“I Go Back to October 2018” by Janet Dale

Reading by the author

after Sharon Olds

I see them sitting on a red floral couch:
the boy in a plaid shirt with a white
rubber bracelet peeking out from under
his buttoned-up sleeve, the girl’s brown
hair fanned out against his chest, her
hand resting on his khakied knee.
There’s no space between their physical
bodies (she believes there’s no space
between their metaphorical hearts
either). The boy says she’s so wonderful,
so beautiful, he doesn’t know how he got
so lucky. What the girl doesn’t know is
in three months’ time he’ll stop saying
anything to her at all. But for now, the boy’s
arm is wrapped around the girl’s shoulder
while a limited-run series is on a screen
in front of them, an episode aptly titled
“expectation.” In it, we learn the wife has
never been in love with the husband.
The husband knows, he also knows their
daughter is not his daughter, but he ignores
the hard truth in front of him. When the
episode’s over, the boy and girl will spend
hours lip locked. It’s a perfect beginning
to what’ll be a devastating end. When the girl
thinks back to that night, she’ll realize after
she asked if the opposite of love is apathy?
and the boy didn’t respond, it wasn’t because
he didn’t hear her; it was because he was
telling her everything she needed to know.

Janet Dale is the author of ghosts passing through (Alien Buddha Press 2022). Although she claims Memphis as home, Janet Dale lives in Georgia where she teaches first year writing at Georgia Southern University. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize (poetry), her work has appeared in The BoilerZone 3Really System, and others. She can be found on Twitter @THEsisterjanet

Image: “mustard and/or snakes” by salvation burnette

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