2017-2018 Poet Laureate Beacon, New York
Serrated words cutting through the arteries of night like guitar strings slashing fingers to the...read more bone have bled on such fine publications as "Dogzplot," "Gutter Eloquence," "Red Fez," "Slipstream," "Underground Voices," "Zygote in my Coffee," and others. Publications include a self published chapbook, "Opening night in Gehenna," and a new volume of poetry and flash fiction, "Blood, Beats, and Rock n Roll," available now at Amazon. Colorful compositions and caterwauling with a couple of chords can be seen at www.youtube.com/tonypenapoetry.
MY MIND IS BUNDLED in nerves like a Jack Russell terrier running round and jumping in circles, chewing on a leash to meet her again. I'm wondering if the heart beating within her was still the tin relic passed down from her mother, an heirloom of questionable quality. Her personality was an acquired taste perhaps but I recall fragments here and there of sex that night twenty years ago in the cheap hotel by the college that gave me the courage to seek her out. A half bottle of Jack Daniels and a gnawing loneliness didn't hurt either. I reckoned that reconnections was all this social network mumbo jumbo was about anyway. So after a click here and there and a month of quickie e-mails, I find myself on my second cappuccino, counting ceiling tiles over and over again at Starbucks.
I figured her nights of smoke and swagger now number well into the thousands and have probably hacked into her larynx leaving her voice a hoarse whisper. Mae West sexy and a worthy complement to her voluptuous body. A bounty of tits and ass. I knew her personality of impulse and addiction wouldn't allow her vocal cords to heal from the toxic byproducts of sad and lonely times so it was no surprise when she appeared at the door drawing in one last long drag from a cigarette before letting the smoke out and flicking the butt out onto the street.
It was obvious from the wild gray in her hair and her jowly bulldog cheeks that the Facebook picture was not of recent vintage and the years have not been kind. A pair of sunglasses sat atop her waves of frizzy hair though it was a dreary day. Overcast with a chance of rain. I waved but she was doing a three sixty trying to orient herself as if this was the first coffeehouse she ever frequented.
“Rebecca Ann,” I called out. Her head jerked back as she turned suddenly, the sunglasses dropping onto the floor. She reached down to pick them up and started heading towards the door before doing an about face and marching to the counter. The barista motioned to a section of tables where I was seated. She took small, unsure steps in my direction so I stood up and smiled. She did not smile back as she reached into a beige canvas tote bag and pulled out a small rolled up brown paper bag. A chill cradled my neck like bony fingers. My mind raced through its bank of memories sorting through images and actions trying to recall whether our short physical relationship ended more badly than I remembered.
“Robert,” she scowled, her voice even harsher than I expected. She patted her head and said, “I see you haven't aged well.”
True, I was balding badly but I was still taken aback as I thought I took reasonably good care of myself and she had put on at least fifty pounds in the last twenty years and besides what kind of thing was that to say to someone after all this time. Her personality quirks came back to mind from the reserves of memory. Cold and snarky like her uptight mom. I searched her eyes for a glimmer of the long lost attraction I once felt but was greeted by a deep darkness. A life barely there and rimmed with rouge.
“I -I, well, I don't know about all that,” I stammered. “You know after all they say forty five is the new thirty five.” I forced a smile.
Steely eyes shot stiletto daggers. “More like fifty five,” she said as she placed the tote bag on the table and began to unravel the paper bag. Maybe it was how she was coming off, or the spate of shootings in the country or maybe the coffee was just too damn strong but fight or flight kicked in. I scanned the table for protection and grabbed a teaspoon.
Rebecca Ann shook her head slowly and smirked. “I see you're still an insecure little fuck. I only came for one reason.”
“Why come at all? I mean it's not like you're being warm and fuzzy and we could have caught up online.”
She nodded her head. “Yeah, I suppose, but you sounded kind of desperate and I don't want to put too much of my life out there in cyberspace for all the world to see. I'm a private person.” She opened the bag and reached in. I took a step back as she tossed a small pack of bundled envelopes onto the table. “These are lyrics you wrote for me back in college. You were sweet and I thought, oh, I don't know, maybe there was something.”
I picked up the bundle and recognized my chicken scratch handwriting. “I don't even remember writing these.”
“That figures. I read them again after you friended me on Facebook. They're not that good but you were so filled with spirit back then. I don't know. People change, you know. Anyway, do what you want with them.” She started to walk away.
“Wait, Rebecca Ann, hey, how about a cup of coffee?”
She shook her head and put on her sunglasses. “No. I don't think so. You know after time you just remember the good things. It's human nature. But there's more to it than than that and two wrongs just don't make a right.” She headed for the door as the skies darkened ushered in by a clap of thunder. I felt the storm in my bones and I felt like a hundred years old as my mind faded to black.
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