top of page

Paint Strokes on the Skin

by Conrad Gluesing


“I will always love you.”


That’s all she said before she left me sitting alone in my bedroom, I thought she would come back but she was gone now, hopefully somewhere beautiful, like her. I could still faintly smell her perfume, a scent etched into my brain that wrapped itself in now-distant memories of when she still loved me. I fell back into my bed and stared at the sunbeams that were tinted a deep orange across my walls and ceiling, and I wondered if I could just step into them if I would just melt away. Honestly, I was not sure how long I was lying there, but the orange hues of the morning light had shifted to the gentle blues of the night, her color, the one still painted across my cheek where she last kissed it. She was a blue, but not a sad and bruised blue, she was a gentle and tranquil blue that was so soft that I could not help but feel at peace looking into her eyes or in her arms. That made me sink back into my bed.


I woke up to a loud knocking on my door, I prayed it was going to be her, telling me that she came back for me. I dragged my somber body to the door and peered through the peephole and was disappointed to see my friends, at least the closest three, all crowded outside of the door.

“C’mon man, we know you’re here,” one of them, Henry I think, said. “We heard what happened, we just want to make sure you’re okay.”

I stood with my forehead pressed up against the door for a second before reluctantly opening the door to their pitiful stares. It almost made me want to close the door in their faces. I shuffled aside to let them in, the best I could do as a gesture that they were welcome.

“We brought you some Culver’s man”, Chris chirped, clearly trying to lighten up the mood; his color was yellow, “I know you love their burgers.”

I stood there, unsure what to say or do, which I felt terrible about but couldn’t stop myself. Isaiah took it upon himself to break me out of my trance, pulling me into a tight but tender hug. He just held me as I buried my face into his shoulder, and I simply shattered. He let me sob into his shoulder until it was damp with my tears. I tried to apologize through choked words but he told me not to worry, that I mattered more than this shirt and tears were just water anyways. I stayed like that for a while until I ran out of tears. Sadly I was still brimming with sorrow that refused to spill out of me.

“Is that better?” Isaiah whispered as he felt my body cease its shuddering; his color was purple.

“Yea, I think I just need to sit down,” I managed to mutter in my weak voice.

They sat me down on the couch and I craned my head back and gazed at the ceiling, I imagined that this was all a dream and that it would end soon but that moment never came.


I woke up in a stranger's bed again, unsurprisingly I barely remember how I got here. She is sleeping peacefully next to me, which makes me wince in pain knowing that I will slip out unnoticed and never speak to her again. I stare at her for a little, trying to make out her features, but they blur and congeal, maybe I’m drunk or maybe I just refuse to remember. I slide out of bed quietly and put on my clothes, which were strewn about the room in a drunken mess, my head feels like it will split open at any moment. I stumble out of the room as quietly as I can and just pray she has no roommates, sadly as I turn the corner two girls are sitting on the couch watching TV.

“Fuck, man,” I whisper under my breath.

“Uhhh, who are you?” One of them speaks up.

“Just her hook-up,” I say as I gesture to the stranger's room.

“Ughh, you don’t even know her name?” The other scoffs. “Asshole”.

“Sorry, man,” I say tiredly, “It’s nothing personal, really.”

“Just get out of here,” the first one hisses at me.

“My bad,” I mutter, while I slip on my shoes and open the door to leave.

“Her name is Sarah, by the way,” is the last thing I hear as I close the door behind me.


hey, I had a good time :)

I look blankly at the notification from the unsaved number in my phone, I assume it must be Sarah. I’m not surprised that I didn’t save her name, though, I never saved anyone's name anymore, it was easier not to get attached that way.

Something about her felt different. I just couldn’t tell what it was.

Against my mind's desire to run away, as it had been for the last few years trying to escape the typhoon of longing, I sent a message back. me too, I’m sorry I left without saying anything, I forgot I had work

That was a lie, but I was just hoping she wouldn’t catch it because it was much easier to tell a stranger that than to tell them you’re terrified of remembering how their touch felt on your skin. There was a buzz against my leg, she texted back right away.


you don’t have to lie to me, but now you gotta take me out for dinner tonight for making me wake up alone

I looked at my phone, brow furrowed, because I had no clue how she knew I was lying, maybe I was more transparent than I let myself believe. I had never been asked out by someone before, if that’s what you would call this, though it was more of an order than a proposal. I texted back again, this time with less uneasiness.

I guess if I have no say in the matter, I’ll see you at 7

I was surprised at how fast I gave in to her, but I wasn’t upset. A little smile crept onto my face, but I didn’t notice it. Another buzz.

no asking for my address? no way you remember it, you were too fucked up

I did remember it, it wasn’t far from me, just a couple of blocks down. I sent one last text before I put my phone down because it was making my pounding headache worse.

don’t worry, I got it

She liked the message.


It was a cute apartment building, made of bricks that had been through countless winters with ivy that spread out like scars on the walls, a sign of its aging. I already told her I was outside, so I just stood in the cold air, distracting myself by watching my breath linger, I imagined myself smoking.

When she comes out I take a moment to analyze her face, which is no longer blurry, and my gaze lands on her eyes. They have a distinct shine to them, the kind of shine that you would think about for weeks on end after locking eyes when passing each other on a sidewalk.

“Hey Jayden!” she says excitedly as she comes down the steps, she waves her hand in my face, “You gonna stop staring at me like that and say hi or what?”

I break out of my trance and I laugh a bit at the comment.

“Sorry, I guess I just zoned out or something,” I say smiling, we both know that was happening.

“Mhm,” she says sarcastically, “So, where are you gonna take me then?”

“You’ll see,” I say confidently, “You’re gonna love it.”


That first date was good, and so was the next, and the next, and the next. It was all slow in the moment but a blur when looking back upon it. When her hands delicately cradle my face I get brought back to that night I used to wish to forget, but I didn’t think of the blue crushing me as it filled the room. Instead, I remember that orange morning light from the sun that barely peeked through my blinds in beams that I begged to join. I determined that it must’ve been a sign from Sarah, calling out to me long ago. She was orange, but it wasn’t an arrogant or harsh orange. Instead, it was a warm and kind orange that grabbed your attention with its enthusiasm. It didn’t take long for those lingering splotches of blue that permeated my face to be painted over by her, leaving nothing but sunkissed skin.

“I will always love you,” I tell her.

bottom of page