because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

An Old Flame, Doused

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I have often reveled in the wrongness of things.

Growing up, I cut Barbie’s hair and pushed straight pins through her ears.

I told people I was making earrings, but mostly I wanted to make holes in Barbie’s face.

As a teen, I gravitated toward recklessness. Once, on vacation with friends, I disappeared on the beach to kiss a boy whose name I didn’t know. My friends were mad, but I chose the taste of cigarettes and beer on a stranger’s lips over my own safety.

For a while, I was in an unhealthy relationship.

We had an understanding.

Kind of.

I mean, he created the rules.

And he meant well, I’m sure, with his flattery and charm.

When he touched me, I swooned with gratitude.

Because he knew how to make me feel.

Not too long ago, I ran into this person.

Though he had aged, I remembered his dimple, how easily he could undo me with a word or a look. And I was surprised at how, after all these years, my body still responded to his touch.

I watched his mouth move and remembered the place where confidence collided with arrogance.

I saw how little he had changed.

I know he believes he is a good person.

But I know him to be a juggler who thrives off secrets and lies.

A person who craves power and uses people as playthings.

For a time, I allowed myself to be part of his secret life.

Allowed myself twice to be used and discarded.

In an odd way, seeing this person again helped reaffirm the treasures that I have at home.

Things that should not be trivialized.

It’s funny. I don’t crave recklessness the way I used to.

And secrets taste like vinegar on my lips.

So while I enjoy more than my fair share of double-entendres and flirtations, there are places where I draw the line.

Danger paired with exhilaration can feel something close to love.

But it isn’t.

Ever run into an old flame? Someone who was not good for you? What was that like? Do you revel in wrongness? How far are you willing to go?

This week, writers were asked to use this photograph to inspire our post. My piece is a hybrid between fiction & non-fiction. We had 450 words. I got it done in 386.

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