Your fingerprints are crawling over the walls, leaving their mark. Stains I know scrubbing won’t ever fully erase, not even the buckets of pomegranate paint I bought on sale.
I call your name, but of course, you don’t come.
I mix pancake batter, throw what’s left in the cupboard: stale chocolate chips, dried apricots, pretzel sticks. I stir, I chop, I take out the blender until the batter is no longer anaemic, but lumpy and full of contradictions.
Butter sizzles on the skillet. I feel your hand on my shoulder, feel you guiding me like you did that first time I stayed the night:
About a quarter cup. Unless you want a monster pancake.
Don’t tempt me.
I try to measure, so the pancakes will be precise, but my hands start shaking and it goes to hell and I dump half the batter in at once, a thick mess that bubbles and cooks unevenly. The smoke alarm sounds. The kitchen fills with the aroma of burnt pretzel rods and something like past-prime s’mores.
I turn the stove off, slap a mess of a monster pancake on your favourite plate. The plate that looks like Costa del Sol, the place you were born and promised to take me, once we saved enough money.
I set out two forks and two knives. I call your name. I taste your lips on mine as I take my first bite.
Warmth floods me. Too much warmth. I choke on the melted chocolate, the surprising salty crunch of a pretzel ride.
That first bite, without you, is everything.
Our awkward coffee dates, lazy days browsing used book stores, snowball fights, debates in Ikea. It is our wedding day, outdoors, until it started to rain and the train of my lace dress was muddied.
It is our argument, etched on your lips before you left- the same day they found you dead.
I set my fork down, calling your name all over the kitchen, all over our living room, all over our bedroom. I say it so it echoes against the walls, fills the rooms. I say it again and again so you will know what I made for you.
I return to the pancake, about to toss it when I notice something peeking out from under our garage sale placemats.
A birthday card for me. The one you lost on your last day here, the card that was supposed to go with a gift you were going to show me after work.
Your signed name, wispy and curled, as if unsure of its ending.
In all these weeks, not once did I notice this card, tucked away- until I called your name.
All Rights. Erin Jamieson.
Erin Jamieson holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University. Her writing has been published in over eighty literary magazines, including a Pushcart Prize nomination. She is the author of a poetry collection (Clothesline, NiftyLit, Feb 2023). Her latest poetry chapbook, Fairytales, is available from Bottlecap Press. Twitter: @erin_simmer