I did not love you. Not then. That last night, that last drink. It lasts. How do I begin. When we were. Never. Never mind, it was red wine, a second-story slanted in stained glass. Two burgundy chairs, one I borrowed. A toast to my leaving before going. I stepped, down the stairs, out the door, the bills on the table. Count them. One, ten, twenty-three times I could have made it clear. Did we, did I, ever put back the chair? To where. It had been before. And then. The dark, the light of the parking lot. You alighting your plea. Me lighting off. Your whisper, my warning, all those times I should have led you away to someone. Else. Where. I did not love you. Not then.
But this morning, rinsing my wine glass from last night, I spoke two words. I should say them to you, not press them down into this glass paragraph shuddering and breaking with each letter. That night, that light misunderstood under a Lubbock sky. Your gesture a crease in guessing. You wanted me to not want what I wanted, the lights of a maybe someone. Else. So I left, that last drink lingering, stumbling against the lock of my door, the answer I never gave. Is this how I slide the chair of your sturdy heart across a carpet of years and back beneath my table of regret? I departed. Partly. Part of the longing that led me to leaving I’ve never come back from, and I’m on my last drink, so let me tell you now, I still linger in that light. Here, drink it in. We were.
Jill Talbot is the author of Loaded: Women and Addiction (Seal Press, 2007), the co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non) Fictions Come Together (University of Texas, 2008), and the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction, released in 2012 from University of Iowa. Her work has appeared in Brevity, DIAGRAM, The Paris Review Daily, The Rumpus, Under the Sun, Cimarron Review, and Ecotone. She is the 2013-2015 Elma Stuckey LAS Writer-in-Residence in Creative Nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago.