I was not paying attention at work.
I was reading your latest messages,
holding in laughs,
reeling in the goofy girlish grins
that would give me away to my co-workers,
too ready to gossip about my fall in productivity.
And that’s when I smelled the smoke.
I could see the flames erupting like a realization all around me.
I could see you, burning my life away, one fax cover at a time,
one photocopy after another going up in sparks.
Fire at the office, shouldn’t we evacuate?
No. Let it burn the printers to a crisp,
melt the staplers into disfigured puddles,
sizzle and pop the wires and light bulbs,
the fuck have these florescents ever done for me, anyway?
What have they ever done for anyone?
compared to what you’ve done for me,
Compared to the bright little light
of your words on my phone.
Sitting here on a stone bench after a lukewarm second date, watching the dog busy herself in a square of park, I think back to the sting of hot smoke in my lungs at a hookah bar in New York City some six months ago. A young man was singing along to the music while two girls listened to his side, and as I watched from across the table. The lights were purple, or so they seem when their flashing smiles reflected off the blue plumes exhaled from their cherry lips. What a pretty picture. They asked for a picture, the girls, and he told them they were a picture. They laughed, teeth white as ice in the room’s humid lilac and he snapped a drunken blur–from our two beers and rum and cokes–yet the women were radiant in the lens’ lazy capture. They sang along with him, throats bare and vibrating to the beat. But yet there I was, interrupting, not knowing the lyrics. But yet there I was, dumpy, unpolished, humany, sliding between him and the liquid women with hard muscles and harder curls. But yet there I was, unworthy, in the blue smoky world of the beautiful, hand on his chest, hoping to push the chirping nymphs from his mind, pulling the white champagne-flavored ash from his tongue, breathing in smoke and sweat and exhaling a most painful hope into the space behind his ears. The glittering ladies, disinterested, had dissolved into clouds, returning to their giggling conversations, leaving me with a demigod I didn’t deserve. The dog licks my ankles. Time to move on, she whines, to the next park, to our apartment in this city so much smaller than New York. I stand from the stone bench, the imprint of hard edges on my thighs, the weight of unsatisfactory carbonara sloshing in my stomach. That was six months ago, the divine boy, the pretty picture. There’ve been other men since then, over other drinks, or in mediocre Italian restaurants over forced conversation. Men as human as myself. Ah well, might as well head home, send a half-hearted “I had a great time,” then light a cigarette. My fingers crave a slow burning.