empathy

Poems To All My Exes (3): To The Surfer Boy Who Was My Summer

Painting by  Arantzazu Martinez

Painting by Arantzazu Martinez

To the first guy who looked at me in amazement –

I’ve got a reputation for breaking boys
with hearts born out of winter,
but you, you –
are my first dose of summer.

You impressed me by
remembering how I looked that night with
fire caught between my lungs and by
how much courage it took for your arm to reach out and
touch me for the first time.
(You were a tongueful of compliments
in a sea filled with ghosts.)

Then I surprised you by
the playlist you heard while I was
trying a million times
to count the stars freckling your skin yet
all I managed to do was
have my nails trace out
undiscovered constellations on your back.
(You won me over by the time
“Your Body is a Wonderland” stopped playing and
it didn’t matter that it reminded you of another girl.)

And though I met you under
the heat of the moon,
you remind me of broken sunrises,
and lazy afternoons.
My fingertips can still taste
the saltwater lingering on your chin
as they fumbled through
the rays of sun and sand caught in your hair.

I used to arch my back for boys who
couldn’t even remember the color of my bedsheets, but
you, however, made me turnover the arch on my mouth.
You’ve sucked the
bitterness from my neck and
taught my lips how to sing
songs of laughter –
going easy, going slow.
Fast, hard, who cares now?
You can’t break me.
You shook off the nervousness
from my bones when you made a home
between my thighs.

(And we’re both built out of summer heat,
so let’s not get too attached.
We might end up burning each other down,
but I swear I saw a future from
the kindness behind
your crazy grin.)

I used to be twenty and lonely,
whereas you are nineteen and alive.
Now I’m twenty-two and inspired, and
we don’t have to put up a facade anymore.
The burst of bright blue in your eyes
calls out, “Hello. Hello.

Here’s me. Here’s you.
We’re lost. We’re young. We’re confused.
It doesn’t matter. We’ve got this shit.

Let

yourself

go.”

So I’ll allow you to bite
memories onto the
contours of my body because
for once I am neither burning myself to the ground nor
freezing anyone who’s ever wanted to sample the
universes floating inside my ribcage.
All everyone else intended to do was
conquer me, tame my flesh, and take their trophy home.
You were the first stranger who wasn’t a stranger,
who wanted to brush the hair covering my face instead.
(Who knew strangers could make you feel saved?)

You are neither coffee nor tea,
you are just the right amount of
whatever it is I’m trying to find –
You are the lukewarm morning
that slowly comes to me.

And I could be wrong, you know.
I could be just another name
crossed off your bucket list as well. But
regardless of whether I’m wrong or right,
I’ll scratch my way into your thoughts
the same way your sun screen’s scent
transfers to my collarbone
each time our heartbeats touch.

Remember how
I dozed off with my head nuzzled against your chest
as our arms together intertwined,
remember how
you annoyed me with the tickle of your breath
until my eyelids fluttered awake
despite the fact I needed sleep (way more sleep),
remember how
you pressed your kisses against my lips
as soon as I decided to
get out of bed.

Remember the brush of skin against sweat, and
the team, the pod, the circle amidst
the nights filled with sighs of ecstasy.
Remember how I looked beneath you and how far away
the short distance to my mouth felt
as we shared the oxygen that lingered in
the space between our hips.

Bite your lip. Bite my lip. Exhale.

Go on now.
I know you like your alcohol.
Drink me up.

Let your memory swallow this whole.

(I’m fumbling around
with a loss for the right words, but
what I’m trying to say is
thanks for the crinkles around my eyes,
thanks for reminding me
how to smile.)

Sade Andria Zabala is a twenty-four year old Filipina surfer sometimes living in Denmark. She is the author of poetry books War Songs and Coffee and Cigarettes. Her work has appeared on places such as Literary Orphans, The Thought Catalog, The Rising Phoenix Review, Hooligan Magazine, Germ Magazine, and more. In her spare time she likes to eat words and drink sunlight.

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