You stand in the beer aisle at the supermarket, scratching your chin like you’re doing math in your head. Of course, you’re not doing math in your head, but when you’re planning to drink a case of beer, alone—it has gotten that bad—it’s better to look like you’re doing math, trying to accommodate the guests who aren’t coming to your Super Bowl party. You reach into the cooler and grab a couple of twelve-packs of heavy lager, and when you spin around, she is standing, nose-to-nose, in front of you.
Startled, you jump and bump your head on the door to the cooler. “You scared me,” you say.
A hand on her hip, your ex-girlfriend scans you, and her eyes stop at the beer belly that bothers you in the shower. She then looks at the case of beer and the package of pepperoni Hot Pockets in your cart and she shakes her head. “You haven’t changed,” she says.
“It’s not all for me. I’m having a Super Bowl party,” you tell her as the heat rushes to your cheeks and forehead. “A lot of people are coming over to my apartment.”
“And you only need one case of beer and two hot pockets?” She grins. “You must’ve made some new friends.”
It has been six months since you left her apartment with a bag of clothes and the cat, six months since you’ve spoken to her. But what could you have done differently? The red panties on the bedroom floor didn’t belong to her, and you both knew it. But she looks great now; she has lost weight since you dated. In fact, in a gray hooded sweatshirt and black yoga pants, her dark hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, it is reasonable to assume she has just come from the gym. In her basket, on the floor beside her feet, she has a bag of oranges, seltzer water, a head of broccoli, a small bottle of Pinot Grigio and a tube of KY Jelly. She hasn’t changed, you think as regret bursts like a firework in your loins. It has also been six months since you’ve touched a woman, and some nights—staring at the ceiling after masturbating to images saved on your cell phone—you wonder if you will ever touch a woman again.
“You look great,” you say to her, rubbing the back of your head where it hit the door. “Did you lose weight?”
“Twenty pounds,” she says and places her hand on her now-taut hips, which is when you notice the explosion of refracted light on her ring finger.
“I didn’t notice that you gained that much,” you say, thinking about the cat—your only company for the Super Bowl.
“You didn’t notice a lot of things,” she says, and she might be snarling.
“What does that mean?”
She looks again your grocery cart. “I didn’t gain weight from eating too much, you fool,” she says and pokes you in the chest, square in the heart. “I’m so glad I didn’t have it.” Then she turns with her basket and flees down the aisle into the arms of a tall man, fit with wide shoulders, conventionally handsome and wearing a Tom Brady football jersey. Likely, after a shower and a lubed-up fuck, they’ll be on their way to a Super Bowl party.
Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. He is the author of three collections of poetry—Not So Profound (Green Bean Press, 2003), Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press, 2007) and After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press, 2009)—a collection of short stories, Frostbite (GBP, 2002), a novella titled Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing, 2013) as well as several chapbooks of fiction and poetry. A book of poetry titled My Next Bad Decision, and a novel, When We Were Locusts, were published in the Fall of 2014. For more information, visit his website at www.nathangraziano.com