1. Because I want to be numb. Houston is too far from home and I will get lost. I will scurry down the highway, mad and bright, past the RVs and economy cars, closer and closer to the urban sprawl, the wet heat and despondent elderly. I will get lost and you will never find me. Perhaps you won't bother to look. You will wait in the parking lot. It's August. It's damp and oppressive like a mother's kiss. Have you lost weight? Did the sun scorch your cheeks and nose? The pills are white and round, smooth and small like morning dew. I won't make it to Cracktown, but I will come close. The bus to Dallas won't be crowded, you may sit alone. When the driver stops to eat, buy something pretty and remember me.
2. Because Nathan is waiting for me. I wasn't there to find love. That would be foolish. Like happiness, it's a moving target. I fell for Nathan when I learned he loved his animals more than himself. One day, we will live in a shack on the outskirts of a small town that sells only liquor and gasoline. I won't remember you. This is not true. A face looms over diners in a restaurant with portraits of dead movie stars. Nathan is waiting for me. Two years from now, I will bury him. I will dispose of the needles. I always wanted to watch you shoot up. A face looms high and angry. I shut my eyes. This is not true.
3. Because Travis was right about me.
4. Because Mike trusted me. There are years and there are days. I met him in a trailer park outside of Longview. I photographed him less than an hour into our encounter because I knew I would lose him. My fingers are small, the palms hosting a matrix of curves and lines. I will live a long life. Mike died and I recalled staring at a chess board, my father opposite me. I always wanted to ask if he let me win. Did Mike love me as much as I loved him? I knew the answer. He never knew I was sick. I am a liar. I am a coward. I remember you framed in my doorway before seven that morning, a sweater tied around your waist despite the humidity. The rising sun was the eye of God. We discussed how I would leave, leave you behind. I know the story. You know the story. We know the story.
5. Because I believe in whatever I touch. The halls are narrow and dark, emptiness swallowing men, digesting them, the men left blind and stumbling. How did you remember me? What stuck in your mind like a degrading truth from an ex-lover over the phone. There are days and there are years. There are years and there is time. You don't have enough, I have too much. I did not remember you. My fingertips have forgotten your skin. I am so ravenous for a man's touch, I will devour the first bastard who tries. I wanted to know if you were dying. Continue down the hall. Forget my face, forget my name. Open the door, a room number whispered by a man whose face escapes you. The music pulses like a fish dying in a rowboat. I can endure the years but not the days.
6. Because I never stopped loving the first man to reject me. Father and I played chess. It was the last time. The queen can move anywhere, the king is hobbled and slow. Father died, the ground yawned wide and I gazed into the opening, fascinated. I won the game. This was a decade ago. Victory was an orgasm of the mind. This holds true only if a game presents itself. I lost. I folded. Someone scattered the pieces on the floor. Watch your step! After I buried my father, I said I love you. Those words are really a question. No one heard me. It will be the last time I say it. There are inches and there are miles. I tried, I tried. There are too many miles. Someday, a man will come back for you. He will stand beneath a streetlamp. Its hum will fill the silence until you speak.
7. Because the story must end. How will you know I loved you? It's simple. I have left you—that is how you will know.