Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
About This
How to Submit

Gone Lawn 40
Spring Equinox, 2021

New Works

Mary Milstead


I am standing in the hotel hallway, right outside your room, and you're in the doorway, looking back at me. The carpet is dark blue and the walls are dotted with mirrors in cheap orange-gold frames, a string of can lights in the ceiling. Hannah and Molly are leaving, back to the bar downstairs, where last call is at least an hour away. They're almost to the ice machine and they call out "An-na!" over their shoulders, plaintive and annoyed at my straggling. They sound far away, like they're already gone. Your hair is longer than I've ever seen it. The keys in your hand are still swinging as if from the motion of unlocking the door and the TV is on loud behind you, the metallic clang of a commercial jingle. Did you leave it on? For the noise, or for the company? You part your lips just a tiny bit, and start to smile, maybe I'm the only one who would've noticed. The last time we kissed, the only time, we were seventeen. I want to say something clever, I know there's some joke here about the sound coming from the room behind you but before I can think of it, they call for me again, this time shrill and pissy and like they're standing right next to me, and it breaks the spell. Like a string between us falls flat to the floor. You're still smiling but you look down at your shoes, and you don't invite me in. You say goodnight, you'll see me at breakfast. There's nothing left for me to do but turn around and follow our friends downstairs, where we will continue to drink until close, and then go upstairs for a nightcap in someone else's room, and break into the pool for a late-night swim, and the next time we see each other, later that summer at Dante's, you will be planning to move to Chicago, and I will have just started dating the photographer, and so it will be years later, at our friend Jay's wedding, when we will finally pick up where we left off.
This time, you will stop in front of the door before unlocking a thing. Your hair cut short, tiny flecks of white at your temple. The hallway lights are muted sconces, the carpet lush and floral patterned. A slick keycard in your hand, no jangle of keys. You smile at me. It's a grown-up smile. We both know, before you reach out your hand and sweetly oh so gently take a strand of my hair and tuck it behind my ear, we both know. This is not a casual move. This is a threshold.

Mary Milstead has an MFA in Fiction from Portland State University and her stories and essays have been published in Electric Lit, Gay Magazine, Shirley Magazine and The Rumpus, among other journals.