Better Things in Pittsburg

The side of a building with many fire escapes. The photo appears in black and white with a V-shaped center section in bright, comic-book style color, the building vibrant orange-red.

I thought of you when she turned to me with those pleading desperate eyes and begged for us to go away somewhere. I knew from the way she spoke that she’d go anywhere I wanted. It came as no surprise that she agreed to Pittsburg. 

When she and I lived together, she used to do this thing where she’d climb into my bed when the lights were out and we were alone and she’d tell me that she didn’t like girls but she liked me. And my skin would get hot and she’d giggle at how I’d blush. She’d tease me for my goosebumps that popped up whenever our hands touched. But when the lights came on, she’d act completely different. She’d tell her friends I was the one to flirt with her. 

But then she moved out. Now whenever we see each other, she hangs off my arm in public and follows after me. I think she got lonely. She reminds me of how I was with you. Just more obvious. 

You never knew I loved you, did you? I can’t blame you. It’s my way I guess. I’m not one to seize opportunities when they present themselves. I tend to let that opportunity pack up and move hours away and find other people who love them. 

“The University of Pittsburgh?” She asked after I typed the directions in. She sounded skeptical but turned when the phone told her to. 

“It has beautiful architecture.” I replied, staring out the window. 

“Really?” 

“Yeah.” 

To be honest I didn’t know if it was true or not, I just needed a reason, an excuse, and she would have taken any. 

“Well then,” She smiled at me, “I can’t wait to see it.” 

I couldn’t help but think about how sweet she looked. 

She had this habit—a favorite hobby of hers— of leading me on time and time again. To be fair, I let her. I knew her tricks, the little traps she set. I stepped into them willfully. I never brushed her hand away when it found its way onto my knee. And I always let myself melt into her hands when they cradled my face or traced patterns into my skin. It felt nice to have someone flatter me and touch me the way she did, even if I knew it didn’t mean anything to her. 

She made me feel the way I felt when I was younger and you were still around. How willing I was to fall in love. 

Do you know what I thought about when I started to fall for her?

I thought about how much I missed you. And, suddenly, I felt so overwhelmed with how far away you were. I wanted to see you when I loved her. I wanted you to stop it. 

I thought I might find you at the University of Pittsburgh. I remember when you told me you were accepted there.

She draped herself over my arm and told people who didn’t ask that I was her girlfriend. She looked to the sky, admiring the excuses I’d made—the buildings, the bridges—while I searched the crowds of students and cars that rolled by. She held my hand and rested her head on my shoulder, and I was embarrassed—embarrassed of what you might think if my eyes ever did find yours in the swarm of people. She whispered in my ear, trying to coax a blush to my cheeks. 

I could hardly hear her. I could have sworn I heard your voice everywhere. 

I searched the museums and greens and sidewalks. I examined every face. I stayed until it was dark. And still, I couldn’t find you. Her hand tightened around mine. She smelled nice. I knew when we went back to the hotel she’d kiss my cheek and watch my skin redden and I’d think of you and I’d think that I was in over my head.

Being in love with her feels like falling out of love with you. And then I’m mourning you all over again. Losing you all over again. You promised me better things when you went away. But there I stood, in Pittsburg, and all I could think was that my better things had been with you.


Cole Hediger

Cole Hediger is a Philadelphia-based writer and student at Temple University. She has previously been published in Sunstroke Magazine with her piece “Breaking Ice” and in Bloom Magazine with her poem “Self Exploration.” While Cole’s procrastinating writing, she’s watching movies and reading.

Header photograph and artwork by Jordan Keller-Wilson

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