Michele Finn Johnson

The doorbell rings and it is Pete. As far as you can tell, Pete + 5 years = Pete. Same close-cropped hair, same plaid shirt, same full lower lip. But when he speaks, you know that some things are not the same; some things likely left a dent, like your five-year-ago hook-up with that co-worker at your company Christmas party in the Sheraton coat closet while Pete waited and waited at his Camry until, finally, he came to find you, your back enveloped by a camel-haired trench coat that smelled of cigars and malt; that co-worker Mach-3 bolting from that coat closet murmuring Sorry dude to Pete, who, in turn, drove you home and left-left-left you. Now, Pete sits on your couch (same) and eats a dollop of homemade hummus (new) and drinks red wine (same). His legs are crossed (same) and he chews open-mouthed (same). Pete smells like apothecary cologne (new), and you can’t help but notice that his nails are buffed, his teeth whiter, his shoes unscuffed (new new new). You wouldn’t believe it, Pete says. That move to Boston ended up being the catalyst. You know and he knows that his move to Boston, January minus 5 years ago, was the result of an open-bar, top shelf, Absolut and tonic with lemon (corporate-appropriate quantity +3) Christmas party. Neither of you say this; Pete dips and dips into the hummus while he uses words like success, millions, Europe. You think that the word millions should make you moist; should fill you with regret, like the blood sugar crash after another top ramen dinner for one. You can tell that Pete is waiting for it too—your reaction to his words, something more than a Wow or a head nod. But the sight of Pete on your tired Ikea couch, his open mouth coated with caramel-colored chickpeas, instantly wears you out, like the way you can only get three-quarters of the way through “Pretty Woman,” can’t ever get to the part where Richard Gere stands under the fire escape to rescue Julia Roberts from her no-doubt-miserable-can’t-make-it-without-you life, before you have to turn the whole damned thing off.

Michele Finn Johnson has work in or coming from Split Lip, SmokeLong, Necessary Fiction, Mid-American Review and others. She lives in Tucson.

Read her postcard.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Darwin Bell.

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