Ten minutes ago, I dropped you

at the airport, and you cried and I stared

blankly at the wall above your head, waiting

for the tears I knew wouldn’t fall,

not there, not then,

not when I needed them to.


Now I’m on the road, heading back

to the apartment you helped me decorate,

and there’s a hole in my stomach,

the air conditioner blasting right through it,

knowing that you’re sitting alone

in the terminal, trying your best

to bury your sadness but falling

short—way short, your eyes red like

the blouse you walked away in. But also

because I’m hungry,

because we ate brunch, not lunch,

and now it’s dinner time; and

if you were here with me right now, in the car,

we’d be discussing our dinner options,

flipping through our combined mental rolodex

of recently purchased Target grocery items,

each of us pretending to desire

what we suspect the other one does.


Ultimately, we would debate

over chicken stir fry or baked Swai,

and because neither one of us knows how

to make a decision, we would leave

that decision to chance and play rock-paper-scissors,

and you would win, like you always do,

so we would eat what you thought I wanted, which was the Swai,

and you would have been right.

I do want the Swai.


I want the Swai right now, but thinking of the Swai

makes my face contort

like a deep-sea monster,

my upper lip fat

and quivering,

my cheeks swollen, my eyebrows rolling

like the Nebraska Sandhills

we canoed through last summer. And of course

now I’m crying, now that I’m alone,

because how in the hell am I supposed to make Swai

when the only thing I know about Swai

is that I love you? 

Carson Vaughan

Carson is a native Nebraskan and freelance writer with published features work in Salon, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Orion, Truthout, the Omaha World Herald, the Lincoln Journal Star, the Wilmington Star News, and other publications. He currently serves as the nonfiction editor of Ecotone at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

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