After Reading The Idiot by Elif Batuman
- I read a book today. It made me feel lonely — that is, I missed you when I read this book and, too, (maybe even more) I missed a version of myself that does not exist. I still think that being loved is a matter of being good enough. You are the only boy I liked for nothing. Just you, disassembled, closing-sale, everything-must-go.
- I don't care if you read this poem on the Internet. You won't think it's about you. You will text me, "I read ur poem!" If you are a boy I used to love and you think this poem is about you, you're wrong. The boy this poem is about uses a mirror cut all over with flowers. He doesn't like the snow.
- About your hands — I saw them in a photograph today. I mean, I recognized you in this photograph, just from your hands, cradling a crescent-moon-curve of jasmine. I didn't know you possessed that kind of gentleness. I don't know what this says about me or your hands.
- Your ex-girlfriend once said she felt so bad for me. She just wanted to cry every time she saw me. She wanted to give me a hug. (I heard this later, from a friend, and I never got the hug.) This was after you left her. She moved to the open desert and saw a therapist with green eyes, figured out how to live in the terrible wake of you. I always picture her like a surfer, her fingers trailing in the water. Sometimes you are too far out to swim in. I would be sad if she read this poem on the Internet and thought it meant something about her. She has always been kind to me.
- Once, alone with me in a room of linoleum light, you said, "I'm obviously attracted to you," and I was confused because we were having a conversation about how you didn't love me and — wait, no, it was something crueler than that — now I remember, you said, "I'm obviously attracted to you in a non-committal way," oh. Isn't it funny how my brain grew in pinky layers around that wound like a rose?
- I think maybe I will put this poem on the Internet. I will send it to you to be opened over your morning coffee. "Stop missing me. Stop coming around here kicking me in the gut with your cowboy spur of a heart." You will send back: "Tell me about this book you read," and I will type it out, fingers full of blood stars: [This line of the poem has been redacted for the author's good health.]
Kayla Rutledge is from Charlotte, North Carolina. She is the recipient of the 2019 James Hurst Prize for Fiction from NC State and the 2020 Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Prize in Creative Writing from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has work published and forthcoming in Cellar Door, Manqué Magazine and To the Well and is a graduate student in the MFA program at NC State University. She does not write poetry.