Well, I don’t know what they mean,” I replied, handing them back to her.
“Is this who you are?” she asked shrilly.
“No. I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you ‘don’t know?’” she shrieked.
“I don’t know!” I yelled, tossing off my blanket and standing up. “I told you everything I know!”
She challenged me with her eyes for a few beats before turning and storming out of my room, slamming the bedroom door shut behind her.
I slowly opened my bedroom door, and we tentatively emerged from behind it. My heart pounded as she looked down at us from the stairs that led to her master bedroom. She spoke sternly and carefully. After a brief interrogation, she dismissed us with a threat to call the police if I bring the woman beside me home again, and she informed me that we were going to discuss this later. As per usual, there probably wouldn’t be too much discussion. Numbly, I nodded, and then we raced down the stairs, seeking out safety in my car.
She leaned over the middle barrier in the car and tilted her head up toward me, smiling. “Alright, well I have to head home, but text me when you get home.”
I nodded and leaned the rest of the way to kiss her awaiting lips. When she pulled away, she smiled at me, causing my heart to flutter. She looked out the windshield and started talking animatedly about our weekend plans, but then she paused.
“Hold on,” she said, her eyebrows furrowing as she focused on the rearview mirror. “What’s that?”
I looked at where she was pointing. Behind the rearview mirror was a small, black microphone. My heart raced as realization struck.
“Can I pull it down?” she asked. I silently nodded in acquiesce.
She turned the microphone over in her hands, raising it closer to her eyes. “I don’t know if this is a recording device, or if it’s just part of your car.”
“I don’t know. My dad regularly works on the car, so I don’t know.”
She put it back behind the rearview mirror and looked at me. “I’ll take a look at it more closely tomorrow when I see you. Try to relax for now.”
I tersely nodded. She lifted her hand to my cheek, cupped it and pulled me toward her for a last goodbye kiss. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the one before. “It’ll be okay,” she murmured. “Text me.”
Then she opened the door and climbed out of my car.
I reluctantly got into the passenger side of my car. He wanted to take a drive with me to get gas, which was thoughtful but I knew he had an ulterior motive.
We rode in silence for ten minutes, and after he told the gas attendant to fill it up, he began his speech.
“I don’t understand you anymore,” he confessed, looking over at me sadly.
I met his eyes and replied, “I’m just not hiding anymore, but I’m the same.”
He shook his head. “No, you hid from us for years.”
“There was never a reason to bring it up.”
“You could’ve brought up that you were struggling.”
“I needed to figure things out for myself.”
The attendant returned to the driver’s side mirror, and my dad handed him cash. We sat in silence while the worker counted the change and handed it to back to my dad. My dad restarted the ignition and pulled out of the station, heading home.
© 2016, 2018 Vic Romero
In honor of Pride Month, which has passed but…I thought I’d share regardless.
The glossiness of the dark wooden casket reflected my teary-eyed face. I have never cried so much in my life, and I’ve never been so devasted by a death before. Your death was unexpected, not that death is ever really expected…it was an accident.
My mom squeezed my shoulder when she touched the smooth surface of the box in which your body lied. Your sister, your parents, and the rest of your family were all there, desperately trying to connect with you through this touch. Most of us didn’t get to see you one last time before we buried you…because it was an accident. It was probably better that the only memories I have of you are from when you were alive anyway.
My parents did see you in the critical condition you were in though: they were the first ones at the hospital. You wouldn’t have known that though because according to the doctors, you were brain-dead upon impact. My mom said she had clutched your feet when you were lying there, in the hospital bed. Now, we all touch the wooden casket, seeking some form of relief from it. Trying to connect with you.
As my family drove through mountainous farmland on the winding roads to where your body lies, I reflected on how you would have felt about the location. You hated the suburbs, let alone the rural atmosphere of Virginia. You had made it clear that you aspired to be in the city since your decision to attend Pittsburg University, and then later by moving to Jersey City and then to Newark. You were getting closer and closer to Manhattan, but you never had the chance move across the Hudson River.
When my dad parked the car and we ambled out, the entire family encircled your gravestone. It was beautifully engraved, and your mom ensured that you had fresh flowers daily. We prayed, and then we cried, and then we laughed…reminiscing about our lives with you. Honored to have gotten to know you. By connecting with each other about the past, we reconnected with you.
I walked around to the back of the gravestone and noticed the depiction of the city skyline. I remember that I thought…that it looked like the city crossed the Hudson River to come to you.
Happy 27th birthday.
© 2018 Vic Romero
All Rights Reserved.
I stared up at the ceiling fan as it whirled overhead. It was attempting to provide a breeze in the sweltering evening heat but to little avail. My oversized t-shirt clung to my back, sticky with perspiration. I raised my feet into the air, feeling the slight breeze tickle my soles. Then I rolled onto my right side and stared directly into the electric fan. The wind it created was aggressive and loud. My hair blew off of my face and I sighed blissfully.
Then my phone pinged.
I glanced at it, unamused, and snatched it off of the chipping, white side table. It was Ashley.
I heard what happened to you and Tom. I’m so sorry.
I frowned and turned off my phone. She’s not sorry, she is probably thrilled that he’s now available. She always liked him. I could tell by the way she looked at him and how she talked to him.
I rolled back onto my back and resumed staring into the ceiling fan, hoping to be hypnotized into a deep sleep.
Sleep. What a foreign concept to me at this point. I haven’t slept since we broke up a week ago. It’s been even longer since I’ve slept alone. Two years. It’s been two years…I don’t know how to sleep alone anymore.
I closed my eyes, hoping that if I pretended to be asleep, I’d eventually trick myself into falling asleep this time. Instead of looking at the back of my eyelids though, I was confronted by Tom’s face hovering over me, illuminated by the moon through the window. He was smiling mischievously, some locks of his golden hair falling into his eyes. Then I felt his warm, calloused fingers draw circles on my right arm. His breath was warm when he leaned in and whispered in my ear, “Tell me what you want.”
I smiled, relieved that he was back. He tenderly kissed my face, but when I tried to kiss him, he shook his head, his grin widening.
“Tell me first,” he said, kissing my neck. The sensation sent chills down my body, and simultaneously ignited my skin. “Tell me what you want.”
I slid my hand across my hot stomach and brushed the top of my pubic bone.
“I want you,” I gasped as my fingers dipped lower, probingly.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked, kissing his way down my chest.
My touch sent a wave of warmth over my body. “I want you to…” I panted.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked, looking into my eyes.
“I want you to—”
Then my body shook, and everything felt like it was on fire.
When my breathing slowed and I relaxed, I whispered, “I want you to be here.” I opened my eyes expectedly as if I had just performed a spell to summon him. All I saw though, was the whirling ceiling fan in my dark room. I was alone.
My face crumbled. The satisfaction that I created dissipated and tears streamed down my cheeks.
© 2018 Vic Romero – Performance Poetics Spring 2018
The hard, red exterior finally split in between my fingers and plump, white meat burst out. “See? It’s easy once you get the hang of it,” I explained, yanking out the flesh and putting it in my mouth.
She looked at me skeptically and then frowned at the lifeless lobster sprawled out on her plate. “I think this is the most barbaric thing I’ve ever done,” she replied solemnly before idly picking it up and ripping the tail off of the boiled body.
FULL TIME. COMPETITIVE SALARY. HEALTH BENEFITS.
Glassy-eyed, I scrolled through the job opportunities online, those key words attracting me to read more. I submitted application after application, hoping I would hear a response back soon but feeling doubtful. Online job applications felt like they were sucked into the infinity of space, especially due to the lack of humanness about the process. After about an hour of this mind-numbing activity, I picked up research articles I had printed out earlier and began to critically read them. This was mentally stimulating, but also mentally exhausting. Soon, I needed a break.
The blue string-lights provided an eerie ambiance in my room. The shadows on the wall were somber and crept along the top of my bed slowly as I climbed into bed. I studied the shadows closely for a minute, wondering if they felt as glum as I did since they were, after all, a shadow of myself. I sighed, rolling over to face the TV, and hit “play” on the remote to start a very romantic and emotional episode of Black Mirror.
© 2017 Vic Romero
It got quieter as we walked further down the uneven, dirt path and away from the party. The kids’ shrill screaming of “Happy Birthday” into a microphone diminished until it was entirely replaced with the squaw of birds and the rustling of leaves on the trees as the wind gently blew.
We came upon the small, wooden dock hidden by the shroud of shrubs at the edge of the lake. She placed a thick, woolen blanked on it, which covered nearly the entire dock since the dock was small and the blanket was large. Then we lied down and basked in the warmth from the sun. She rested her torso on my legs, her weight pressing my legs into the solid dock beneath me. Her body heat kept me warm during cool breezes.
It felt romantic out here, being surrounded by nature and away from the disturbances of traffic and everyday life. The calm sloshing of water against the base of the dock relaxed us. The air was fresh and dry for once, unlike many of the stifling hot and humid summer days.
We overlooked the lake, admiring how the trees framed the dark blue body of water on one side. The leaves were a vibrant green from chlorophyll, and they crowded each other on the trees. The lake reflected some of the trees’ vibrancy in the dark waters.
The other side of the lake was lined with large houses. Backyards informed us that the houses may hold small children with an affinity for outdoor play, such as swing sets and forts.
My ears perked when I heard voices approach us. A family consisting of what appeared to include three generations of people, ranging from grandparents to children, rowed by us on the lake. The adults rowed unhurriedly and everyone laughed and talked animatedly. One of the adults caught my eyes for a brief moment as we watched them from the dock.
© 2017 Vic Romero
I was ready this time.
I squatted with my back against the empty pickle barrels, tightly grasping the pistol, waiting. My hands were clammy and shaking, and I tried taking deep breaths to calm myself down. I didn’t want to miss again, not when I only had one bullet left.
I heard some loud footsteps nearby, presumably the graceless footsteps of the enemy. I leaned out from behind the barrel to get a better look, and sure enough, there she was. She was looking around the dim basement, her expression was frustrated.