map Never Do This

by Kate Scarpetta

Published in Issue No. 209 ~ October, 2014
Photo by Lancelot Pierre

Photo by Lancelot Pierre

Never fall in love with a girl named Jasmine. Never fall in love with a Jasmine who loves jazz music, either. Most of them do. Never fall in love with jazz music, because you are falling in love with Jasmine when you become introduced to all the songbooks, songbirds, and love songs.

Never be surprised when you hear jazz music every time you enter a Starbucks. It’s ok to still go to Starbucks. It’s even ok to hum along in the monstrous sloth-paced line, but never think it’s a sign that there’s jazz music on. There will always be jazz music on, so never be surprised. Never brood while in line listening to the jazz that’s always on while you think of Jasmine’s chin and how it’s shaped just so before she laughs. It’s not good. It will not help.

When it’s your turn, when you finally reach the front of the line–one and a half jazz songs later–never order what she likes just to torture yourself. It will never taste good, because it’s chai and you drink espresso. You should order your drink and walk out. It’s expensive and silly to think that somewhere in a cup of overpriced foam she will be conjured. You are not a witch, but she might be the devil: so, never mess with spirits or your coffee order.

You never listen to your own advice. An Etta James standard will come on and it will break you down to a point of near flight. “At Last” will be playing when you spill her latte, and you will bump against the heavy glass door on the way out like a confused fly. The door clearly says “pull,” but you pushed like an idiot who orders things they don’t like; an idiot who thinks God is trying to tell her something, playing a certain song in a coffee shop.

A nerve will blinktap in your chest when you get outside. Your eyes will close, so you’ll feel the resonation more heavily. You’ll remember, as if you can really forget, that Jasmine can sing. You will never forget this about her. The grain of her voice will etch itself into your ribcage like a gust of wind carrying sand. It will push up and out of your skull and it will force you to open your eyes. You’ll start to walk—in any direction—just so you won’t collapse. Never fall in love with someone who has a singing voice so arrestingly clear and beautiful that it makes anyone who hears it grateful they can breathe.

You don’t need another French press, but if you can buy an incentive never to step foot inside another Starbucks again, you will. Zombie-stoned, you’ll navigate the map on your iPhone to the Williams-Sonoma, but your mind will clutch at a tangent fantasy: she’s in your bed and asleep, childlike. You’ll even be able to smell dryer sheets, as your dream-self crawls towards her with the stealth and silence of a reverent panther. She’s so desired that it hurts.

Melancholic false memories have a way of making you uncoordinated. You’ll bump into a person carrying a bag of pastry accouterments, which, when it hits the pavement, will offer a muffled clinking sound through the green tissue paper that it’s been carefully wrapped in. You’ll apologize to whomever you stumbled into, as you clumsily reach for the fallen items. Be sincerely sorry. Never feel entitled to be a mess because of Jasmine. He or she will nod and go about their day, and your mind will start fidgeting again. You never should have left Jasmine alone. You never should have stayed away. Though, for now, you should just stay put. Don’t call now. Even romance can expire, and your timing is pathetic. More pathetic than Etta’s lyrics…which aren’t a sign. They really aren’t. At last your love has expired. That is your song now, you dummy.

You never accept it. You really should never call her when you feel this way. Please put the filthy receiver of the payphone, which has never been cleaned, down. This is the payphone that’s outside the culinary shop, and it is the payphone that has become a totem and a trigger for yet another attempt to try to get her back. The content of the green metal trashcan next to the blue phone booth is a more accurate symbol of your relationship with Jasmine. The half full coffee cup was thrown away, and regardless of whether or not it was half “empty” or half “full,” it doesn’t matter: it’s trash because of where you put it. Trash is “trash” because of where it’s been put. You can’t replace anything that’s been thrown away, and once it’s been thrown away: it’s over. If you don’t get that now, you never will.

But, the jazz songs still mean something… “What are the odds!” you’ll say to yourself, as you commit to this thing that you know you should never do. When the silver coil of the cord touches your wrist, as you pick up the receiver and inhale the germs and the sighs of previous idiots, you’ll shiver. The phone’s crust and dust will freak you out and make you feel more crazed. You’ll wonder if you can get lice from plastic—if that little piece of felt underneath the ear holes can be a vector for further misfortune and embarrassment. You deserve lice, because you failed at love.

You won’t get lice, and you won’t actually make the call. You never walk around with seven quarters in your pockets (seven really is a lot of quarters). Dialing from your cellphone would be useless. You’ve never left a good voicemail in your entire life, and she’d never pick up if she saw an incoming call from your number. You’ll walk away, because you have another date tonight. You have to wash your hair and look presentable. You should never go on a date and not at least try. It’s a “straight” date, like all the other ones, because you could never date a girl other than Jasmine.

Never code her name when on dates with men that you’re not ready to be on. Never say, “Jon was his name. Jon fucked me up.” Never use her brother’s name to describe her and you and what transpired. Never drag her brother into it; he never did anything (you never even met the guy). Plus, it’s not the same to say, “Jon,” because the man you’re on a date with won’t understand how fucked up you are, unless you tell him what her name is. He won’t be able to understand that you feel cursed by the name, “Jasmine.”

Never go on dates with these men to Indian restaurants. You love Palak Paneer and you love Naan, but you know that her name is on the menu, usually in italics, to describe the rice or the tea, or both. So, never go on a date in an Indian restaurant. Say that you have a weak stomach; they won’t know you’re referring to the font and not the spices. If you go to a coffee shop other than Starbucks to avoid the jazz music, when on a date with a man that you aren’t ready to meet, and you notice that they have Jasmine tea, never order it. Jasmine tea sucks and you should never have to pay for it. Never go on coffee dates either—just to be safe. Steer clear of both these items in supermarkets too. The “International” section, usually aisle six or seven, is where both of these items are found. Some cosmic bit of mercy puts tea and basmati rice in the same aisle. Never look down when passing by the rice, and never look up at the tea. You’ll see her name most of the time if you do, and it never helps. Never buy scented candles or potpourri either. You really never need to buy potpourri. Even if you avoid buying these things, you should also never seek out check-out lines attended by black women—in search of a nametag that says, “Jasmine.” It’s racist. Tell yourself that it’s racist and never do it.

Never forget that her name is common and that there are other Jasmines you will meet and have to talk to. Never fall in love with them, but be nice to them. Never be too nice, because they won’t understand and they’ll think you’re a creep. Never let your broken heart turn you into a creep.

You will never be able to see the word, “jasmine” and think, “Disney Princess,” or “What a lovely smell!” or “What a pretty name!” It’s ok. “Never” is ok. “Never” is what “Jasmine” means now. Never forget that, and you’ll be fine.

account_box More About

Born and raised in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Kate Scarpetta is a fiction writer who lives a nomadic life in pursuit of a career as a professional golfer. Her work has appeared in 14 Hills, The Brooklyn Review, Split Lip, Word Riot, and 5 Quarterly among others. Her website is and she tweets @kate_scarpetta.