Give/Take

by Natalie Geisel

i swallow my tears in one gulp while pouring boiling water into a coffee filter

making sure to brew yours first as an empty mug sits 

stiller than the morning air and i grasp your cup and my hand starts to swell.

 

my knee nudges your bedroom door open and the sun floods

into my mouth, burning my tongue with your burnt coffee held by my burnt hands 

you acknowledge me without looking, tending to your monstera

and light expands to my fingertips and stomach and ears, drying my wet face 

with the warm eyes on the back of your head.

 

you whisper: “thank you,” pouring room temperature water into 

your ivy and my heart and i kiss your cheek, placing my burnt hand on your shoulder

trying to spread the heat you gave me back to you, recycling our love 

back and forth, give and take

and i crawl into our home, rediscovering your warmth through the smell of your sheets.

 

i hastily say: “do you have to take care of your plants every day?” 

as if i didn’t admire your excitement about their uncurling leaves and new growths

i hold the back of my neck with my pink fingers, reminding myself

of the garden we grew sprouting out of our shoulders, it travels 

to my chapped lips and flushed cheeks, exploring the parts of me that you called your own 

nine hours ago and i realize:

i love all of you, but you love all of me (and more).

 

you avoid a response by meeting your lips to your coffee and swallowing 

my daily reminder of adoration, slipping into your sheets and planting your warm lips 

on my heavy eyelids and i feel the seeds you sowed become vines

swelling through my head and toes.

 

i swallow my tears in one gulp, stinging with bittersweet salt and

stare in my mirror, months later, watching leaves uncurl on my forearm.

 

Natalie Geisel (she/they) is a 22-year-old writer and digital strategist with a degree in gender and sexuality studies. When she’s not writing, you can find her watching lesbian films, talking about mental health and astrology with everyone she meets, or crying to Phoebe Bridgers’ music. They are an avid wearer of sweater vests and impulsive buyer of Trader Joe’s plants. Follow Nat on Instagram @nat.geisel.