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The Idea of a Thing is Not the Thing Itself photo

This boy wants a cat for the idea of a cat. Real responsibility chokes him. This boy wants to embody the writer—navy sweater, gold chinos, salmon boat shoes, honey hair tousled, thick brown glasses, posing with the frothing sea at his back, black feline in cashmere arms. This boy would be charming and this boy would be coquettish and this boy wouldn’t be pathetic. This boy wouldn’t tip and fall forward into foam. He wouldn’t spend his days staring at the ceiling, counting knots in the wood, wondering, sinking inward, considering his every mistake from 1995 to now.

It was a moment. The impact of moonlight and campus slicked underfoot. Leaves scratched brick. This boy was struck by the lust that snuck behind him, held his shoulders, smirked, became a weight he couldn’t swallow around. Shoes scuffed hard cobbles. Wind tore this boy’s hair. 

It was a moment, two strangers passing. This boy didn’t call out. This boy didn’t say, I like your shirt. This boy didn’t bump a shoulder and, oh, sorry, Im such a klutz. This boy walked past, beyond, gnashing. 

For this boy, regret is not an ocean, and regret is not a cat, but the view of a still lake from a long-ago dormitory window. How the water carried the following morning’s red light like a heart spilled. 


image: Aaron Burch