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An Offertory, on a Small Court photo

In the beginning there’s a paper motel cup half full of whiskey and shared germs
(Raise the cup, ascribe honor, bring offerings and come into his courts)
“Steph,” Luke says, through teeth, through decency, against my ear


Remember that really cold winter? Rare cold air rushing in when we let the dog out

You were watching basketball, and I was like “Who is that prick with the mouthguard?”
And you were like, “are you kidding me?”

I wondered if you ever accidentally thought of him when we were having sex
When you whispered my name against my throat, did you think of a basketball player
Did you think of his mouthguard, all hanging out of his mouth, full of bubbly spit

We’d been fighting and I thought: basketball is a peace offering
I’ll watch basketball with you to smooth things over
It just made the space between us on the couch seem so much colder when I sat down


“I never drink as much as when I drink with you,” I say, my fingers touching his belt

“All I am is one giant bad choice to you,” Luke says, a half-smile, eye contact
Like I’m the only thing in the world to look at. “I think I’m gonna go home,” he says.

When he leaves I stand still in the dark, a summer night still warm on bare shoulders
I smell him on me: skin, dress, breath. Man, soap, whiskey.
I wonder if you smell him too. I’d be surprised if I didn’t stink of this from a mile away

Luke still posts such great selfies: flawless, gorgeous, smooth skin, weird and happy
Each one is a week’s worth of sadness for me, for how I’m not there
There being weird and happy. There being in the picture. There, a paper cup


“Steph,” you said, your hand pressed against your whole face. “Fucking snap out of it.”

I didn’t answer. Did I even look up? My glass, wedding crystal, empty, no ice to crunch.
“Sorry,” you said. “I didn’t mean that. Maybe you should get help or something.”

We turned off the game and let the dog in, cold, almost damp, stinking of winter
Of a season we didn’t even understand. I snapped at you to shut the door
Then closed it myself, in lieu of apologizing, in lieu of a lot

“Who’s that?” you asked, looking at my instagram, the dog at our feet. “Those kids?”
“Nobody,” I said, knee-jerk. “Well, my friend. He’s not a kid.”
“Looks like a douche,” you said. I sipped cheap whiskey (walk in love, an offering).


Wait, maybe Luke never says my name, in that hotel room with the paper cup

I don’t think he ever says my name, not the way you do
I don’t think he ever says my name, through teeth or through anything

I hate basketball with the court so small and the people so big, gangly
Limbs everywhere, hardly any room to move. To breathe. To fail.
A paper cup, soggy at the edges, it’s empty but we still bring it to our mouths

“Every minute I spend with you I feel more complicated,” he says.
I wonder if complicated means bad, if complicated means love, then love means bad
I dwell in such a small court and I somehow moved, breathed, and failed so well


We didn’t notice how the dog slowed down that winter until she stopped eating

7 PM, Saturday, Golden State Warriors on tv, she stopped breathing on my lap
We turned off the game and drove to the mountains, a dead dog in the backseat

You bitched about the icy roads, each descending degree from the car thermometer
“Right here,” I said, and we pull over, tightening scarves. “This is the spot.”
You carried our dog a mile in the crunchy snow, six thousand feet up, dark

I dug and you poured booze into tin cups. I couldn’t dig deep enough in the cold
A half-buried dog beneath a mound of dirt and snow, a cross made of sticks
We raised our cups and I tried not to cry but it felt so alone with no dog, with just you


In the end he and I are thirsty, dry mouths, in a car beneath a jacaranda tree, 3 AM
Borrowed whiskey in a silver flask, one heart breaking, shitty rap music in the backseat
“Steph,” he never says. Wind shakes dying purple trees (a sacrifice, make good thy vows)