Paul Asta

Where You Left Her

Lakeshore Drive and What?

You met on the CTA bus.

She lived three blocks over. Four houses down. Played the violin for the past sixteen years and hated it. Earlier she had asked you if you could curl your lips Chicago Style and you tried desperately to imagine what exactly that would look like.

She told you to imagine your teeth were the skyline. Some buildings taller than others, some in desperate need of repair. How your gold molar reminded her of the Christmas tree ornaments in the holiday windows at Marshall Field’s.

Damn, she said. A different time, a different time. (And forgot to mention the lips.)

Most of the commute was quiet. The slow shuffle. The doors on the bus opening and closing. Abbreviated motions in which the people around you excused each other as they touched in the smallest ways.

She would work herself to a point. Give you these small moments and then get lost in her own thoughts. And you had thought there was a sort of comfort to that, to sit in that space together.

Maybe it was the way the yellowbook sat on the doorstep for three months. How the condensation seemed to warp everything: the names, the addresses, the coupons all meshed together creating a sort of pulp. An amalgamation of the surrounding area all coalesced in the same place at the same time.

And maybe it wasn’t comfortable at all.

And you remember how in the winter, the wind came off the lake and dried out everything. How the air made your nose bleed in the morning, like breathing a forest. Every tree splintering. Every pine needle puncturing your lungs. The corners of your mouth folding and unfolding, adjusting to the cold winter air.

And you remember how you had planned to take her to Chinatown, but her mom called and told her not to go to the south side. So you went up north and had hot dogs instead. And maybe it was the hot dogs or maybe it was the atmosphere, but you remember leaving her there and you’re not sure why.

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Paul Asta is a bookbinder and an M.F.A. Candidate in Poetry at Indiana University Bloomington. He was born in South Korea and raised in the Chicago Suburbs. His work can be found or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Hobart, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, and 90’s Meg Ryan.