Ten of the texts I sent you during the two weeks you were on life support by Jay Jolles

I’m parked outside Trader Joe’s so you’re getting my shopping list because I only ever manage to have paper OR pen in the truck; never both at the same time. So here goes: onions, coffee creamer, frozen dumplings, low-acid coffee, Unexpected Cheddar. What am I missing? Did you use firm tofu or extra-firm in that salad recipe? I can’t remember

The avocados in my fridge are definitely rotting. When I bought them, I promised myself that I would use them. That was days ago and when I noticed that they were starting to go I put them in the fridge immediately. I think the window of opportunity for salvage closed while I was too busy not even noticing that it was shrinking. As you no doubt remember, I am eating virtually nothing these days. I feel like I slide my belt back a notch every week. On Tuesday, I resorted to making new holes with a dull kitchen knife. I don’t think I’ve ever been thinner.

I drove to the Yorktown beach last night because I knew you would’ve told me to get out of the house. I’d really like to take you there when you come visit. I know you’d find it hard to believe, but these days, when I’m driving, I don’t even realize how fast I’m going until I look down at the speedometer. I tapped the brakes too late and too hard and my rear wheels skidded on the gravel.

It occurred to me then that so much of my life can be chalked up to near misses.

Wake up. I miss you–

I scrolled backwards through my camera roll tonight and hovered over all the out-of-focus shots I’ve taken in the last six years that I never deleted. Since I moved here, when I flick through the carousel, people have increasingly been replaced by landscapes. You’re still there, though. First there’s a flurry and then it’s a trickle and then it stops.

The last one: it’s two days before I move here + we’re at dinner. You’re looking at me from across the table at El Poquito. There’s a glass of red next to your left hand and you’re flipping through the menu like it isn’t the same one you’ve read for years. Like you ever order anything other than the cauliflower tacos. Two minutes after I took it, you told me that you and Kami were thinking about another kid. I pretended to be surprised but I sensed it was coming. I didn’t know you could be as happy as you are as a mom.

It’s mid November and here in Virginia, the leaves are finally peaking. This strikes me as a funny way of saying: Everything around me is dying.

I’m thinking about that one time you taught me how to pick watermelons during our last Fourth of July century. You had taken off your gloves but kept your helmet on, sweaty and caked in dust, kneeling next to an enormous green orb. It’s imperative – you had said – that they have an orange spot because it means they spent some time resting in the sun. I asked you if it had been like tanning, but for fruit. You rolled your eyes before the signature solemn nod, I… guess you could call it that. We almost left with a fifteen pound watermelon before you remembered that you couldn’t fit it in your kit pocket.

This simply isn’t fucking funny anymore.

Last night I stood awkwardly on the dance floor at Woody’s and laughed internally about how my first time at a gay club was as a straight man. I felt like you would’ve laughed, too.

Instead, you were four miles north of me, fighting for your life, as a machine beeped rhythmically in cadence with your breath. Hours earlier I had sat next to you, holding your hand, and watching the cars sail down Broad Street, thinking about how for most everyone outside of that building, it was just a Friday. You’d have said, “fucking cagers,” your favorite thing to call people who preferred to drive. You’d have laughed and said, “man if people would just buy a fuckin’ bike.” “In Europe,” you’d have started to say, and I’d have stared at you and you’d have said, “alright, I’ll stop it with my commie bullshit.” I miss your commie bullshit.

Everything about you looked different. I won’t elaborate because if you ever read these I don’t think you’d ever want to know. But I’ll tell you that they never unbraided your hair. And so even though I couldn’t look at your face, I could focus on that neon green hair elastic. The way it cinched that perfect french plait, the way it would dance in the wind. It was the thing I always stared at as I sat on your wheel for all those endless miles, because I couldn’t look at your face.

I can’t believe that it is not just possible, but in fact likely, that the last thing you will ever say to  me is: “you’ll figure it out.” As you well know, I have never not once figured anything out.



Jay Jolles is a PhD candidate in American Studies at The College of William and Mary. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Los Angeles Review of Books, Sounding Out!, Pidgeonholes, The Atticus Review, and Flypaper.