It was strange and didn't register as a serious request. She wanted to take care of me. Nothing sexual. Just a meal here and there, maybe a little tidying up of the house.
She wanted me to talk. And that part, the talking, always felt transactional, a repayment of her cleaning and cooking. She didn't ask questions. Just nudged me on with emphatic nods in the living room, sitting six feet away from me in a stray office chair. She listened as if I were recounting a past life of her own.
I told her once I loved her little feet, especially in those heels. The next week she wore sneakers. She was older but not old, fifty or so. Two children a few years younger than myself.
She made a point of not staying past ten or drinking more than a single glass of wine.
I was always a little embarrassed by the state of the house. The dirty clothes strewn across the room indistinguishable from the clean. Earmarked novels, long novels, the kind you could bludgeon a person to death with, gathered dust on the coffee table, the desk, the kitchen counter. She touched them, fascinated by what secrets or sage advice might lay within, but she never read a page.
One night I realized I'd never said her name out loud. And she said, "That's impossible. Of course you have." But neither of us could think of a particular moment. And just when I was about to, she said, "Why break the streak?"
We grew more comfortable with one another. She wore less makeup and let her age show. She'd show up in sweatpants. Some nights we'd order Chinese and play that familiar game where every fortune is punctuated with "in bed." A stranger will change your life forever tomorrow in bed. Lies lead to great calamities in bed. So on.
We called them dates, our lunches in the break room, taken each day around 2 p.m. She would bring me leftovers from the night before, always making a point of saying something like, "My husband just couldn't finish it."
She brought baked ziti on a Wednesday last March. I told her it was the best I'd ever eaten as I forked it out of the tupperware container, the edges still hot from the microwave. She said she hadn't been intimate in two years.
"Is that possible?"
Sex didn't transpire immediately. We worked up to it.
I liked the way she directed me. I'd never experienced anything quite like it. She'd tell me to touch myself while she held me in her arms, she'd snag a handful of my hair, she'd dig her nails into my thigh, but her words were always beautiful, whispered, tender, spoken in the sacred and profane language of lovers.
I'd come and she'd make a comment about the quantity, comparing it to her husband's.
In the serene afterglow before we toweled ourselves off, I'd rest my head against her breast, and I'd say, "I could stay here forever."
"Every man I've ever slept with has said that."
"How many men have you slept with?"
"Has anyone ever liked the answer to that question?"
"I don't mind. We could compare data."
She crawled out of the bed and turned on some music, Neil Young, "A Man Needs a Maid."
"I always felt guilty for liking this song," I said.
"Me too," she said.
We drank coffee on the back porch before the sun came up. "There was a man," she said, "before I married. He was an artist, a painter. We were in college and I loved the deliberate way he spoke. He'd think, sometimes for a full minute, before he said anything. There was a softness in his voice that required you to pay closer attention to him. Your voice is not all that different."
The Department of Transportation began tearing down the houses in my neighborhood to make room for an additional two lanes of traffic. By October mine was the only house left on the block. The apocalypse in miniature. We'd drive by piles of brick and fencing and she'd begin to cry.
It was a particularly brutal winter, and she buried her car in mud and snow when she tried to back out of the yard on the day of her son's graduation. I offered to drive her.
"No, no, no no no."
We sat in the snow, our backs against her car. She leaned in and said, "Your cologne is new."
"You've cut your hair."
"Your shirt, it's actually ironed."
Silence for a beat.
"Who is she?"
with her chime
and bright, so stark
a contrast it startled me
like geometric print intruding
on a watercolor dream
in my window, a lone wolf sparrow
called her lover at 3am
then this morning
from separate winged real estate
a baby blue bird
rolled to its death
on the pavement
another shame among shames
that I don't have time to mourn
so here I am
sleep deprived on Monday
dry mouth chewing stale cereal
while the reporter reaches his quota
for name drops per episode
the producer gives a thumbs up
I don't judge him
we're all accumulating bad karma
clean shirt, coat on
countdown to lunchbreak
so I can leave the building
and watch the pretty city women
dressed to perfection
and all the handsome,
broad-shouldered men responsible
for the spikes in my water bill
as if they saved the world
I bet you did babe
I bet you did
A string of Edison bulbs
in liquid gold
The ceiling fan's humming
from outside his window
an artist's reciting
divide the room
He films me undressing
lights a joint then
lounges on the bed
I walk to him
and slink my arms
around his shoulders
smoke curls from the corner
of his mouth
I kiss him
into the evening, he moves me
like bluesy guitar
a pool of
on nights like this
when the kindling's still
we lie beneath
a single bed sheet
strokes my skin
and warm breeze
alludes to June at our ankles
In a single, well-curated line
one by one
my fellow millennials
punched me in the face
speed bag brained
with elbows stained in asphalt grit
My spit launched
my bloodied lip
I steadied my dizzy
the billboard script:
ARE YOU HAVING THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE?
Not exactly. I could use a healing and I feel so biological lately.
Just a gummy body devoid of fantasy, living metronomically paced
by an apathetic heartbeat. The parasites consume me from behind my
computer screen. None of the movements mean anything anymore
and the population's too busy posing to notice the culture outgrowing its shallow dish. The casualties come marching in
Mike - Item No. 41312
His demons aligned
the curled bow of his shoulders
They shot it
straight on through his chambers,
to a dingy bathroom
The last I saw him
She's more of a poet
'cause she went to school for it,
and she tastes sweet in the morning,
and in the evening,
sunlight filters through her
and lights up that slice of lemon
that I love so much.
I think I'll have a writer -
on the rocks.
Every time I come home,
my room smells like sex in the summer,
and it sounds like the vinyl is still under the needle.
Best album of two thousand and nine.
Best album of all time.
Sand between our toes,
we wrote prose
on a filthy mattress but
roses never grew here.
And they never will.
There was something about us though,
something that had a feverish pulse
behind it. I'd say it was something to
do with the way we have of never putting
a cheap laugh below us. I think it has
something to do with resilience but I'm not sure.
Humming trite voicings of things we'd heard
in the backseat of our fathers' cars, radios on,
you use to tell me to flash the turn signal,
in the black of night, just so you could make sure
we were alive. Dry, but at least alive.
A little beacon to justify us,
and just defy them.
Set this manuscript
to music and dance for me!