After he leaves
(poem originally published by Scottish Bame Writers Network)
(picture by @abiponcehardy https://www.instagram.com/abiponcehardy/?hl=en)
After he leaves by Bee Asha Singh
I open the door.
He stands at the doorstep.
He opens his backpack.
He has brought plastic wrapped tomatoes, balsamic dressing and a packet of my favourite crisps, Aldi’s own brand Veggie Straws.
He always gives me nice goodies.
He apologises for the plastic.
I laugh and thank him.
I don’t mind.
He smiles and comes to step inside.
I hesitate and step back.
He squints his face as if to say – Come on, it’s ok –
I giggle and joke for him not to touch anything.
I mean it.
He walks through the hallway and into my room,
I don’t shut the front door.
He’s been to the shops.
He never wears gloves or a mask.
I step back and sit on my bed.
He stands by the dresser looking at the random array of stuff on the side. The heart shaped sunnies, the fake velvet mouse, the used scratch card. – Did you win? –
I shake my head, he shrugs
and tells me he’d had to ask a shop clerk where the balsamic was and when he stepped towards her she stepped back and said – Yes sir, how can I help you? –
He had kept moving towards her, but she kept backing away.
He laughs, cause it was a funny interaction.
I laugh too.
My heart pangs.
I don’t know if it’s funny.
We smile at each other and stay in the silence of each other’s eyes.
He leans forward and kisses me.
His lips are silken soft.
I love kissing him.
My stomach tenses and I feel dizzy.
I push his chest softy away.
I joke – social distancing –
I mean it.
A lump rises in my throat and it feels like a cat is running on my chest.
He smiles and steps back doing an – Oh, sorry – motion.
I love his sunny, innocent smile.
His wide, white teeth.
(After he leaves, I rinse my mouth out with warm salt water.
I wash my hands and face with soap and a hot flannel several times until my face is bright red.)
He walks through to the kitchen with the goodies he has brought me.
I smile and walk just a few steps behind him.
It’s not quite two meters. It’s probably only one.
My house is small.
I keep note of all the places and things he touches.
(After he leaves, I dettol wipe, and anti-bac spray every light switch and handle in the house, just in case I didn’t see him touching one.
I spray and wipe down the plastic wrapped tomatoes, balsamic dressing and packet of my favourite crisps.
I throw away the plastic from the tomatoes instead of putting it in my eco brick.
Then I wash the tomatoes in the kitchen sink.)
In the kitchen, he asks about the bike seat he had given me for my old bike.
I say I don’t know how to put it on.
I don’t, cause I haven’t checked yet.
I know I can do it.
He loves to help with this sort of stuff.
I love doing things with him.
He asks for the tool.
I go to the sitting room, lean over the couch and riffle around my tool box.
He follows behind me
and cheekily smacks me on the bum.
I laugh, keep searching the tool box.
I love it when he does that.
My leggins. Not my skin.
(After he leaves, I take off all of my clothes and put them in the wash.)
I don’t have the right tool.
He says he will bring it another day.
He is the best.
We talk about the seeds I wanted to plant with the soil he gave me last week.
I’m not 100% on how to do it because I haven’t done it before.
He asks for the pots and the seeds – They’re on my bedroom window sill.
So he walks through to get them.
He leans across my bed and touches the plate and bowl on the ledge.
(After he leaves, I change all my bed sheets, including the pillow cases and wash the dishes with lots of soap.)
I laugh and tell him to do it in the stairwell.
I don’t want soil in my room.
If he is out of the house it is safer.
I sit on the stoop
He pours the soil into the pot and carefully places the seeds just under it.
He has touched all the seeds.
I can see his vertebrae protruding through his hoodie and moving as he hunches over the pots.
I love watching the way his muscles glide under his olive skin.
He brings the plant pots into the bathroom to water them.
He turns on the sink.
Did he go for a pee?
(After he leaves, I clean the entire bathroom, naked.
I scrub the toilet, sink and bath
I put all the bath matts, towels and face clothes in the wash.
I consider throwing away the plants.)
In the bathroom whilst he is tending to the plants, I tell him I’m feeling anxious.
My stomach is twisting.
I feel faint.
He doesn’t want to.
He knows he has to go.
I want him to leave.
I love spending time with him.
It’s the times we are living in now.
He gives me a cuddle.
I hold him tight.
We are touching.
My hair, my cheek on his chest
I don’t breathe.
He pulls up my t-shirt and touches our stomachs like we like to do.
I love it when he puts his skin on my skin.
After he leaves, I get into the shower and scrub myself with the soap bar.
I sit facing the shower and turn it into a bath, emptying a whole bottle of hand soap into it.
I kneel and keep my face under the water.
I hate water in my eyes.
I get out of the bath for a moment to make myself throw up.
Then I get back in and use my electric toothbrush for approximately eight minutes.
I do not stop until I cut the roof of my mouth.
Bee Asha is a budding new writer. The young poet grew up between the homes of her Punjabi father and Scottish mother. She is one third of The Honey Farm, a Scottish female rap group that promotes female confidence and egalitarian views. Bee is also a solo spoken word poet, whose work often tackles social injustice and gender equality, characterised by an openness to talk about her own personal experiences, using creativity to heal from trauma.
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