Honeysuckle

 

The word idyllic.

Tones On Tail.

The Replacements.

Vodka.

Cocteau Twins.

Anything argyle.

Cats.

Hardwood floors.

Laundry.

Horn-rimmed glasses.

Khaki shorts.

Pixie haircuts on women.

Boulevard beers.

All of these things reminded her of him.

And honeysuckle.

Because he first explained honeysuckle to her when they were in the process of ending it all, during the long, drawn-out months post-breakup full of lunches eaten together under the guise of maintaining the friendship. When they would talk about whom they were dating, even mock the sexual style of those poor dumb bastards and oblivious girls who all thought they were the only ones.

And then, every week, after their friendship-maintaining lunch, they would have sex. It was always better than the sex they were having with the new people in their lives, because sex with someone gets better after years of practice together, but they remained apart until next time nonetheless. Dating. Single. Free. Lonely. Not lonely. Happy. Not happy. Figuring it out. Not figuring it out. Both floating lost in the weird in-between relationship atmosphere, on and off at the same time. Casually seeing other people, but reconnecting to see each other every week. Too afraid to completely let go.

She was still haunted by the things he told her about the girls he was dating. She remembered the one he told her about who wouldn’t take off her shirt during sex because her last boyfriend made her feel bad about her breasts, made her feel ugly. She still felt sad for that girl. She remembered his comments about the nipples of the other one he was seeing, the one who had three kids. He asked her what awful thing happened to women’s nipples when they breastfed babies to make them look that way, so rubbery and weird. He confessed that he couldn’t fuck the other one he was seeing because too many men she’d slept with came over to say hi when they were in public, making her seem dirty and used up.

She wondered what horrible things he told the new girls in his life about her. She hoped she was at least described as good in bed, since that seemed to be all she had left to offer him.

Once, while they were fucking loudly in his bedroom, a girl he was dating left him a bouquet of flowers by the back door of his house. They found the flowers on the way out of the house, as he was walking her out. It made her feel like the other woman, even though they’d dated for five years before the breakup. She didn’t like the feeling.

It was during one of these end-of-relationship moments, as they stood winding down the batteries on their love, that he mentioned the honeysuckle growing on the side of his house. He was walking her to her car. She was dirty from the sex. She wanted to get back to her apartment and shower. She felt dirty in her heart, too. She didn’t think the shower would help. She knew they wouldn’t meet again for a week. She had a date with another guy that night. He had a date with another girl.

He asked her if she’d ever tried honeysuckle, and she didn’t know what he meant. She gave him a puzzled look.

“You haven’t? Well, here’s what you do. Pluck a flower. Pull the sweet part out of the middle. And suck on it.”

Afterward, he discarded the dried up flower husk.

She wouldn’t realize until years later, staring at honeysuckle flowers with nostalgia washing sadly over her, that the moment had been the perfect metaphor for the end of their relationship. That together they were sucking every last bit of sweetness out of it and throwing away the empty shell.

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