outwait outrun outwit


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06.30.03, monday night

Last night thirty tiny flames wavered in friendly darkness before you blew Ďem out, quick. Then a switch was flipped and the room blossomed, into white glossy surface, homo sapiens, warm wood. Interrupted conversations resumed while a tiny drill wormed into the cork of a bottle of merlot. You wore your red tiger-patch cap, cocked to the right, and you hadnít shaved for days. Yet you still didnít look thirty. Liquor-store clerks never cease to ask the question: May I see your ID?

I met you when you were three months past twenty-nine. (You were alone and you drank alot. You hadn't been in love for awhile. Maybe you were glad that you were entanglement-free.) I could have met you earlier, on your birthday. We were at the same party in the Mission; Numbers and Gold Chains performed. But what could we have said to each other? You had been alone for awhile; I was falling out of love.

Then we met, finally, at my twenty-fifth birthday party. I don't remember the encounter, but you do. You overheard me, post-fourth-beer, informing someone that the scars and chocolate on my face werenít real, that I had gotten 'em Photoshopped. You saw me kick my brother on his way out and you might have been scandalous if your roommate hadn't dragged you away from the kitchen.

. . .

Sometimes, I donít know what you see in me. Iím clumsy. Iím shy. My speech, garbled and malaprop-mined. Doubt Ė thatís my Achillesí Heel. The sore and tender place I nurse, alone or with you; it is always there. You have it too, only it is a fleeting, fleet-footed pang, recurring somewhere between head and stomach. The world was horrible. I was horrible. You had been horrible. Sometimes you just needed to eat.

. . .

You wonder what I see in you.

And what I see is this: a story sparked, and once sparked, a slow and sure flame, lighting solitudeís darkness like the first images of Sheherazadeís first stories must have lit the night-draped room as she told them to a man whose imagination had been impoverished by heartbreak.

You named a bone of mine. Widowmaker. That deft Naming enticed me, surely abetted by your hand, lying so warmly on my hip's swell. Skin and heart prickled awake, I had to follow that first flicker, that searing lick, toward you, the deft storyteller. You, spinning truth and tale about yourself, the world, us, beginnings, endings, between-times, the cities you once called home, the peripheral spaces you haunted. You enticed my imagination; I wanted to be brave.

So sudden was it, PS + JR 4eva, reservations ridiculous. Although itís true, there was heartache and little deaths. You canít renew without pain, a loss of something, whether it is flesh or dream, the way you once occupied space so thoughtlessly.

Now that you are thirty, you think about your health, bills to pay, an apartment to sweep, if I will still love you in another thirty years, my tendency to be careless, past carelessnesses; all these trains of thought jostling too close to each other, chugging and hooting and screaming through this moment between thirty and the rest of your life. Do you want to scream too? You reallly shouldn't. I know what I heard in those stories of yours. Follow that first flicker; you wonít regret it, darling.


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