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June 17, 2022

EIGHT TIMES

Jared Povanda

Hi, Noah.

Who is this?

It’s Dylan.

No. Really. Who?

You have a tattoo of a beta fish on your left ankle.

You have the wrong number.

Remember that time we picked flowers in the park? You tucked a dandelion behind my ear.

You kissed me seven times, once for every time your heart’s been broken.

You told me you liked setting things on fire.

Whatever the fuck this is, stop.

I asked, “What things?” And you said, “My whole life, if possible.”

I’m going to block you. This isn’t funny.

How long has it been since you showered? Since you’ve stopped shaking? My funeral?

Baby, there are flames clawing at your toes.

You’re not Dylan. You’re not. He’s dead. Dead and buried.

I’m back. I’m right outside the window. I’m tapping on the glass.

I’m calling the police.

The air is so kind here. It’s holding me. Open up.

You’re not him! You can’t be him!

Put down the matches.

That’s right.

Open the window, baby.

You’re not made for burning.

It’s time to let go of the smoke.

Dylan?

I’m here.

You broke my heart. When you left. It’s eight times now.

I know. I’m sorry.

Will you break my heart again? If I let you in?

No, Noah.

Not again. Never again.

Do you promise? Do you swear?

You’re made for sunlight, and I’m going to feed you spoonfuls until you glow.

Open the window, Noah. Please.

Let me in.

Jared Povanda is a writer, poet, and freelance editor from upstate New York. He has been nominated multiple times for Best of the Net and Best Microfiction, and his work has been published or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, The Citron Review, Uncharted Magazine, and Hobart, among numerous others. Find him @JaredPovanda, jaredpovandawriting.wordpress.com, and in the Poets & Writers Directory.