The Night We Didn’t Fall In Love

I only write about affairs, because what else are you gonna do with those fucks you gave?

Ivana Vasilj

Ivana Vasilj


A female body in mom jeans looks at a water color of Bianca Stone’s depicting the three fates. Only one faces us and says in her speech bubble, “I’m filled with rooms I’ve never seen before.” It hangs in my living room. I am the female body, a room I see so much of I don’t see it at all. I see it so little that I’m usually digging my nails into my skin in order to get anything practical done without overwhelming anxiety. How do I get this out of the room? I got Netflix binge-streaming House of Cards to distract me from my loneliness and this. I miss something I’ve never had, stupid saudade. How much of the wine bottle has been drunk and will it get me to the end of the night?

I unzip my jeans and try to relive what I never lived but through words from a man who plays piano, “I pull down your sopping panties with my teeth. My tongue feeds from your flower like a hummingbird drinking nectar.” How this campy raunch of writing makes me wet is like knowing I’m no good at any of this: writing, affairs, friendship, knowing when to walk the fuck away.

Let go, says the moon. And I say, moon, fuck you. You take our water up and down and there isn’t even enough for us to survive. The pianist says, don’t go fishing for the moon in a pond and I think there is a layer of don’t go fishing in me, girl. I’m a pond. I’m small and limited and you can’t dive here.

I met him outside the club he owns. I just thought he was the bouncer and when he said, Come back in ten when the set ends, he touched my left shoulder. The big earthiness of my body shriveled, like run, like please, fuck, I know this isn’t gonna be done at the door. I came in ten and when we continued our acquaintance at the bar, handsy, drunk, 20 years between us, and then later over dinner the next evening, he said I was wild-eyed that night.

And I was, I was looking fiercely feral for someone make me not want to look in the mirror anymore for something to rearrange, to tell my body to shut up with its self-inflicted scars, to just let me calmly sleep next to another calm body. After dinner we walked through the West Village, ate chocolate and cherries, and he stopped me in front of an empty storefront and said, Stop with the cynicism. It’s poison.

I only write about affairs, because what else are you gonna do with those fucks you gave? But when there are no fucks, there is no sex, where is the investment in me? Who is filling up my rooms with meaning? Whenever I reach a moment in my life that gives me more than I knew I was capable of, or that I knew I was capable of but have been walking away from, like fuck this poetry scene, and fuck this apartment of books, and fuck this room of smoke, I find a man to distract me. I find someone who will completely break me and I know it. But I keep telling myself that we are just cups and we are meant to spill out.

My mother spent most of my formative life with a man who had a wife and two sons. When the man bought me four stuffed Curious George monkeys from FAO Schwartz when I was five, I named them after him, my mother, and his two boys. No me, and certainly not the wife I had no clue of. For almost 18 years I watched my mother in a state of brief football Sunday happiness when he came over for a Jets game and a fuck, and then the rest of the time. The rest of the time was me usually handing her tissues as she sobbed on the phone in ways my childhood only understood as soothe her, or me finding her kneeling on hard-wood floors sewing pressed leaves onto card stock in her brief, frenetic moments of creative output, or just stuck on the couch drinking and drinking and hiding the vodka behind the couch arm like I was still too young to know. I was never too young to know, just too young to feel the meaning.

Now, here I am on a Saturday night assessing the situation. The pianist had alluded to a trip to Philly in a room full of Monet’s. Wouldn’t it be great to take a day trip and go see the Barnes collection? That day I kissed his hands and nuzzled his chest and we napped in a perfect spoon for 45 minutes, an accomplishment that I will never be ashamed of. I now understand that he was envisioning a trip with me that was already planned for him.

But I’m not in Philadelphia tonight. I’m getting ready to assess if the jazz underneath my apartment is with the boys I like or the boys I don’t know. Never know until you’re walking out on the stoop where you flagged down the bassist who led to the pianist and said, Hey that sounded great in that room.

That you is me, by the way. In case it wasn’t absolutely fucking clear. And do I want clarity? The day after the galleries of Impressionists, the pianist was in full-fledged fleeing, which confused me since he invited me to dinner the next night. Don’t fall in love, he said. I should have said fuck you and walked out. Within 24 hours he had become a personified red flag, and for some reason those red flags tell me to charge like the Taurean bull that I am.

Oh, you’re telling me you’re emotionally unavailable? Let me show you how to bloom, fill, and love again! What is that? What is that room inside of me that thinks, I could slowly give away all the things in here until I am empty? My guts were still curious about why that night he touched my shoulder, I knew I was in for it.

Sometimes you gotta blame loneliness and need and want and lust. But he rearranged me. I told him he rubix-cubed me and now all my colors are equally plating each side of a box that we can never see inside of, because there is no space. Don’t fall in love? Exactly. Let’s NOT fall in love, and learn how to be each other’s support with a tenderness for all our damage: la tendresse. Let’s not name this. How annoying to be constantly rearranged throughout my small life by men. Let me rearrange your family. Let me rearrange your want. Let me rearrange your expectation. Let me rearrange your sense of worth. Let me. And I let them.

This story isn’t over and I don’t want it to be a story that ends. I want it to be quietly epic, and I don’t want to be empty at the end of it. I want to be held dearly, but I don’t want to be clenched. I want to first be discovered and then chosen. I don’t want to be a girlfriend. I want to be a natural force that flowers as I pollinate everything around me.

The night we didn’t fall in love, we walked Houston and he told me how America is trying to kill us, and I know he’s right. We see Born to Be Blue and caress in the theater. Or was it just me? Just me caressing. Now I try to remember that this person that tells me to not fall is telling me to learn him, to learn me, to learn the relation of dirty honesty. He says, no one loves like that. Meaning it’s a fake-out, a con job when we go gaga.

I tell myself don’t ignore that pierce in your chest when he says these things. Why am I not a flower that just is? Accepts because that is the only way to be? Do I even want to say NO? No. He knows what he’s doing when he plays Every Time We Say Goodbye, and that it’s for me. He knows when he says he will play My Ideal that I am there hearing the preface to the song. I am hearing that it doesn’t exist, my ideal.

I fucking disagree. The ideal is recognizing the depth of the person in front of you, blessing them, and never objectifying the room you inhabit together or only making them tchotchkes for your spaces. We are not to be categorized, packaged, and shipped off to sacrifice our capacious possibilities for names that never fit: friend, lover, old man, girl, mommy, daddy, chicken-shit, fantasy. Person. Person. Person.

The morning after the only night we’ll ever sleep together, we dragged our rough-around-the-edges bodies to eggs and coffee. It was endearing to be so ugly and dirty together, aubade-esque in a coming spring which decided to be more cold wind than sun. He said, Our waitress, god, probably works two jobs, has four kids and a husband who beats her. Why are you projecting pity on to her? Look at all these people. Every one of them has so much inside, fears, wounds, failures, great joys...we’ll never know. He paused for a moment, tilted his head in curiousity like a dog, and leaned out of his seat to hold my face and kiss me. Those rooms are sweet to be in, especially when they’re sun-grimed and a mess of damaged humanity.

You got a nice life, man.

So do you, sweetheart.

Amanda Killian is a poet living in New York. Her work has appeared on Everyday Genius, Yes Poetry, and Luna Luna Magazine, as well as published in The Opiate. She will begin her MFA in Poetry at Brooklyn College fall 2016.