Drunk Again

I reach out at nothing when I hear that song,
looking for someone to dance with.
And by that song, I mean any song.
And by nothing, I mean the overbearing emptiness
where you used to be. I want to share
twirls and dips and sneaking off the dance floor
to the sounds of big bass lines and ska trombones,
but my hand slides through the air alone,
looking for someone to skank with me.
Someone with a nearby apartment
and a problem with commitment.
She’ll dance to the sultry saxophone
while I feel the guitar,
following all the way to solo.

Then, alone, I’ll take the long bus home
because I don’t want to cross the river on our favorite bridge.
The bridge we used to dance on
while the short, lapping waves kept uneven time
that came just as reliably as our next fight.
I’d do anything
for one more fight with you. I would listen
to crappy pop radio for the rest of my life
for one more song with your cheek pressed to my chest
or your hair brushing my nose
as you bob your head to the music.
Brushing, tickling the same old way
while I kiss your neck and you squirm away.
But you would grow tired of that game,
shove me away,
and pull on a turtleneck sweater.

When you moved out
of our apartment,
you left all your turtlenecks
by the dumpster.

I can’t take back forgetting a dinner date
or ruining your holidays
or correcting your grammar in conversation
but wish I could tell you I’m sorry.
Apologies never sounded sincere
while you were shrieking at me on the sidewalk.
I can’t take back the years
I clutched your hand so tight
you wouldn’t dare leave me
but wish I’d never given you ultimatums Ñ
and I wish they’d never worked.

I know that no matter
how hard I drunkenly press myself
to a stranger in a dance,
the floor will always feel
empty because my partner
is gone.

by James Patrick Schmidt

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