You were mortal enemies before hate does what it always does and turns to love.

After you lost to her for Class Treasurer you kissed her in the coat room and grabbed one pre-boob. She wrapped her Jansport straps around your throat and swept the shin.

Fast-forward a decade and she actually has boobs and you finally have the balls to tell her how you’ve loved her ever since she kicked your ass that day in the coatroom. You were at her grad party and her drunk boyfriend was throwing up at your feet. So you proclaimed and she just looked at you for a second before walking off into the woods. You found her leaning against a willow tree and tried to do a grand romantic grab/kiss thing, but just ended up headbutting her. You both laughed it off and kissed each other’s blood. She cried and told you how the drunk boyfriend already gave her a pre-engagement ring. And you wondered then like you wonder now if that’s even a thing.

Now, another decade later, you have a run-in unexpectedly at a resort. It’s summer and most of the tourists are gone from the mountain town.

This is the only time I like to come.

That’s what you both say to each other and then just stand there with your shoulders slumped and your children circling.

Please don’t touch me, she says.

You lie and say, I haven’t thought about you in years.

That night, you’re fiddling with the piano in the lobby and she stumbles in from the bar and sits beside you. She leans in and says how when she listens to jazz she always thinks of you.

You saved me from pop music, she says.

After you have sex, you tell her that your ex-wife is nice, caring, and not interesting. How she almost liked it when you cheated, how she always used the phrase, your happiness. You’ve never told anyone this, but here you are chasing the same woman you’ve chased for twenty years and you finally have her. But just like when you were young there’s this awkward tension. You’ve always thought it was the sexual kind, but now that’s over and you still feel this ever-tightening noose.

You say, It’s almost like old love isn’t even love.

She’s nude and her breasts are still heaving.

She cups her right breast and says, I never loved you, and I don’t think you ever really loved me.

You can tell she means it. You can tell she’s right.

She cups her left breast and says, We should go pick up the kids, the pottery class is almost over.

For a minute you forget she doesn’t mean your shared kids. For a minute you think of what could have happened if that kiss actually landed in the coatroom. If you held hands and were the first ones to go out. If you took virginities and had abortions and bought spatulas and came full circle to this resort.

She throws your pants at you. The buckle whips and smacks you square in the mouth. You laugh and kiss. The taste of blood back. The taste of a better time back.

Let’s go asshole, she says, flicking the blood from her chin and laughing the same fourth-grade laugh.



About the Author

Dayton J Shafer loves the feel of old books and live fish. He’s also done fancy stuff like interviewing and publishing Guggenheim Fellows. The majority of his adult life has been spent eating tapas, drinking homemade beer, hiking precarious trails, and writing for local and national publications. He regrets nothing.