My Missing Socks + Your Half-Caff Life

by Charlotte E. Wilde

The next morning, despite your somewhere-south-of-half-hearted attempt at conversation, I managed to sneak out with only a coffee that you gave me in a to-go cup;  I suppose you must’ve known you’d not be getting it back. It was half-caff and it tasted a whole lot like the bourbon from the night before, a watery waste of time. That morning I’d extracted my arm from under you carefully and snuck off to the bathroom to get dressed, hoping you wouldn’t wake while I searched in vain for socks that seemed to have scurried off somewhere in the night. Curiosity overcame me and I found myself looking in your bathroom cabinet for a clue or remnant; it turns out you can tell a lot about a person by what they’re hiding. I smelled your bottle of after-shave and examined the anti-depressants sitting on the shelf next to some organic brand deodorant that spoke a lot louder of who you think you are than any reality to that effect. I suppose it fits that you would regulate your emotions as you do your coffee, I’ve just never understood the desire for moderation. People who drink their coffee half-decaf and their bourbon with coke are incomprehensibly dull to me— what inspiration could possibly come of rejecting excess? Still, happiness by the pill is better than none I guess; I’m certainly no authority on sane living.

The props discovered began to turn to pages in my head a lot quicker than you might have thought. I have this habit of constructing elaborate backstories for strangers or anybody, really. I build them little houses in my head, lend them some whimsy and darkness of mind which renders them worth my time; neatly drawn they become characters in the books of my imagination, elaborately draped in something beautiful or horrible that makes their story worth reading. Yeah, it’s probably overly dramatic and truthfully they all end up being just shades of some memory or sentiment of my own, but isn’t that the way of writing?

As for you, you’re no main character. Perhaps you had your heart broke young by a sharp toothed girl who left you sorry-eyed and even sorrier for yourself. Years later we can find you blearily plodding through days and whirling recklessly through nights. You rather romantically think yourself a island and between rolled cigarettes reassure yourself that these girls who came after are the perfect places to throw your proverbial laundry. Yours is a boring tale, a kind of twisted revenge-turned-self-fulfilling-prophecy tempered by a tendency towards viewing yourself as some sort of saccharine martyr. And hey, in our own self-important saga of woe aren’t we all a bit over-the-top? These sorts of history books aren’t written by “the winners,” they’re merely penned by whoever has enough time and narcissism to do so.

Still, if I’m perfectly honest, maybe I had liked that about you— the despondent way your eyes lost focus as you stared adrift for a second before your gaze jolted back to mine. Fodder for my imagination is always appreciated, but that particular habit struck in me a chord of truth that reverberated understanding. Anyway, it didn’t matter if it was true because I certainly was never going to see you again. I thought about you though, the sorry I surprised in your coffee-water eyes as I tried to slip unnoticed out the door. I thought about you as I drove the long straight road home… but that’s about as far as it went. After all, this isn’t a love story. Mine never are. And perhaps that’s what we saw in each other.