When you brought me to your home for the first time, I knew the mountains and the grandfather Saguaros. I found my ocean from the top of those mountains. I looked down and felt small. Winding roads. I was dizzy.
There is no such thing as weather; there is only heat. Heat that destroys Quick, Easy, Moisture. I never felt mortal before this Heat. “I am walking on the sun,” I said. You said, “Wait for the rains.” They came and smelled like sex, and I understood your love of the creosote desert. I reached for you in wet desperation. You made me wait a few more days. My city was instant gratification, but we were in your city now.
That first time we fought, I hated you more than anyone has ever hated. I hated you more that afternoon than any other moment since. I ran to the guesthouse, sat on the floor, and tried to decide who was safe. I sucked the strength out of those old bricks. I sucked the tree roots that were destroying those old pipes into me from below. I didn’t lock the door, but when you tried to come in, I held up my hand, pushed it towards you, and kept you out. A few months later when you ripped up the guesthouse carpet without a facemask, it was not the mold that sent you to the emergency room.
Our neighbor, now my friend, confided that he used to call you “The Bulldog” and me “The Nice One” before he knew our names. This made sense. This older man saw some of my favorite parts of you. Your fierceness. Your protective nature. Your passion. Your wrinkled forehead. Nice was all he saw of me. You were the only one allowed layers.
I am traveling farther and farther away from you, Love. There is more distance now than there has ever been. “I miss you” is so much smaller than this. You hover over me like a thunderstorm threatening. But there is comfort in the things in the sky that are loud enough to make me run for safety. The clouds and their ominous warring.
vi. Other House
I visited you in that other house. The one with the murals. You snuck your small, scarred hand into mine, and I remembered: you love me. You smelled exactly the same, and I noticed before you pointed to them that you were taking better care of your feet. I have heard “I love you” since that night. I have laughed at love with parts of lovers still inside me. Not because I didn’t believe their sincerity; I did. She loved me the best she knew how. He loved me the best he knew how. He loved me the best he knew how. She loved me the best she knew how. And so on.
Kristen E. Nelson writes cross-genre texts. She has recently published work in Tarpaulin Sky, Trickhouse, Cranky Literary Journal, Quarter After Eight, In Posse Review, and Dinosaur Bees. She is a founder and the Executive Director of Casa Libre en la Solana, a non-profit writing center in Tucson, Arizona; a curator/editor for Trickhouse and a production editor for Tarpaulin Sky Press. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Goddard College and teaches English and creative writing in Tucson, Arizona.