I should have known it would be like this.
Her letter was written in allegory
about a little house and a pet and love, of some kind indeterminate.
It rang like a bellhop and flew through my mind 80 stories up to open air where I set it free.
My reasoning mind, ever my impediment, told me the feelings behind it were genuine,
but genuine doesn’t imply “real”.
The way it stuck to my fingers with sweet tenacity was real and taunted me, so I hated it.
In a time when calls could be avoided and transponders weren’t glued to the hip or shoulder bag, in a time when caller ID was $10/month and $10 was a feast or two pitchers of beer and a ransom to me,
calls were more rare and still more rarely avoided.
Tenaciously, she cornered me by the telephone locked to the wall of our briefly mutual bed.
The feeling was genuine, so I listened.
Listening was something I did only when I couldn’t speak,
but I couldn’t speak to her and I couldn’t avoid her and wouldn’t ignore her (like I wanted to).
I took a few words from my rare bag of promises
and offered to meet at a neutral location
where hopefully I could speak
freeing me from the withering act of listening.
Only in retrospect, I knew I had every intention of forgetting to remember.
But she had power, she had emphasis, she was a writer,
the kind who worked in backrooms you didn’t want to visit
to labor over cryptic texts you wouldn’t want to read.
As I labored up the dead incline, sun on my face, free of the glue trap of her letters and intruding calls,
she was there.
At the time and place we had agreed and I had forgotten.
I saw her waiting, chin on shoulder.
She was a good girl.
Prettier than she would realize for another ten years,
smart and talented, full of ideologies,
including the one that rested on my chest
smothering me like a flapping, demented sparrow, bent on breaking its wing
or biting me bleeding, or both.
An accolade I didn’t remember asking for
admiration I hated a little her for giving, though I couldn’t say why.
I saw her, and though I genuinely didn’t want to hurt her,
genuine, geniality, deities, and fortune all take a similarly dim view of fair.
I left her waiting and I cursed her.
How dare she be where I told her to be at the time I told her?
If she would have refused me, rejected me, and hated me
I would have had something to work with.
Maybe I would have called her.
Maybe I would have asked her to come back.
I walked and she waited
and I hated her for being genuine.
The sun of my face had become a mirror
and without the smoke, the reflection glared uncomfortably.
I never called or spoke to her.
Nothing is harder for a young man to forgive then when he’s done something wrong to someone else.
Ten years later, I found her.
I had put aside some special words from my bag of apologies,
nearly empty from frequent use.
But the bird on my chest was nowhere evident
and there was no sunshine on the face of this no-longer young man.
She told me
“Apologies are for assholes.”
Of course, she was right.