I saw you. Sunday 4pm, old hood
until then I hadn’t known for sure if you’d stayed on
although sometimes I’d find selfies framed with the familiar
white walls of a kitchen we briefly shared.
I knew what you were doing. Sunday 4pm
rounding the corner with your reusable shopping bag
well-trod path to TT Mart, well-browsed aisles of not-quite-fresh-enough bread
potato chips whether on special or not, the endless search for kale.
Most days we would laugh, dance down those aisles
criticising pop that blared through shop speakers, but falling for it too.
Wasn’t that always your way? The world is awful, you’d say
and move to its beat nonetheless.
Sunday, so perhaps you were headed for apple pie
to stand in front of the freezer door
staring into reflected childhood traumas
explaining away the guilt you felt at wanting dessert.
Deep-dish psychological reasons why
no one in your adult life should deny you your desires.
You could talk yourself into anything
with those qualifications of yours.
I don’t remember bad times at the TT Mart with you
but there were moments when neglecting to go
resulted in empty cupboards. I copped it.
And at least once we walked home in blue-stone silence
your face sinking to the shadowy state
that made my stomach flip and clench, my whole system in a holding pattern
until it could work out what I’d done wrong. Always searching for
that mysterious thing I’d done wrong.
Cobbled silence reached crescendo back in the kitchen
you hurled the filled bag at white walls, settled into that hollow place of yours
while I cleaned up scattered vegetables
smashed mushrooms, broken bottles.
Sunday 4pm and we were driving past your corner
on our way to play tennis. I hadn’t held a racket in years
six of us piled into my boyfriend’s car, a week’s worth of news
bursting to tell them we’re moving in together.
My new friends had heard all about you
so when I pointed to your shape moving along the footpath
they joked unrepeatably.
Jason kept an eye on you from the rear-view mirror
but I knew exactly where you were headed
walking solo with your empty bag.
Last week I spotted my ex in the neighbourhood we used to live in together. I hadn’t seen him in over a year and had at times been curious as to how I would feel if I did. I wrote this poem to show how that simple walk to the supermarket could be a microcosm of an entire confusing, anxiety-provoking and often emotionally abusive relationship. It felt so perfect that I was happily crammed into a car with some of the lovely new people in my life, being driven by a much calmer, kinder man when we saw him. Everything’s symbolic, of course, but it’s also just how things are now: safer and better; far less lonely and much more fun.