- “I wouldn’t let you.

* * *

We are standing in the back yard, half turned away from each other as if preparing to leave. You lean against the fence, hands in pockets, casual tense. The conversation is nothing special; the usual flotsam on the surface of a barrel of iced beers.

The air is cold and viscous like frozen vodka, and I am blearily wading through my own words, drowning in sweetness. Then you say “I wouldn’t let you”, and the ice cracks.

* * *

Breath catches, held captive in my chest by a thousand butterflies. I cross my legs standing up, holding tight onto myself so I don’t fly away, scattered in shards like the Snow Queen’s mirror.

No no no, I say, who am I talking to am I talking to you no, no it is my thoughts implacably slow zombies converging on me to devour and I say no, let go; just breathe. It hurts less if you exhale.

* * *

Hot fingers are pinching the small of my back, and I see steam in front of my face or is it smoke but I am breathing again. Must keep this up. You haven’t moved, so it can’t have been that long since I leaned towards you and whispered what if, what if I were to… And you could have smiled and leaned in towards me and then maybe you could have…

But I wouldn’t let you.