"Let's play a game."
"Walter, it's cold. It's fricking cold."
"It's not that bad. C'mon, it'll warm you up."
"Setting yourself on fire isn't my idea of a game."
"It's not that." He pulls a pack of Marlboros out of his right jacket pocket.
"We're going to get high?"
"Nah. It's a deck of cards." He opens the top flap and reveals them to me. I don't have a response.
"So here's the deal" -- he sniffles and grabs his nose for a moment -- "you call a card. Any card. Twos, threes, fours; jacks, Kings; aces, e.t.c... And pull it from the stack. And if you get the one you picked, I'm in love with you."
"Does it matter which suit?"
"Do you say it out loud?"
"See, that's stupid. Because if we both know, it takes away the element of surprise. Or secret knowledge."
"Nah, it's fun!"
"Have you played it before?"
"Just made it up," he tilts his head skyward and through the faint light I see the shadow of the bags under his eyes.
"Cmon, let's go." He says, shuffling the cards on the sawdust ground and filleting them out to me for picking.
I sigh, rolling my eyes. I doubt he can see that. I doubt he can see a lot of things.
"Seven," I say, reaching for the middle of the stack. I retrieve a six.
"Ahhhhhhh," his laugh is hoarse from all that screaming. It sounds even better than before. "Cmon, go again."
I draw a second time, pulling out a six.
"Ssss," he hisses. "Tough. You were so close."
"Just go," I retort, taking a swig of my beer.
"You sound dumb when you say that."
"Shut up. Two." He draws. Jack. He draws again. Joker.
"This is no fun," I groan. "I bet everyone else is far away by now."
"It's your turn."
"Ten." I draw a jack. I draw again from the same spot and get a ten.
"Looks like you're on a roll."
Two more rounds and we haven't guessed right once. He stops drawing twice just to see if I fail in the same way, and I do. I almost forget the point of this game, then--
"Dayum, girl," he laughs, his face coming out of the dark. "This must be some kind of miracle or something. You always draw one away from the number you called. Sometimes even from the same place in the deck."
"What are you trying to prove?"
"I'm not proving anything. It's your hand. I'm just saying you were sooo close. And you missed it."
"Okay," I let out a shallow breath, retreating further into the dark so he can't see my lip beginning to quiver.
"I don't want to play anymore."
"Why, because you lost?"
"You lost too!" I say bitterly.
"Alright, alright," he retreats. "One last go for me. Five."
"That's my favourite number."
"Then this is your lucky day."
He draws. The moon comes into view. We both look at the card, we look up. Our souls catch fire.
i want to tell you something. i played this game by myself while my church family was playing just dance after the ball dropped (what a stupid tradition, if you ask me. it wreaks of innuendo, but it's still kinda funny). i got the exact outcomes the girl (i've named her jourdan) did in this story. and to be perfectly honest, it's not a good game to play. in fact, i think it's very damaging. i wrote this on a whim in the car on the way home after the party. i was listening to paramore and la dispute and everything was pitch black except my phone screen. and i've decided it's to be for the girl who commented here so long ago, about the boy. and i know it's not as optimistic as my other poetry but what i want you to know is, i've spent a long time, on and off, doting over the idea of having someone who liked me. and like you said, though you know Jesus is all you need, it's hard not believing you need a boy too. and it's not easy to unthink that problematic behaviour that's been passed on from friends and older relatives. but i want you to take care of yourself. i want you to know that i have been on this earth eighteen years and though i've begun to receive nice compliments and some notice, i'm still very much on my own. and now, in a world where women are saying you are strong and independent and don't need anyone, it's easy to feel bad for wanting someone. so whoever you are, whatever your situation, don't feel bad about it. but who you are isn't a direct function of who likes you. does that make sense? you can't force yourself to unlike someone or unwant them. but you have to take care of yourself. you have to. so i love you, i hope you're doing well, you're special and i'm so sorry to get this to you so late, but i hope you see it.
happy new year, darlings.
-kiss kiss kiss, heavens to betsy-