After the Narcotics Anonymous meeting, they stopped to
chat under a maple tree in the parking lot. She said, “Do
you want to get some coffee at the I Hop, hon?” . . . He
replied, “Awwwww, some place, yeah, but anywhere
They ended up at the Denny's by Portland State, in a
window booth across from a counter that's the same,
When the coffee came, she told the story of getting
trapped on a cruise ship with this prick named Tad,
who talked and talked nonstop in a fake Australian
accent. “It got real old, real quick,” she said, taking
a tentative sip. He liked the way she opened the sugar
packets with a gap in her front teeth, the little creamer
containers succumbing to thumbnail. He said “I can
only imagine,” looking up to see the young Jamaican
waitress in her Kelly green dress humming One by U2,
holding the refill pot. His hand shook hovering no
thanks, above his cup.
“So anyway this guy Tad,” she said, “kept saying things
like Guh Die! and Oy! right? Then he threw in . . . like
Defenestration, Subdural Hama Toma . . .” She said, “he
actually said red skies at night... He said stuff like
‘Crikey that's a knife',” she said, “it was bad, really
really, really . . . bad.”
He nodded past his jitters, his naked, nascent sobriety.
He said, “Yeah, so the phony Aussie Tad, sad killer of
the sea cruise . . .” And she giggled. Then they looked
out the window at a darkened Arthur Street, half past
ten, streetlights blazing through winter mist, hothouse
globes the color of honey.
When she touched his barely trembling hand across
the table, his reflection in the glass did the double take.
He watched, stolid as any plastic Ken doll atop a wedding
cake. Then a voice came said, Be yourself, it can't hurt
He said, “I've only ever ridden a ferry, and I guess the fact
is I've been very lonely.”
She was quiet, as the waitress returned with the same
sly smile. Dreadlocks swinging, she set down their check.
They got up to pay, and she said “That's okay,” squeezing
his hand, “on your worst day you're still thousands of light
years ahead of Tad.” They laughed some more, and she
said, “you never told me what . . . you got against I Hop.”
She tucked her head against his shoulder as they stepped
outside, together, well on their way since God is pretty
romantic, after all, He may have righted the ship.
All rights reserved.
Originally appeared in the web zine, Fried Chicken and Coffee.
Also included in my second book of poems, "Longshot and Ghazal," available now for pre order at Mojave River Press and Review: