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I told my mom that I quit smoking on that rainy Tuesday afternoon after the hurricane hit
because every store seemed to be out of that little white carton with red on the top.
I told my sister I stopped during senior year
because I was drowning in papers and would rather drink away my sorrows with beer.
I told my grandpa I didn’t need any money for cigarettes because I quit after grandma died last July;
I made a promise to her I’d find more natural highs.
I told my neighbor he didn’t have to worry about the butts in the drive way any more
because I swore to you I’d keep all my secrets hidden behind closed doors.
I told my nephew I quit because someone wouldn’t buy my old couch because it smelled too much like smoke
I thought they were kidding, but it wasn’t like one of your silly jokes.
I told that old school teacher I ran into outside the super market that I didn’t need a light
because I quit smoking in an attempt to lead a healthier life without living in fright.
I’m not saying I lied when I told everyone in this small town I quit,
but the truth is I’m craving more than just one last measly little hit.
Sitting alone in the room we once shared, I take one last inhale, letting the nicotine fill my lungs before throwing the **** to the floor,
I can’t stand the smoke, but the faint smell is as close as I can get to you anymore.
Summer’s coming to an end and even though the sun set hours ago,
there’s still a warmth in the air.
The room is almost dark
only illuminated with a candle and the sparse passing of cars outside the window of that little house.
The smell of caramel vanilla followed her as she walked from the kitchen
where she poured her third glass of wine.
She wasnt drunk
but the world was spinning a little faster than it normally did.
She knew what she was doing
she was fully aware
her eyes met his
and all he could do was stare.

Her body looked soft
like the blanket they lied on in the park
on the Fourth of July when they watched the fireworks bursting with color above their heads.
Tonight wasn’t like that though. There wasn’t any colors
or loud noises.
She was moving like a tiger
stalking its prey
waiting for the perfect moment to go in for the ****.

Three glasses turned into four as she made the trip down the stairs.
Her hips swayed as she walked
leaving a mystery of what was to come.
She stood there in the bedroom
looking out the window onto the dewy lawn
her skin glowed with elegance
but her curves screamed of ecstasy.
The neighbors across the street turned on their porch light
and the window lit up
creating a silhouette of the woman in front of him.
Her curly hair almost touched her waist as she arched her back and ran her fingers across the top of her hair.
She was beautiful,
strong,
powerful,
and full of everything he never knew he wanted.
Jess Sidelinger May 2019
Looking up, the sky isn’t as blue
as that day three years ago when we drove around
screaming Thomas Rhett songs
at the top of our lungs as we drove down the roads
speeding a little too fast on the curves that were a little too sharp.
The spot in the field  across from the lake where we spent our summers swinging from the rope
is overgrown with the purple and yellow flowers
you used to surprise me with after long days at work.
The pictures your nephew drew me are still hanging on the wall
but the colors are fading and the sun that used to be a vibrant yellow
is now a pale color that’s almost unrecognizable.
You take my hand in yours, but it doesn’t feel like it used to;
your fingers don’t fit effortlessly in between mine, your touch isn’t warm like that night
you stayed up with me until the sun rose
because I couldn’t handle being alone.
Your eyes are unclear, no longer showing the same love
you’re doing things I told you I wouldn’t condone.
Your parents still send cards and letters
with their love and well wishes
on birthdays and holidays because you can’t stand to tell them about what happened that rainy Thursday night almost a year ago.
I don’t recognize the people in the picture frames that line the rooms, decorating the house we dreamed of having together
up on that hill looking out to the sea shore.
They’re not us and we’re not them
because those people don’t exist any more.
Jess Sidelinger Apr 2019
It’s more complicated than just forgetting,
the last time I saw you in that shirt
you had one hand on the steering wheel
and the other on my thigh as we drove down the dirt roads of our small home town
having a destination in mind but not caring when we got there.
It’s not as easy
as singing along to that old rock and roll song your parents played on repeat that weekend we spent with them
in that log cabin in the mountains
where we ate foil packs and slept out underneath the stars every night.
I’m way past remembering who left last because it’s more complicated than counting the butterflies as they fly past
that bush in the front yard
of your grandparents’ house where we spent what seemed like every day
that summer we couldn’t get enough of each  other.
I can’t seem to forget the time you let me give you a haircut
after I had drank an entire bottle of wine
on an empty stomach because I refused to eat the dinner you made
out of fear I’d get fat and you wouldn’t love me anymore.
Now I realize, it didn’t matter if I ate that second cookie,
if I searched the sky for constellations with you,
or dreamed of living in the city because it doesn’t matter. You didn’t love me and I can’t go back

to arguing over whether we wanted  Spongebob or StarWars mac and cheese.
I cant go back to thinking the blankets on your bed will protect me from the monsters in the closet.
Your arms were both a comfort and a weapon as you pulled me closer
grabbing my waist as sweet apologies flooded from your lips as the rain fell around us
coating me in memories and regret.
I wanted to forget tonight and every night
with you.
The pitter patter of rain drops hitting the pavement provided background noise as your hands danced across my body.
The thunder cracked and I realized no amount of blankets could protect me from the monsters in the closet
because they were inside us.
Living,
breathing,
searching for one another.
“Forgive me” you whispered kissing my hand like you did that first night we spent alone

in your room. You said you were sorry
but your green eyes couldn’t be more unapologetic.
The thing is this time I couldn’t just forget.
It wasn’t that easy
because you were more complicated than that.
Jess Sidelinger Aug 2018
The sun’s sinking slowly from view in the window behind your head
as we lie on the couch pretending
like their isn’t an elephant in the room.
Your eyes are anxious and heavy but there’s a smile in your voice
as you throw the ball down the hall
again and again laughing as your dog chases after it. Something wasn’t right,
I could see the scar on your chin
from across the room but I pretended that I didn’t see it
or the little indents on your nose
from your glasses you wore until three that afternoon.
You throw the ball my way expecting the result to be different
than throwing it down the hall, but
that’s insanity.
Doing the same thing over and over
but expecting a different result.
I look at you,
my mind flooding with the thought of you bringing out something different in me.
You start mumbling again as the ball bounces off the walls and I try to pretend
that I don’t like who I am when I’m with you. But I can’t; I’m addicted.
Addicted to the cure
that allows me to love myself in the real world rather than just in a land of make believe.
Getting up and walking across the room
ignoring the babbling coming from your lips,
I sit down beside you
watching our shadows now created by the rising moon outside that same window.
Your eyes are full of life and everything I've never known.
You open your mouth to say something, but laying my head on your shoulder, I whisper
“Just shut up and let me pretend it'll be us in the end”
Jess Sidelinger Jul 2018
It’s 12:08 on a Saturday night and I can’t help but notice the stutter in your breaths
as the speedometer ticks 45,
50,
60.
The wind whips across the top of the open Jeep making both of our hair fly as you turn to look at me.
I looked up at the dull constellations in the sky
trying to avoid the stars I knew were in your eyes.
There’s a tickle on my leg and I look down to see your fingertips tracing tiny circles on the skin above my knee.
The pressure on my thigh gets tighter and I look up to see everything
swimming in your eyes mimicking the look you had when we used to talk ourselves in circles.
The car runs over the rumble strips forcing you to look away and quickly becoming my saving grace from the question I knew was coming:
what are you thinking?
Slowing down to 15 below the speed limit, swerving left and right
in a lame attempt to avoid the never ending *** holes on a back road I didn’t even know existed, we sat is silence.
It’s 12:43 as you put the car in park and say you want me
happy, say you’re ready to commit,
that you know things are different now but that’s not good enough reason to quit.
The full moon shines light on the black silhouette in front of me defining your messy hair, nervous look, and everything eyes.
I whisper I want you happy too, but your fear hasn’t died,
and that there’s nothing romantic about a joint suicide.
We’d crash and burn, get lost in our teenage addictions without caring who or what we hurt.
It’s 1:37 and you pull off again except I remember this spot from the summer after junior year.
Unlike now, it was warmer that night we were last here when the crickets echoed our conversations of love, loss, and regret.
With two simple clicks the headlights were off and the world around us seemed to stand still. I could hear your breathing
getting heavier and faster as you gently cradled my face in your hands
duplicating the night we earlier said that we regret.
Taking in your dimly lit face, you pull my forehead to yours as that song comes on talking about how we used to be so young and self assured.
I realized a rush like this doesn’t come from caffeine
because before I knew it,
you were all over me like we were back at 17.
Jess Sidelinger Apr 2018
You left
but seeing the blue of your eyes mirrored in the sky
on a hot August day takes me back
to that first summer when the freckles on my skin were as prominent as the seeds in the middle of the sunflowers
your neighbor planted next door a few months back.
The rain hitting the cracked pavement outside the window of my favorite coffee shop
is a constant reminder of the day you told me about heartache
that would never stop hurting no matter how many ice cream cones we ate
in that old tree house we build in the 8th grade.
Seeing waves crash into one another with my toes in the sand
sends flashbacks of that cold, January trip where the wind was so strong
you didn’t even want to get out of the car to show me the spot you ran to
when life was becoming too much to just nod and smile through.
Running the paths along the river where the railroad tracks used to be
makes my muscles ache just like they did that day we avoided all responsibilities
and decided to climb the rock wall because we were too lazy to hike an actual trail
but too ambitious to stay inside and watch a rerun of Saturday Night Live.
Sitting in my car waiting for the train to clear the tracks reminds me of the countless September nights
we spent sitting on my porch snacking and listening to the train three blocks over
wondering and wishing it would pick us up and take us anywhere else.
Bubble gum popping is echos the memory when you popped my huge hubba bubba bubble
at the drive in the night you bribed me into seeing that action movie
you knew I didn’t want to see, but insisted on anyway.
Clowns at the Memorial day parade tossing candy to the kids lining the street
mimic the Skittles you threw at me as you screamed “I told you so”
when I finally admitted to liking that rapper you never shut up about.
Any scary movie haunts me like the Mexican restaurant off the corner of West Main Street
because it was there you told me you were leaving.
I’m sitting here considering burning  my favorite blue and white stripped sweater
you gave me for my 21st birthday because it was the last time
you told me everything was going to be alright.
It didn’t matter that I moved away
because I saw you in the face of strangers passing on the street.
I’ll never get to send you off or give you away
things have changed and both of us have grown
but we live in a world made of each other
so we’ll never be alone.
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