Date Book

by Genevieve Hudson

1. November, say they, is the cruelest month. Don’t believe them. It’s hot July with her bike grease, her stringless flings, her flat tires, her tendinitis of the wrist. The sun burns us right in the face. Neither of us has seen Sonoma, a dyke march, City Lights Books, or each other before. Everything, even our breath, boils. Cruelty is meeting someone and knowing what you want is time. I take your hand at the farmer’s market to lead you through the lines. The trick is letting go. Tijuana, I say. You’ll have to tell me about.

2. August holds possibility, like a baptism, your itinerary through town, and the Polaroid we find of someone else’s fun. The strawberries here taste like sugar. It’s a promise. But you are from better places, where water is greener than trees and the sky is bluer than the milk of your iris. Your fields are on fire with the red of them, the berries you smear your fingers through. I can’t stop eating the vine. You open your lips. Train songs will always remind me of you.

3. By September you are another country again. The thought of you causes me to pick flowers, to put poems to the back of receipt paper. I get a package in the mail. It’s wrapped in a map of the place where you live. I fall in love with the smell of the cardboard, the image of your palms folding the top down. We meet on an island in the middle. I feed myself to you until we’re full.

4. October is for dressing up, for getting robbed. I call you not crying. Someone breaks into my room. They touch my bed. They leave the smell of skin and clattered coins. I can’t stop thinking about the stories on my computer I didn’t save. The essay I was writing about you. Behind your back I can make you into whatever I want. Your voice handles crisis better than anyone. You have mastered the art using a thousand words to say nothing. I fall into the receiver; it’s hard plastic I am beginning to regard as your cheek. I flirt so hard five people try to kiss me.

5. November is not cruel but filled with visits. I wake up dreaming. You’re in my mind. You sleep later than I like, but your hide is the perfect texture. Your back is the color of my bones. I take my passport everywhere, it’s proof that I belong. You introduce me to your friends, and I practice saying hello in the mirror until my cheeks fall down. I memorize your dialect, the cutting away of consonance, and the inflections that leave your mouth. Your mouth meets my mouth and we both like what happens.

6. By December we’re downhill. I rehearse asking you to move here in front of my friend Lisa. Lisa pretends she wants what I do, but we both know she sees the future and you’re not in it. I toss my bed against the wall and turn toward the hard floor, hoping uncomfortable things will make me stronger, more able to deal. I practice patience. I leave messages. You get back to me at the wrong times. During the holidays no one asks if I’m dating. But what would I say? Same sex, different nationalities.

7. January.

8. In February we go to Seattle to say goodbye. No one’s going to do anything about it. It being us. Anything About It being moving or making a decision to get serious. But how could it be more serious? I ask you. You are still the best at saying so much nothing. I nod like I understand. What I understand is you love me. We accidentally rent a weekend apartment over a lesbian bar. We laugh all the way up the stairs. Capitol Hill is all noise but we don’t even hear it. We never go to the lesbian bar. We’ve made our own lesbian bar in the kitchen. We pretend we live here. We drink from cups. We unmake the bed. We note the space needle in the window. We pour white wine from cartons. We do everything we’ve never done before and everything we have. You tell me about men. I listen. I want you to keep going. Keep going. You say you’ve never met anyone like me, which sounds familiar, like I’ve heard it before. You say a lot of things. Keep going.

I drive you to the ferry. It’s so early it’s nighttime. I am sweating from my coffee. You can smell me. My favorite place to rest my hand is on your thigh, so I do it. Nothing like luck is between us. I point at the Canadian flag on the boat that’s yours. It’s going to carry you. You’ll be home in a few hours, working again at the crisis line where you shepherd other people out of sadness.

Genevieve Hudson is the author of Boys of Alabama: a novel (W.W. Norton/Liveright, 2020), which O, The Oprah Magazine, Lit Hub, and Ms. Magazine selected as a recommended book to read in 2020. Her other books include the memoir-hybrid A Little in Love with Everyone (Fiction Advocate, 2018), and Pretend We Live Here: Stories (Future Tense Books, 2018), which was a LAMBDA Literary Award finalist. She has received fellowships from the Fulbright Program, The MacDowell Colony, Caldera Arts, and The Vermont Studio Center. You can find her on Instagram @gkhudson or on Twitter @genhudson.