December is the cruelest month, I think, the land is dead, the flowers have died, there is too much memory and too little desire. The bus picks up with a lurch and I slide into a seat along the aisle. I don’t turn to look out the window. You are still sitting there. I close my eyes and give you a quick kiss. The bus shudders to a halt.
    “I’m going to take it,” I say, and flag it down.
    “Oh, come on,” you say, “tell me.”
    The fluorescent tube of light above us flickers. I want to speak, my mouth parts, but nothing comes out.
    “It’s my bus,” I say.
    You have an early flight to catch, but we sit at the bus stop for a long time, looking at our feet.
    The ships glitter on the horizon. A bicycle curls through the air behind us. I bury my face in the front of your shirt, inhaling the clotted humidity buried in your skin. We don’t say much. I can feel the calluses of your palm against mine.
    “Let’s go,” I say, “I want to bring you to the beach.” The rain softens.
    You stir your coffee. I want to tell you that my heart has hollowed out, flopped onto the table between us – there it is, I want to say, look down, look.
    “I don’t know,” you say, and you genuinely don’t, “I guess you’re not the one.”
    I can’t look at you. I can barely manage a why.
    “Even if you come to London, if you’re here for two years,” your voice catches, or perhaps it doesn’t, “I don’t think it’s going to work.”
    There is a blank between this, a stubbed silence. Your eyes die out.
    “So, let’s say, hypothetically. I go to London for my master’s degree, something, I don’t know.”
    There is a cold knot in my stomach that I am ignoring. Our conversation is stumbling dangerously down the road less travelled. People are shuffling around us in a sort of dazed murmur. We are sitting in one of those al fresco cafes, outdoors but not exactly.
    The rain is coming down in warm sheets when I meet you at the train station. There is a sort of melancholic symmetry to this. I ask you if you’d like to go for a walk, and you say yes. The first thing you asked me, three years ago, was if I would like a walk in the rain, with you. It is your last night here.
    When I emerge from the bathroom, my eyes shot with red and my hair rumpled, you’ve already poured me a glass of water. I peel off the blankets, trying not to wake you, but you wake up anyway. The light is still faint when I blink awake.
    “It’s been really good to see you,” you say, the last thing I hear before I fall asleep.
    My legs are across your lap, and you are cupping my face in your palms. I cannot remember how we ended up sitting here, in this thick quiet. You are flying back to London in two nights. We have finished a bottle of port between us, and we are standing on a silent balcony at four in the morning.
    I bring myself to look into your eyes, in the brief space between our sentences. I never knew you were allergic to seafood and poultry, or perhaps I’d forgotten. You have bought me a box of chocolates; you laugh and say that you’d forgotten if I liked chocolates. Your shoulders are narrower than I remember, you are slightly stooped now. You turn around, and your eyes crinkle at the edges. Through the glass panes of the restaurant I can see the back of your head, the striped shirt turned up at the sleeves.
    You are flying here, from London, and my heart clutches. It has been two years. My heart is wrung dry. I don’t always write back. You did great things for me, you say, you inspired me to start reading again, it is in our exchanges that I started expressing my thoughts on paper. What matters is that I had a great time with you: seeing Shakespeare, discussing books, talking about life. You write to me, in a deft sidestep, asking me how I am.
    I have written you a letter that is woefully melodramatic, and I watch your silhouette as you glance at the oncoming traffic and then round the bend, where you’ve parked your car. I am sitting on my luggage at the bus station, and the sun is wet and gleaming on the tarmac. It is June, and I am leaving for home.
    You pause, and then you promise me a ride to the bus station, and help with my boxes. We take long walks at night, taking perpendicular paths and navigating the grid of our campus. The trees are laden with green now; they are heavy arches over our heads. I don’t want to talk about it. You have decided on London. We talk about how you will be graduating in May.
    “What do you guys talk about?” someone asks me.
    You send me Russian poetry and proofread my writing and introduce me to Greek yoghurt. We sit on high stools, looking out at the street, my legs dangling, yours on the ground. We go for many lunches. You ask me out to lunch, and you tell me that you love Eliot, too. The walk home from your place is lined with budding trees, faintly flecked with green. It is April today, this morning, the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.
    Your fingers are in my hair, and above us the amber shaft of light from a streetlamp extinguishes abruptly. The cold air is a knife in my chest.
    “Shall we get out of here?” you ask. You look down at me.
    You go quiet, put your arm around my waist. I rest my hand on your shoulder, briefly. You measure your words out in careful spoonfuls; I don’t. We talk about Russian grammar, your research, where I’m from. At some point in the evening you materialize next to me in the crammed room, full of pulsing bodies and huddles of drunken friends lost in earnest debate. Our boots form a small hill by the door, and I nearly slip on the linoleum in my socks. 
    We decide that bad Russian pop should be the theme of the night. Someone cracks a joke about Dima Bilan, who has just won the Eurovision, and we all laugh. I jam my gloveless hands deep into my pockets. Some of us are getting ready to go – a bottle of wine has been produced; we are clapping each other on the back and stumbling through shallow puddles. Winter is dragging itself away, tail between its legs. It is a clear night.
    “I’ll see you, okay?”
    You smile, a little wider now.
    “Why don’t you give me a call, later,” I say, typing my number into your phone. My fingers are shaking, either from the cold or from my nerves, or perhaps both.
    “Will you be there?”
    “You should come.”
    “Okay,” you say. I do the same. You hazard a smile.
    “We’re having a party later, at her apartment,” I say.
    You look up and your eyebrows lift. We are at the end of an extravagant dinner hosted by one of the faculties, brimming with tipsy professors who have their arms draped around their students. Someone is handing out vodka in paper cups and I am holding one of these cups, I am flushed and happy and freshly dumped, and you are there, leaning against a doorjamb, fiddling with your phone. I have almost forgotten about you. It has been two weeks.
    The dark corridor yawns, and I step out of its throat into the twilight, the melting snow. I am deciding if I should look back, but then I don’t. After the show, I gather up my things, my wool coat and my scarf, and I call someone else on the phone.
    Your gaze makes a dent in my lower back as we duck through the raucous laughter and the loose strands of conversation falling around us. I take a sip. I take in the feline stretch of your arms, the angular jut of your shoulders and elbows, the black steel in your eyes. This is the first time I look at you, how you are coiled tight into yourself. You follow me to the makeshift bar and pour me a glass.
    “I think I’m going to get some wine.” I push my hair back, tucking it behind my ears.
    “Are you going to stay on for the rest of the show?” you ask.
    I am dating someone who will leave me in about two weeks, but I don’t know this yet. I lean over, vaguely embarrassed, tracing the cadence of your voice through the air. Around us, other students mingle in a bright mist of alcohol. I cannot make out what you are saying. You might have smiled, slightly, or you might have introduced yourself. Your eyes widen.
    It is March, and still cold, and spring has not yet alighted.
    “No,” I say, “I don’t think so.”
    “Oh,” she says, “Have you two met?”

Rie Tan is twenty-five. She has a bad habit of picking at her fingernails when she writes. She lives close enough to the airport for the occasional dalliance with wanderlust, but far enough for a mostly monogamous relationship with Singapore. Well, she's cheated now and then. Her work has been published in Ceriph and in several other literary journals in the United States, where she used to live.