ROMANTICS: Pick-up Lines by Carissa Halston & Randolph Pfaff

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A Single Line

By Carissa Halston & Randolph Pfaff

1. “I’m going to go put my pajamas on. Do you want to come with me?”

I am surprised
by honesty,
by people
employing truth
when I least
expect it.
I am unsurprised
by cold,
by the way
it seeps into
back seats
of cars in central
Pennsylvania.
The way it comes
between two people
whose breath
is seen before
their words
are heard.

2. “Halston, look, I’ve got a hypothetical situation for you.”
“Okay.”
“We’re having sex.”
“Okay—”
“That’s it!”

He found out I’d never been to a strip club. Aghast, he promised to make me dinner first and then we’d go. He did make dinner. Something I didn’t like, but ate out of politeness. He smiled, “You get the Clean Plate Award.” We talked like strangers. We’d known each other five years. At some point, he played a Thelonious Monk album and the room got dark and all I could think was, “Is this in exchange for dinner? Are we still going to a strip club?” The whole thing was short-lived. Fully clad and chatty. We were not strangers. I learned how the red light district got its name. Blemished skin is clear in red light. Stretch marks disappear. He gave me dollar bills to give to girls. I felt like someone’s best friend who’d been made to play the lookout while their friend gets lucky in the back of the car. Here, hold this flashlight. Turn it on, then off, three times if there’s trouble. I didn’t know how to hold it properly. It shone into my eye.

3. “John’s friend, are we going to make out or what?”

What do you do when you’re done
and you’re saying goodbye
to old new friends?

You drink.

You try to bring your lives together:
past, present, unknown.

You ask those you love
to collapse the space between them;

to be close the way you are with each.
To fill in backstory, to make impressions
first and only.

You forget.

You wonder when they wander.
You make a break for home

in the guise of a Dunkin’ Donuts,
fluorescent and warm,
sober and unalone at 5am.

4. “I know that you’re straight, but can’t you just be gay with me for a little while?”

Oh, she scared me. She was pretty and direct and older and apparently bisexual (what did that even mean?) and I was confused about what she wanted because how far was sex and did she even want that and why did she like me anyway? Was it the haircut or the boots? And what was with all that honesty? I’d favored mystery. She favored confession. She wanted to rip everything down, no curtains, lights on, don’t whisper, here’s mine, now yours. We kissed in winter, that first time. Outside. I got the feeling she was afraid I’d just leaned into a warm body—specifically hers—not chemistry, but physics. Not like with like, but cold with heat. I must have surprised her when I asked if we were dating, asked again, again-again. She recoiled, “You’re still living with your ex. I don’t mind if you still want a penis, as long as it’s not his.” More honesty. She really didn’t mind. She was already tired of me, had already found someone older, someone newer, someone male. When she broke up with him, he confided in me. “She says she wants to sleep with a woman. She wouldn’t know what to do if she found one.”

5. “So, wait. We could’ve been having sex this whole time?”

We trade secrets
because we don’t want
to keep our own.

We discuss the indefinite
in concrete terms.

We break—even,
and filled to the brim.

We stop building
nothing from something;
reverse course in an instant.

We reform and expand—
an endless search
for new limits.

We write an equation,
already solved.

We find a constant.

We reshape impossible,
taking its limb but
keeping its heart intact.

We pick up and we
never dare leave off.

I took for granted that you were my friend. I assumed you really were going to move to New York and I’d move to Boston and we’d be far apart and I’d think about you in that yearning way and when we’d visit (rarely, far less often than I would’ve preferred), I’d suffer sighing jags over why you had to be so far away and so right. But instead, we had a perfect week before I moved away. A whole week wherein I loved you already and said so, nearly suffocating from it, that last morning. And I moved anyway. And you didn’t help! You didn’t help me pack one box or load them into Tedd’s car. You distracted me from everything the week I had to leave. I spent every night with you. You, who drove me home the following mornings; you, who called me in the middle of the night when I was stuck in Connecticut because Tedd got lost and I fell asleep instead of playing the dutiful navigator; you, who answered your phone every time I called to ask, “Why aren’t you here?”; you, who visited to stave off the missing; you, who moved up just two short months later, abandoning New York for Boston; you, who either brought up or agreed to the idea of getting married because it sounded right, because of the synchronicity that came from a confluence of things—that we grew up less than five miles apart, but didn’t meet until our 20s, that we met not once, but twice in the same bookstore (five months apart to the day), that you weren’t a writer when we met, but you are one now, which just goes to show that I was doomed to fall for writers all my life. You do so much that makes sense to me, that I didn’t fully see when we first met (thank goodness we second met) and only started to understand after you screwed everything up by making the city I was moving to seem empty and half-dead in your absence.


Carissa Halston is the author of A Girl Named Charlie Lester and The Mere Weight of Words. Her short fiction has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Fourteen Hills, TRNSFR, and The Massachusetts Review, among others. She currently lives in Boston where she runs a small press called Aforementioned Productions, edits a literary journal called apt, hosts a reading series called Literary Firsts, and is at work on a novel called Conjoined States.

Randolph Pfaff lives in Boston, where he edits for a magazine called apt and a small press called Aforementioned. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Word Riot, The Destroyer, Open Letters Monthly, and Heavy Feather Review, among others.

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One Response to ROMANTICS: Pick-up Lines by Carissa Halston & Randolph Pfaff

  1. Pingback: ROMANTICS: Texts Inspires by Matthew Salesses’ I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying | February 11, 2013 | Sundog Lit

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