The missive arrives at 1:03 in the afternoon.
It begins by misnaming, but eagerly, I read ahead.
It is not a promise, but it is promising.
Don’t tell him, not yet, I beg myself.
I tell him.
His face cracks into a smile, the first for months.
My heart leaps in my chest, a dull ache.
I ignore it.
It’s not a big deal, I warn myself.
Don’t get worked up.
But by 1:04
I was past this moment and into the after.
I smiled at myself in the mirror, a gracious smile.
This would be the one I would give in interviews.
My smirk would be reserved for the carpet.
The full smile, the one that made my eyes
Glint like dying embers in fading sun
That would be reserved for candid shots.
I did not save a smile for me
I would not be alone again
And I would not need it.


In my greeting I correct my name, graciously.


At 2:04 I send it.
I check my inbox and spam
And I refresh a million times.
At 2:15 I tell him about my plans
And his smile falters. He remembers
The last.
Don’t get your hopes too high, he warns gently.
But he feels so far beyond me now,
His words cannot reach.


The rejection comes swiftly, and like
A guillotine, I almost miss the pain of it.
I read it twice without seeing the words
And then it is remanded to the box labeled
They all go there, but the words that preceded them
Are flawed somewhere, and their killing blow
Reaches into the underworld and plucks
Again and again
At my ragged smile reserved
For when I am alone
Which (when he is not here,
And the words are there, waiting to be sent
To the box labeled
Is always.
The missive arrives at 4:48.
I am (again) misnamed
But the last seems so far away
And this is different, I can feel it.
I go to the mirror and practice the smile again
And I do not see the mirror’s hesitation
Its slow recovery.
The fading, cautious smile, with the pain
Behind the eyes.
That is the one I’ll use in this moment
And all moments hereafter.
Nothing, of course,
For the moments alone.
I will not be alone again
And I will not need it.

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