“Do you think you’ll ever love me?”
“Maybe when it snows in Florida.”
I asked, and Jared answered, on the metal bench of the hockey locker room where it smelled like weed. Or at least, I thought it smelled like weed, but he always quickly pointed out that I didn’t really know what weed smells like. I just knew the dark air smelled sharp, bitter, and like something that would get me grounded for at least a week, something threatening that reminded me that a 13 year old girl shouldn’t spend so much time with a 16 year old boy.
Back then I thought love was transferred through fluids. I thought when you kissed you physically spit your love deep down into them, watering something inside, making it grow. When I kissed Jared, I imagined my spit taking a journey down through his pink throat.
Thirteen years later, I sit at a bar in Brooklyn, tight jeans tucked into snow boots, parka kept on over low-cut tank top. I look “winter hot.” The room is only lit by a few dangly edison bulbs and the glow from my phone as I scroll and I scroll. The Cyclone Bomb, winter weather system, is set to arrive. The president threatens war on twitter. It’s so cold I wonder if nuclear winter has already arrived, if I overslept through the impact and awoke to the cold seeping into my mortal bones.
Tweets blend together— cyclone bomb, bombogenesis, nuclear bomb. One, however, catches my eye. There are snow flurries in Florida’s panhandle.
The whole city smells like a hockey rink, cold and rank, tinged with ketchup, each corner a mobile concession stand.
I feel thirteen again.
Jared is easy to find on instagram. Like me, his high school rebellions have been sanded out over time: his dyed black hair now a soft—thinning— brown, black band t-shirts replaced by black tailored suits. I can almost see the twin mattress on the floor of his parents’ basement going through the natural evolution to become a Casper on an Ikea frame in a Murray Hill loft.
I slide into his direct messages. I like how it’s called sliding. It feels both slick and childish, a hose blasting over a tarp, the cool yellow plastic of playskool beneath my short shorts, large hands guiding me down a fire pole during a class trip.
“It’s snowing in Florida. Wanna grab a drink?”
“Too cold for bars. Come to mine?”
“Sure it is. *smirk emoji* Send me the address.”
I take the 4 from Crown Heights to Midtown. It’s near midnight and below zero. I have my pick of seats in the empty car. The blue plastic feels frozen solid. The chill seeps past my denim jeans, wool tights, and cotton panties. My cheeks feel as if they could stick like ice to the bench.
I spend the forty minute ride rehearsing scenes in my head. I don’t normally do this sort of thing, Jared. I don’t normally go home with guys without making them buy me a drink first. I don’t normally reach out like this. It’s so crazy, I’m so crazy, blame it on the weather. I mentally turn each line over until it comes alive, comes true. I convince myself I don’t normally do these things, forgetting that I actually do.
It feels good to press my spit-covered love into open and wanting mouths, willing bodies, salty skin. I imagine eventually finding a mouth that fits.
“You’re actually here.” His voice through the intercom makes it sound like he is miles away, back home under the bleachers, sixteen years old. For a moment it’s as if his voice traveled time, and his body is still there waiting to go to second base, back-down on a surface still slick with chilled sweat.
“Yes, and it’s fucking freezing. Buzz me up.”
He grabs beer, asks his smart speaker to put on Frank Ocean.
“This beer is called bombogenesis, how funny is that?”
I laugh but don’t mean it, swish the beer through my teeth, feel the storm in my mouth.
He doesn’t remember the Florida remark, but is happy I reached out. He does remember where to touch me on the small of my back. I wonder if he found a primal erogenous part of me when we were just kids, or if that spot turns me on because it was the first spot that was touched.
He takes me to bed, and part of me misses the cold metal of the locker room bench, the rumble of the Zamboni in the distance.
He falls asleep quickly after— his body smooth and solid, as if he is a statue I brought to life just long enough to screw before he had to return to his stoney form.
I grab my parka and a blanket, wrapping both around my still-naked body. I climb onto his small ice-covered balcony to smoke a cigarette. I think of all the times I have thought about Jared over the years, how quickly I remembered our deal the second that snow started to fall in the south. Then I think about Chris, Steven, Malik, Robby, Jason, another Chris, men, men, more men. I think of how often I think about them. I wonder how much time I spend thinking about men who never think of me at all.
Each drag in— he loves me. Each drag out— he loves me not.
He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.
Eventually I realize that the cold makes it impossible to tell where the exhaled smoke ends, and my visible breath begins. The frigid air fills with soft white clouds from my mouth.
He loves me not. He loves me not. He loves me not.