When I was 17,
we met at the local coffee shop,
before Starbucks was a thing.
You side-long glanced at me,
over your book.
I noticed instantly
and was unable to be coy.

You were jaded —
freshly burned.
Her name was Noelle.
A few months later,
you showed me a strip of black-and-white
photo booth pictures —
smiling, tongues sticking out,
Noelle nestled comfortably in the frame.
You were looking for a rebound.
I didn’t know how to be someone’s rebound.

I was sharing a condo with roommates.
You moved into the tiny nook
near the stairs.
Rent was cheap.
I was a pawn.
“This doesn’t mean there’s anything
between us,”
you made sure to state.
I brushed it off, like no big deal.
But it was a huge deal.
You ate at me
through the walls.

I had a dream about you recently.
You asked if I knew where Virginia
was on the map,
but you had it covered with your finger.
It seemed like you did it on purpose.
You never wanted me to find you
or discover who you were…
another white mark on my chalkboard.
I woke up chilled,
my teeth chattering uncontrollably.