a field guide to the symbols of love

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Hearts — mist dying and the stink of shoeless feet

X — when close pushes farther away, so far, so bad, so much, and always too close still, yet never far enough, and somewhere someone sings, “At last…”

O — (an emetic for canceled plans and other such minor catastrophes)

Winks — dates drenched in moonlight, covered in sand, hand brushing nervously against another hand, lost staring contests, resting swamped in miracles…if you need one

Smiles — music dialing wrong numbers until other voices in other rooms do the mumbling for you, but you never called

&^! so say this (vehemently if possible): “Vapors distilled by major-market junkies run turnstiles, squawk at boxes, limbo options of spent halves gone too long on empty. Pshaw! I am moaning alone for a while, here.”

Chills — loaned books, fingertips tracing letters of a middle name on an arm, toes poking out of argyle socks, whispers, popcorn machines, wedding gifts stowed for good in forgotten closets, holes punched in drywall, trying on straitjackets for size, dreaming in shifts

Sleep — when the moths hover, when the rocking chairs dance, when the sun is sick, when legs go crazy with Busby Berkeley numbers, when your head gets stuffed with pickpocket stills from movies you’ve never seen, when mosquitoes buzz all ears

“>^<” — unreturned phone calls and texts never sent

* — naps and returned blank checks

! — maximum room capacity: one person

@~@ — the avoidance of inertia, frustration, boredom, and depression can at numerous times in the life of an individual carpetbagger and/or insurance adjuster become a well-honed tool of defense

… — arm-less hugs

Dolly Parton — carefully posed pictures of who we used to be, together, and thinking, ‘Now, where did those scissors go?’

Q — all queries remain on neutral turf, shored on timidity, left wimpy and waiting for outcomes that never come, putting off a nervous breakdown one vodka tonic at a time

Slabs of cement — exposure of nether regions

u -u-u — we’ve got to talk

deodorant — don’t come around here no more

checked box — you should come with a warning label: contents under pressure; fragile at times; murderous at others; please do not shake, fold, or cram into unfit places; no return address; postage due; be careful phrasing criticism or compliments; never ask where to go for dinner; excess wine may add a bickering and mean nature to temperament; do not take for granted; kiss a place on the neck near the carotid triangle of if upset; do not mention Thomas Jefferson to; and most importantly, please, please be true to at all times

ä — time flies when you’re honing breakfast-making skills, mostly inventing waffle toppings such as almond butter with dots of soy sauce and a dab of sour cream

à — hard to swallow, pit in stomach, sweaty palms, glasses falling off, constant need to micturate, rapid blinking, in constant thrall to the shakes, palpitations, fending off anxiety’s crushing tremble with distraction’s ulterior and irresistible motives

Elvis Presley — running hands through hair, telling yourself, “There, there, there.”

V>>V — and then she screams, “Fuck you, you fucking loser, sick fucking sonofabitch! Fuck! Fuck you! I hate every single thing about you! Don’t ever fucking touch me every again you fucking motherfucker! And I hate your fucking dog too!”

Bishops or Rooks — hair of gold and lips like cherries turn to yellow strands in shower drains and a cracked pucker in dire need of some ChapStick

/`o`\ — life’s been good to me so far, but still, I miss the hell out of you being in it

Dog-eared pages of old paperbacks — romance wearing nostalgia’s charm as a badge of honor, again

&& — that’s not even funny

__ — sex without drugs or rock’n’roll

Cowboy hat — sundown

() — restful evenings in the uneventful swath of television’s blue glow, thinking, “Just hunkering down here. That’s all.”

g…i…r…l… — everything’s a must; and you always are just what you only are in my mind to me, a reminder that you never were, maybe, this you at all, but this you that I’ve made for me is all that’s left, and haven’t I once or twice cared a whole lot for you someplace before?

shadows — there’s this feeling called, there’s this feeling called, there’s this feeling called…what was that now? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing to see or do here. Let’s just be ourselves for a bit, while this hiding of these most personal items lasts, because it never does

# — # — more please (or turn the music down)

Helvetica — lost loose change from foreign countries you’ve never been to, black polaroids, smashed flowers, famous hairstyles, lumps in the throat, stylish personalities

taxis — the placement of options for worry bludgeoning remorse with uselessness

lavender — suitjacket vest pockets

fog — stomping in on giant dinosaur feet and soaking sappy memories until all kept notebook-jottings are just a mopey wet mess of mush and disintegrated luck

busy signal — there’s something in your eye, let me smell your hair, get down on your knees and draw some dolphins with chalk on the sidewalk, make a newspaper hat, we are merely summering here until this terrible weather passes

N+** — lose my number you son of a gumshoe

Angels — dragnets out to catch a few stars or tears, or maybe just purchase a cheese-and-bean burrito at two in the morning

V{ — personality traits notwithstanding there are a few things left about you I still care about but those things aren’t enough to give this damn thing another go. Also, I still have your pajamas and your tampons.

Pulse — you didn’t exactly bring any good-fucking-tidings with you

Skip James — Steve Martin

Gum — if the clothespin fits, if the safety pin pricks, if the patches wear thin, if the brain breaks, if casualness causes casualties, if the phone never rings, if nobody is left here to care

~`~ — that can’t possibly be the shirt that you’re going to wear

E=% — nothing else matters when you’re dancing

ee cummings — achy sugared coffee in a mug that says, “Frank.”

clingclingcling… — the morose tendencies of indifference flute bluebells and radio matadors but who knows what a little spring might bring if the moods of misbehaving down too much coffee and take hands for granted in the puke puddles of winter’s worst so here is my hand to take or to not

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