You Are a Warm Feeling by Rhianna Bennett

After Adrian Page

You’re sitting across from me in a shitty diner in Nowhere, America with
stained menus and countertops. The light slants through the broken blinds,
time blows out wide and seconds go on for just this side of forever. You
drink from a chipped beige mug made more of sugar than coffee. I watch.
I watch and I think—
I think I love you.
A feeling, a bloom beneath my breast, caught between two ribs, and
it’s big enough to fill up two lungs. And you are a warm feeling, a bloom
bursting from the snowbank.
I’m warm enough inside that I think I have the courage enough to say it.
You look up and my breath and the bravery leave me just as your smile
comes.
So instead I think, “This is enough.”

On the days when it seems it is not enough I remember. I remember the
laughs on the playground. The scraped knees. The boyshorts. The binder. The
bad haircut. The white-hot tears. The prayers in church to a God that built
me wrong. The wrong heart in this body. Foul eyes that go wandering. A
soul that wants for a softer hand to hold. I remember some things aren’t
made for me. Things only meant to tempt me.
And I think, “This is meant to test me.”
Then that smile from the passenger side and it’s warm and I know heaven
and hell must live right next to each other.
You pray in church on Sundays. Giggle in the pews. Wear that white
dress with pale pink flowers. One stray hair drifting down your nose as the
steeple of your fingers cover up that rebellious grin. You drag me into this
house of worship in my leather jacket and ripped jeans. Tell me “God don’t
mind much.”
You show me a new religion that doesn’t hate me so much. And another
feeling. A balloon bursting in my chest, an ocean meant just for me. Meant
just to drown me.
You see me flailing there and you tug my sleeve out into the isle ducking
our way down then center and we skip out during one of the long songs.
The sort of song that sounds like Sunday, smells like chicken soup, looks like
jubilation. I’m almost sad to go.

Out on the pavement, we could cook eggs. But you got your shoes off
and you dance like a skipping frog across the cement — like you’re stepping
on coals. You dance all the way to that shitty diner in Anywhere, America.
Order you a coffee with too much sugar and milk. You smile over the rim
and I think, “I love you.”
You catch me staring and for a moment I think I’m brave enough to say
it, but time shrinks down to size and I take too long to say it. The moment
passes. I throw my balled-up napkin that had been a prisoner in my fist at
your nose and pretend it had been the plan all along.
You laugh as you do. Like church bells, a morning bird at dawn, like a
million beautiful little things we never choose to pay attention to. Like I
imagine the sea would laugh if she had a voice. I never want to go another
day without hearing you laugh.
We are out on the pavement again walking towards nowhere, one hand
has two curled fingers holding onto your heels the other hand holding up
the world. And in a moment you let it go choosing instead to stretch out a
hand.

You reach out. Your hand in mine.
And it’s warm.

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