Things I Want Back Now That You’ve Left Me

Leslie Santikian

Zombie paining, done in ochers and black, that I bought for your birthday two months early; I wanted to show that I knew what you loved from the beginning. Ridiculous bow it came wrapped in, big as a head. Pink bullet of gloss that fell under your front seat during date number four—red, I thought, would scare you away, like a girl saying “Be with me” through color. Nylons left in your spare lawyer’s closet with the mirrored sliding- door. Pink toothbrush you bought me for our first night together, which I used for ten months without buying a new one. Zombie self-help book on top of your shelf. 2,000-miles-and-more worth of gas driving to and from your city, and then, your new house, all brick and mild blue paint, which I thought would be ours when your brother moved out and we married each other, kids filling our arms like bouquets. Passion fruit curd from The Mission that only I liked. Love for symphonies, graphic novels, and breakfast; dark beards, and San Luis Obispo; kissing during Sondheim revivals; used bookstores with names like Coalesce. Belief in the fateful magic of hummingbirds. Your recipe for how to make fried chicken in a cast-iron skillet, onion gravy simmering on the gas stove in a separate pan, waiting to be absorbed into rice. Your tongue in my ear as I watched chicken sizzle. Your nose rubbed against pulse-points in my neck. Stretchy blue sheets from your bed, yoga-pants-soft, smelling like your hair and skin, and fresh Lever 2000 soap. Sudden appreciation for flannel. Title you gave me as connoisseur of Trader Joe’s chocolates, which we ate by the handful while watching morning cartoons that made us feel young. Coffee packets saved from nights in hotels. Ability to eat pancakes in Exeter, at a diner shaped like a train car, full of characters. Eggplants from my grandma’s garden, and the piles of Armenian cucumber, long, ribbed and light green, which you threw in your salad like an afterthought. Giddiness I felt when we went to a cabin in the mountains for the first time, and your car got stuck in a driveway of hard-packed ice; I sped back and forth from the house to you with bowls of hot water steaming the air, up and down the steep driveway, imagining myself in an episode of I Love Lucy. Days (there must have been thousands) before I knew Persian-Scottish men set me on fire. Confidence that I could cook like your mother. Brown wicker basket in which I arranged calla lilies, moss, delphinium, and ivy for a housewarming gift; don’t send the actual plants, which your brother pulled out one by one a week later, shoving each in glass dollar-store vases positioned all over the house (your family never let anything only be yours). Spaces in my chest where I kept you safe, holes that gape open without you. New Year’s card where I wrote, “I want to do more of everything with you.” Post-it stuck on your desk, saying, “Hey there, sailor!” (I was into Rita Hayworth, then.) Nights without thoughts of you and me running to each other from endless distances, bodies oozing heat on contact. Cellphones not filled with your voice, or words. Pride created when we sang a duet together one morning, in different rooms, our voices bound together by air and intention, knowing the same song and lyrics by heart. Glow that glazed my whole body when you said, like a fact, that I was a living painting stretched in your bed. Pair of storm-colored underwear I gave you to keep in your drawer, after I left for a Baltic cruise with my family; I remember rocking back and forth in the middle of black ocean, imagining you touching it with your fingers, stretching it within an inch of its life. Blanket I crocheted for you before I left for the Baltic, made with dark and painful blue yarn. Love of free Wi-Fi from tour buses, so I could send emails to you from all eight cities, so you’d see them with me: every statue and house, every café and shard of amber or chocolate. Postcard of the Danish man in a battered straw hat, in front of a farmhouse, that I said would be you in 50 years; afterwards, I searched hard for a woman somewhere in the frame so I could say us in 50 years. Souvenirs hoarded in my suitcase for you, beneath everything else: tiny Vasa in a bottle; cheeseboard made from Finnish cedar; bricks of Russian green tea in an octagon case; Gdansk magnet of a bulging Poseidon; clay mug from Estonia wrapped in a skirt, then thrust deep in my carry-on, broken pieces haunting me all 12 hours. Refuge I felt before you called me that night, shouting fears about us and your life, self-hatred coursing through your body like unhealthy blood. Who I was when you hung up the phone. Gold earring back on your nightstand, next to the clock. I left it on purpose. Everything I left in your house was on purpose.