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Nightpalms by Roman Boed, flickr

We always went to Sanford, but it was never quite right. At the last brewery, the waitress actually said their stout was better than Guinness. That is actually what she said. It was water. She had a sizable figure though, something I watched you take in while you spoke to her, about on the edge of a conversation, though remembering my expressed hurt of this kind of thing, you pulled back. Almost a full conversation. The outside metal umbrella table rocked slightly on the brick. A bit like me, off center. Promise to myself, a plan, that if I sit alone while you talk I will call a car service and leave you. Delicious fantasy.

Last year was better at Christmastime in Sanford. We hit a downtown restaurant and brewery on a Saturday. It was just past the time I had been strongly suspecting Saturdays were your nights for other dates. That night, I drank a holiday spiced milk stout. You marveled I like such deep brews when you only liked lighter ales. You were probably laughing. When we went back to the car, you made fun of a bike bedecked with Christmas lights. I had made note of how great it was. It was so Florida I said. You said nothing. You held my hand.

That Christmas, last year, I could not get you to meet me out for rides by Full Sail. Or watch the choirs who sang beside Tiffany windows in Winter Park. I could not get you to go with me to see the opera Hansel and Gretel. You could make me laugh but you are staid. Maybe I laugh because you are staid and not like me. You are Greek and your face reminds me of an icon, eyes lined, down turned slightly at the edges, a calm, disinterested expression. And yet you laugh and smile too. That had been the chemistry: The light breaking through the godlike impassivity.

The watered down stout was hard to take this year, a year worn down by what you say you cannot give to me. I only thought an icon was a passage to something, not the finality of an object without transformative potential.

I feel only the coldness of being in Sanford on a Sunday this Christmas season night when almost all of the pubs and restaurants are closed at an ungenerous hour. The ones that are open mock the good times of Fridays and Saturdays, their doors hanging open like open maws, rock spewing forth, Third Eye Blind from one, Ozzy from another, songs I like except when something like death lingers. Down the street is a dark lake we don’t visit. And a bar I half suspect you’ve taken another woman for beers you prefer, Belgian.

And there is no garishly bedecked bicycle. I am no longer foolishly believing we will be holding hands at an opera or tipping over the apex of a ferris wheel, University of Central Florida below as well as waitresses and future diners and bars.

That last Christmastime night in Sanford, I feel my body aching from the drug I take to prevent cancer recurrence. You don’t hold my hand like you did before though I could break apart now more than ever. I had done something to annoy you. Gods and their punishments. Even to death. That night I did not have you inside my home but made up some excuse, I became a backslider. I kissed you only like a nominal orthodox kisses an icon. I said in my heart my beliefs are not giving back to me and I thanked you for my evening. I stepped into my home alone, a nominal Presbyterian.