When I was twenty-seven, my boyfriend asked me for a list of all the people I’d ever slept with.

A stained mattress on the floor with voices in the next room, the clank of Little Kings bottles, the smell of Marlboro Reds.

We met in the pool hall at the Sundown Saloon.

An antique double bed with tiger wood inlay in tiny triangles on the headboard and footboard.

My friend went for his brother.

The back room of a music store, between piles of CDs waiting to be clicked into white plastic holders to keep them from being stolen.

One night, early on, we fell asleep on my futon with our cheeks pressed together and woke up in the exact same position in the morning.

The living room carpet of a tiny apartment.

When he invited me to motorcycle through India with him, I didn’t care if we ever came back.

The pool of a hotel where my roommate worked at the front desk.

He requested the list be complete and in chronological order.

The passenger seat of a two-door, red car.

You might be thinking I shouldn’t have given my boyfriend the list.

The pine-needled forest floor.

And you’d probably be right. But I took it as a dare, thinking, “I’ll show him.”

Against a cold, hard cliff facing the Pacific, a flock of seagulls standing nearby, watching.

I wrote it down on lined notebook paper, carefully.

On sunbaked rocks in the hills above Ojai.

I was also afraid that if I didn’t give it to him, he would leave me.

An overnight train from Barcelona to Bordeaux with the window open and fields of sunflowers rushing by in the moonlight.

In a sleepy moment before drifting off in a guesthouse in the Punjab where the ceiling fan turned slowly and mosquitoes hovered just above our bodies, I recalled a story that included a name my boyfriend didn’t recognize.

A rooftop on the banks of a fast-moving river, tiny candles floating by below.

He demanded to know why I left this name off the list and who else I omitted.

The spare bedroom of a boss when no one else was home.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt afraid to leave someone even though they have never hurt you with their hands.

A rented room in a motel by the highway with a neon sign in the shape of a huge cowboy hat out front.

Or if you’ve ever realized that the tenderness someone expresses to stray dogs in Kathmandu or painted elephants in the streets of Delhi will never translate to the love you need for yourself.

The walk-in cooler at work.

One year later I got up the nerve to move out of the house we rented when we returned from India.

The landing of a staircase in a fancy downtown office building.

My boyfriend kept the coffee mug my stepfather gave me before he died, saying it was his now. He kept the bicycle his mother gave me, saying I didn’t deserve it.

The flat top grill of a restaurant kitchen after closing, full up on pastrami and rye and matzo ball soup.

And he kept the list of all my old lovers.

Across the sea, quietly.

But all he has are names. He can’t tell the difference between the quick ones and the long, achy, stretching-over-years ones. He can’t tell where we were or what the day smelled like. The angle of the sun or the clouds passing over the moon. That list belongs to me.

LISA THORNTON is a writer and nurse living in Illinois. She has work in SmokeLong Quarterly, Bending Genres, Ellipsis Zine, and more. She was a finalist for the 2022 SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net anthology. She can be found on Twitter and Bluesky @thorntonforreal.