Debrief Encounter

By Melanie Chartoff

To my invitation to dance he said, with you? 
Only alone in a small room.  My smile, unnerved, amused, 
he took as alluring answer—a commitment writ in thin air. 
Cat followed mouth home from the party.  
But while smile answered my door, and let him in, 
mouth braked his roaring body down to the speed of small talk.  
Mouth, not that moment a part of me, babbled 
of our workdays in parallel, never to touch, 
the surprise of our seamless collaboration 
which must be preserved, of how talented in tandem 
we were, more than the sum of our parts, 
but now some of our parts grew too aware 
of one another, our messages mixed, his slow hand stilled 
my chin up, rerouted my mouth to his, repurposed its lips 
to less precise functions now unable to shape smiles or words, 
only improvise jazz riffs of escalating kisses.  
My eyes strained open until the thrill of the chase gave way 
to the tremble of surrender.  Dropping through the looking glass 
our eyes glazed to an inner view.  We dove into 
unfathomables, swam in synchronized perfection across 
many laps, moaned horizontal promises—how can it be, 
no one has ever, I couldn’t, never before, 
autonomic choreography tangoed us in dips and spins,
slow then fast, until deep sleep tangled us seamless.  
I wake humbled at how well our gears mesh, not just 
the obvious, but his hand entwined in mine, 
my other knuckle in his nostril, my cheek in his eye socket, 
his nose in my neck.  We awake to know there’s 
so much more and I’m aglow, he’s less so.  
My eyes rake his face to clarify him from a slight remove, 
and he removes, sad.  Why? I roll away to look eye to eye, 
search and say, I have no other him, and you? 
and after many breaths, averts, and thwarted nuzzles 
he says he left her months ago, but her shadow remains, 
yes, even in my bed.  Reduced to a replicant, far too soon 
to feel this betrayed, my middle ruptures 
then glaciers my sizzling hot parts to lifeless briquets.  
My esophagus squeezes like a snake cold-blooding 
some warm-blooded rodent, swallowing him whole 
down my gullet.  Yes yes yes all night but by daylight 
no no no to what each other thinks this is.  
I, so new to the uncharted, so empty of others, 
believing too soon in an us, will seduce that frown from his brow. 
Heart hardened, I’m going to hurt him with much more of me, 
while trying to convince myself I’m detached, 
to make him want me for more than just 
a burial ground for a dead love’s body.


Melanie Chartoff is a lifelong stage and screen actor residing in Los Angeles. She is a first-time author of “Odd Woman Out: Exposure in Essays and Stories,” rated 5 stars on Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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