I knew a man who was made from echoes of all the men I knew before him.
He thought it was fate, and as I lay for the first time with my head in the familiar groove between his shoulder and chest, I let him marvel at how well I understood him. In time he entered my dreams, but always with other men’s mouths and their long, lean fingers.
Sick of being anticipated and pre-empted, he left. I tried hard to miss him, but all I could conjure up was a patchwork man sewn from bits of lost lovers.
I knew a man who dressed me like a doll.
He painted me and patted me, and wrapped me in layer after layer until one day I found my limbs had frozen in place and my mouth was nothing but a smile.
By the time I tired, it was too late.
I knew a man, and together we were a lie.
For months I carried our untruth, and its weight spread through my flesh. It coated my lips and nestled under my tongue, tainting my words and souring every breath. It seeped into my dreams and shook me awake in the morning, until waking and sleeping, hours and weeks melted into a single endless somnambulant day.
I ran from him until my sweat flowed toxic, leaving me weak and clean.
I knew a man who thought happiness was an unnatural state.
He told me this quite plainly as I sat, rapt and completely absorbed by the feathering of his dark, straight eyebrow, by the protrusion of his lower lip and the uneven curve of his closely clipped thumbnail.
My warning was when those words left his beautiful mouth, but they could have been carved into the soles of my feet and I would not have cared.
I knew a man who became my sun.
Every morning I turned my face eagerly toward his light. When he flickered I wavered, when he burned I shone.
I wrenched myself away, and in the darkness nursed my blistered, peeling skin.
I knew a man, but left before I knew him too well.
I encased him in a perfectly preserved memory, floating suspended in the amber of a peaceful end. Occasionally, I held it up to the light and smiled smugly, before carelessly leaving it beside my bed. There it cast a pale glow on the fine hairs along my new lover’s thighs.
I congratulated myself too soon.
I knew a man who I once loved.
I saw him today. We hugged, but swiftly, and I held my breath so as not to breathe in his scent. Precautions like that are necessary with this one. The stone he still wears around his neck comes unbidden to phantom dance against unfamiliar chests, and at times I catch a glimpse of his devious grin on the mouths of men in the street. Best not to breathe in, to smell his sharp sourness, best to gaze mid-distance and be easily distracted by the flow of human traffic around us rather than look into his face, because that I still can’t bear.
He touched my cheek as we parted, and I still feel the mark of his fingers.