It is like
going to the circus again
as an adult.
How I know now
that I can find the smell of burned sugar and beer
in any alley on the East Side
And the cotton candy hurts my teeth
but I eat it anyway, and I like it anyway,
I know what it is now.

I know it isn’t cotton that was somehow
spun from a story, pulled from the sky,
waiting all this time for the tip of my tongue
I know the lights are humming from generators
and that the ferris wheel outside the big top is not
reaching for me
That the ferris wheel does not care
if I am on it or not
That the whole thing will happen without me
over and over again

It is exactly like that
when he puts his hands in my hair
I throw my head back
and my throat is exposed
my legs around him like aerial ropes
I am as real as levitating.
I know
which parts of me he brought home tonight
and which parts were left in the car.

In his sleep he digs his fingers in
and pulls me toward him when I shift
and lays his face against the back of my neck
But I know that proximity
does not make something love.
I used to sink back into the frame of his body
like it was my own bed
I used to think he must be aware of me
even in his sleep
That his searching hands must mean
this would someday
resemble
sentiment.

But I have learned the difference
between presence and significance
I could be anyone.
I am anyone.
None of this is extraordinary.
I can come back a million times
and he will forget me
each time
and I will lay restless against the hum
of his warm body
studying his fingers laced through mine.

How curious
the ways we feign affinity.

My sister asks why I keep going back
I say
I like how he brushes my hair from my face
when I am coming
I like how I will never believe it means he loves me
How my heart sits intact
on some balcony, elsewhere
watching from distances
his palms will never cross

Apocalypse carnival mistress, essayist, and animated story maker. orderoflostthings.com

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