We kissed like we had a thousand times before – mouths moving in tandem, sharing a space that only existed between our pressed lips. It felt like home. I caressed my hand down your cheek. Just a few atoms of my fingertips grazed the fibers of your dark beard. I looked into your eyes like I had a thousand times before. It felt like home. Then you said,
“What are you doing?”
Your familiar face turned to stone underneath my palm. The air dropped out of my lungs and scrambled for a place to hide.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
My eyes brimmed with tears. I rolled away before you could get a better look at my now wet and broken face. How foolish I was to believe that for a moment the air between us could feel electric again and dance between our noses like it did when you were enamored by the corners of me you had yet to explore.
But when I handed you a flashlight and let you into my mind’s attic, I didn’t think you’d tear the pages out of every book in the trunk as you went along reading. I didn’t think you’d keep for yourself what I only ever meant to share. I didn’t think you’d walk away with torn, ragged, misquoted tufts of me stuffed into your pockets for your own safekeeping.
I didn’t think you’d steal the words from my throat, pump them out of your keyboard, paste your name on it, and take the paycheck. I didn’t think of that because you told me you loved me. And maybe you thought you meant it.
But you only loved the parts of me that made you feel full. And when you saw I was starving, you fed me like an echo. I heard your old words bounce around in my empty stomach and prayed they would begin to carry weight.
So hungry I could vomit, I left you a hollow sack of bones. These days, I keep the attic locked behind my teeth and every jewel engraved in fear of you. The man to steal silver from a church to turn it into bullets, hold the clergy hostage, take the scrolls and plaster them on his walls to call it art. Your home is a museum of broken hearts. Mine is a chapel.
I have baptized myself in the salty basin of my tear ducts. I turned to worship my own body and eat the manna of my mind. Now my tongue is sacred ground. So take your shoes off, wash your feet, and tread lightly when I let you in. Leave no trace of yourself in these pews. Take nothing for your own. I have known man long enough to smell sin before confession. I no longer worship his false idols. I am my own god. My mouth can spit fire and burn bridges while you are merely lip service. My mouth can spin hymns to quell loneliness or singe the skin. My mouth can build a city of an ego, or break a man. So in lieu of favors, pray only for my grace. That is all I have left to give. And there is not that much left to give.