the thief

It is one of those nights when I am staying up late waiting for your headlights to flash through my window even though I know they are long gone.

They will never shine across my bed and illuminate my bare legs in the sticky summer heat of a girl’s bedroom with a busted ceiling fan. They will never blink in our not-so-well-hidden morse code, lovers’ failed attempt at youthful secrecy. They will never wake me up when I am dreaming peacefully of you, they will never gently touch my face when we’ve fought and I’m terrified you won’t visit me that night, they will never blind me when I turn from quietly closing my locked front door behind me and running out across the dewy grass to meet you in the road at four in the morning on a school night.

I remember them. I lie here on my side, my head lazily turned on the pillow to face my windowpane. Sometimes it rains and I make up lyrics to nature’s music. The rhymes are always atrocious – rain you’ll cleanse my soul, rain you’ll bring me trouble. Mostly, though, I just see the deep dark that is night, the starless evening, the lack of fireflies since my room is on the second story and those little bugs seem to be as scared of heights as you were. I assume that is why you never brought the ladder to see me. You never explained or acknowledged it and I loved your pride too much to ask, but I knew there had to be a reason you wouldn’t let me play your rapunzel.

So on the nights you wouldn’t be my bedroom intruder (every night) and the nights I was too tired or busy or mad at you to sneak out (every other night), you settled for leaving me drunken presents on the lawn. I remember waking up the first morning after we fought over a text conversation I found on your phone with your ex-girlfriend and spitting orange juice on the warm concrete of my driveway out of sheer surprise that you’d left me a road sign – yield. It was right there in my yard, only a few feet from the mailbox, a reminder of the assumptions I had rushed to the night before. It was the first of many: other road signs, carousel ponies, vintage rocking chairs, the flowers they put on display outside of home depot.

The presents disappeared before the headlights did. I understood the absence of the gifts; I could only imagine how difficult it must be to constantly find new, crazy objects to leave on my lawn that belonged to neither you nor me nor really anyone in particular. The headlights were harder to explain away. My friends didn’t understand when I said no to you asking me to be your girlfriend. call it instinct or whatever, but I knew. I didn’t know why, but something about you felt off.

I know now, obviously. There was another girl you used to visit in the night that way, and the memories of her were too painful to bring up by climbing through my window, and the touches and feelings and words y’all exchanged were more than could be compared to my southern girl simplicity.

It’s just one of those nights, a long night chasing ghosts.

(also inspired by

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