He was telling me about an ex-girlfriend, or a current girlfriend, or someone he wanted me to know without revealing the truth. He talked with quickness, an almost urgency, and I felt a need in his voice even while we laid in darkness.
“She wrote me this poem, she writes poetry, you know.” He was whispering this into my ear, stroking my hair, kissing my neck. “She writes beautiful poetry. I write poetry, sometimes. But her’s—she’s so intelligent. Smart.”
I am a writer. I’m writing things for writing classes at this small liberal arts college that brags about its writing programs and the importance of writing. Come here, become a writer. A formula, really. Professors will tell you about the books they’re working on. Everyone’s working on a book, of some sort. Everyone’s teaching us to kill time.
Maybe he didn’t know I wrote, or maybe he just didn’t remember at the time because we had been drinking whiskey and rum when I started talking about my career, and this is how we became wrapped up in one another at 6am. The idea had been mine. I instigated most of it, mainly because there was something about him that I found intriguing, stealth-like and distant. Something predatory. I convinced myself that this intrigue was a result of his moral character, rather than a pseudo bar image he painted on before a good night of drink. Maybe I was right. I didn’t know him well enough to pass that kind of judgment.
So, the poetry. I asked him, “Who is she?” He shifted his weight, and he laid his body on top of mine and told me to look at him. Stop, he said. Right there. Now look.
“She’s in Belfast, studying.” Now he ran his fingers down my back, my shirt already creeping halfway up. “And you know it’s not about physical attraction with her. She writes, and she’s intelligent, and I’ve never had anyone give me poems before. She writes so good. I don’t know a lot people who write like that.”
I curled my fingers around his shoulder—frustrated—slightly angry by his misuse of the word “good,” fully enraged by his dismissal of my own art and involvement with words. And then it was my turn to make him angry because I started to question him.
“So, what, the choice is mine? You don’t have an opinion of this, do you?”
There were things that I wanted to say, thoughts jumbling like hot noise, then bouncing through my head in darkness. I wanted him to win me things, cushy prizes exchanged for yellow skee-ball tickets. I, too, could be his prize, soft and warm and wrapping myself around him like a fuzzy boa or retractable claw. A fish-head back-scratcher. Something he needed to curb the itch.
But I couldn’t tell him all of this, because he looked at me, and told me to do anything but cry. Stop, he said. Right there. I didn’t. It was 6:08am, and I was there, convenient, and while I knew he wasn’t any kind of writer, I knew that he too was killing time on the slow buzz that was lingering, and now fading—something reminiscent of a burn. (J. Danko)