map All Those Love Notes Swarm Like Insects

by Alina Stefanescu

Published in Issue No. 237 ~ February, 2017


Kelsey Krajewski |

The note tucked into my backpack pocket.

First note. A simple question with a doodle resembles a turtle nearby. His fingertips rich with Irish Spring. An answer is what begins when all he wants is an answer. The heft of high school hardback textbooks I cannot let him carry. What was the song we sang with car windows open? A lyric hallowed by Cowboy Junkies: I just want to see what kills me. That’s all I can say. Yet something to lay a brick over.


A note folded under the windshield wiper.

A rose attached. Blood red like a period. Blood is an end to things but male eyebrows are exclamation points. If you’re not afraid of anything, then why are you avoiding this? His questions feel sticky–our eyes glued to the slightest change in silhouette shapes. Nothing equals sudden changes in pulse. Equations not learned beneath the evening of words he draws over my face. Luminous. I am glowing. What is bright must be protected from its own reflection. There are things we don’t want our friends to see. Kiss me. The moonlight pouring steel from our faces. He can’t believe in God but he is grateful–a jig in the streetlight–he has found another belief. He is loaded with what must happen. I am empty of what comes next. The blueprints of first love pure as Soviet engineering; we devise marvelous plans without accounting for equipment. This was Alabama in the early 1990s. A right-to-work state deprices its students of unions. We thought we can make it all work with hands and head.


A note tucked inside a small book of poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

The poems circle love but the note describes jealousy. We hold hands in the hallway so he can assert us aloud. Our friends know I don’t date–I am too much the Romantic for humans. The color black beguiles me best. Who are you looking at? He wants all the answers. To touch more parts of me never yet touched. His fear is white, baptismal. I bow my head in service to such occasions.


A note glaring from my car’s front seat.

Two dog-toothed violets with hearts for leaves. Words move from love to idolatry. The aromatic incense of ritual sacrifice. I am terrible at proofs in trigonometry. He offer to help–proofs fill his fate. The more he touches, the less he trusts. You are mine. Are you mine? You are mine forever. A sentence contains its own counterpoint in the form of intention. I compose myself and lose the self I love. When I lose control, it is as if a wolf begins panting, a foreign howl which scares him from some dark grave. He says the words enchant at night. He is my first everything, but the more I give, the less pure I become. You are an animal, he worries. Animals cannot be faithful.


A note written on the inside of my wrist in black ink.

The Latin is fides. A fealty. In the cinema, we whisper through the subtitled movie, reading one another rather than lines. I know French but he can’t keep his mind on the subtitles. Unlearning proofs. Popcorn falls to the floor, a pretext to bend down and hide the face. You are no longer pure so why should you be faithful? He asks the same questions in car seats and restaurants. This is what happens when you let go. I promise there is no one else. But can I promise there will never be? We have been in the woods at night.  Make no promises in the wild. A moon keeps us safe from pure light.


A note etched inside the cover of the cloth journal gifted on our first anniversary.

The love story he has written about us, to keep me in place. I smile at being found familiar. The sweetness gives back the bounce of a jaw blowing bubbles. He loves me too much to trust me. I believe he lies about disbelieving God. Only the devout are taken by signs and portents, the gold talisman he clasps round my throat. A heart I speak for two.


A note beneath my Romanian pillow.

Meet me in the yard when the world falls asleep. I dance in the living room before the floor-length picture windows without knowing he watches. What were you doing? The demand of a livid face. A lover needs answers. I was dancing in the dark. But for whom? For no one–dancing in the thought of you.


Two notes on the nightstand saying there is no such thing as a thought.

If there is only performance. For whom was I performing? To dance like Salome is to dream a man’s destruction. My bedroom walls cloaked in Schiele and surrealists. He sees through the prints. He spires the secrets I am not saying. Begin with graveyards. Begin with the girl who wants to die like Joan of Arc. Save the world but not a boy. You can’t save the heart which suspects you.


A note among underwear in my dresser.

Don’t forget. I brush the vowels from my hair and stiffen into pillow. Loose-leafed words lack rubber bands. All these notes he pens to protect me from the hands of another. All these love notes swarm like insects looking to nest. One instant unequals forever.


One note leftover.

A note a man finds later. In the house with a garden and children. A married man who sleeps on the left side of our bed. All beds in which we sleep are left. A man holds the note which grows more serious with time. See this? I’m not the first one to suspect you aren’t mine. A fear goes back to the beginning. The first kiss and I am unfaithful. From the first to the final note, an echo rings false.

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Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania, raised in Alabama, and reared by the love-ghost of Tom Waits and Hannah Arendt. She lives in Tuscaloosa with her partner and three small native mammal species. Her story, "White Tennis Shoes", won the 2015 Ryan R. Gibbs Flash Fiction Award. You can read her syllables in current issues of PoemMemoirStory, Tinge Magazine, Jellyfish Review, New Delta Review, Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, and others. Her poetry book, Objects in Vases, is available from Anchor & Plume Press (March 2016). She wants to imagine you reading it. More online at