Soap

by Joseph Han

I’ll start when I still had the blue car. Karen, these are all the things I wish I told you before you broke up with me because maybe it would’ve changed something at least.

The parties I went to. At first it was just to be away from all those people I went to high school with. Even now when I run into them, these ghosts in new clothes, it’s a game of seeing how long you can ignore or avoid that person until courtesy gives. I’d hang on the walls leaning like a crooked painting, going whole nights not saying anything, just sipping on my beer with my mouth and words getting dry. Me not actually talking to other people, especially girls.

You know about how I totaled the car my parents bought me for my eighteenth birthday. We met sometime after that.

All about numbers. For every girl that turns you down, there’s her friend. There’s the girl that believes the fiction you make up about yourself and buys into the new name that you wear in your smile. I couldn’t be myself when I tried to hook up with girls. That guy got rejected, got scowled at, had to listen to giggles over turned shoulders. Sobs on drives home. One time a vodka-Red Bull splashed on his shirt. Being someone else, it was like cursive and I was perfecting the signature that I’d use for every transaction the rest of my life. You just keep signing.

But Karen, I thought you should know why you were important. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you in person.

Got better at expressing myself in that kind of way, unlocked a new me. When I went out with groups, I ordered whiskey straight instead of getting beers like everyone else. I wasn’t on the wall anymore. I drank because every drink became keys.

When I went out with a girl, I’d leave my phone in the car somewhere for her to notice, for her to ask “Aren’t you going to take this?” Then I’d tell her I didn’t want any interruptions.

At this one party, me and a few guys were getting pokeballs from this one dealer, and for some reason I wasn’t feeling anything. I bought more and had another but nothing. The other guys were tripping, and it didn’t hit me until I left and drove home. The leather steering wheel started squeaking really good. I left my car at some parking lot and went to Savion’s place, threw grass at his windows to get his attention without making a sound.

Bad things always happen on rainy days. People drive worse, and traffic becomes slow. I wasn’t really drunk but I was driving back and the highway felt like ice.

I got out and sat on the soft, wet gravel thinking no one sat here before. The rain seeped through my clothes and skirted on the dried sweat that came from being in a crowded room. I pressed my palms down on the road and scratched at tiny rocks with my fingertips, feeling dirty. My car looked clumped the way the last phase of a bar of soap looks, and I didn’t know how to clean myself of this mess in these showers.

But you should know that breaking up with me was the best thing that has ever happened to you. Now I only know the tiny version of you that I see on my phone through your occasional posts. This might sound weird, but it seems like you don’t feel so fucked up anymore.

Drafting this to Facebook message to you is ridiculous and I won’t send it either. I’ll just leave it here. I just wanted to let you know that I felt washed for a while.

I remember when you told me how two fucked-up people couldn’t be together. It felt like you were throwing leaves at me, a batch collected from a tree that wasn’t going to grow, and I watched your doubt sway and collect before my feet.

 

Joseph Han is a graduate student in English at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is also the current director of Mixing Innovative Arts, a monthly reading series in Honolulu. His work has appeared in Hawaiʻi Review, Used Furniture Review, The Molotov Cocktail, Word Riot, and elsewhere.

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