I’ve thought — still think — about calling you,
I’ve kept the conch shell.
I see it every day
On my desk
Collecting dust; it’s once-pink surface withering
In waves to white.
But that makes the rough lines stand out more;
The splotches of color close to the
Appear with that much more life.
I’ve kept it like I’ve kept the iTunes playlists
That became burnt CDs that became soundtracks,
As artifacts — fragile,
Undeleteable evidence of a time that feels so long ago
We could be wax dummies — peeking out of the tent we were so proud of ourselves for pitching.
I’ve kept the yellow Dog Creek Campsite parking pass, too.
And the Ken Griffey Jr. jersey you mailed back to me
Because you didn’t want to keep it anymore.
In my head, I’ve kept the image of that flight of stairs.
Of looking up at you,
Once the door’s closed we had to, I had to force myself to,
Wash minds of two years’ worth of significance — memories.
Tell ourselves it didn’t matter.
It would be best
but what if? —
You were out of my life forever.
There we’d be: wax dummies
Standing next to the Natural History Museum Eskimos who never change;
we’d be mindless;
we’d be reminders that,
No matter how much everyone thinks their first love is different,
We all suffer the same defeat.
My post-virginity-loss breakfast of Mountain Dew slushie and Krispy Kreme,
Getting caught streaking together,
Babysitting your hamster — Nugget — while you studied abroad
and Skyped me after you had sex with someone less than a week after arriving,
and the tears at Nugget’s funeral months later.
We’d be reminders that those memories mean nothing.
But I can still hear the ocean I never saw
And my drunken rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly” belting over R. Kelly as I climbed
Into my dorm bed that first night and wrapped my arms around you.
No, I can’t see the Bahamian beach where you found
This conch shell,
But, if I try now, I can imagine your smiling face
as hands dipped into saltwater
Brought forth natural beauty.
I can imagine — see right in front of me — your blue eyes
When you knew
There was no one else on earth you’d rather give this conch shell to
Even if it ended up broken or lost,
But it hasn’t.
I still keep it on my desk
And wanted to call you to tell you that.
But I didn’t.
Because that’d be a shitty way to ruin your Valentines Day with your boyfriend
And leave mine unfulfilled.