Thursday, November 27, 2008

At Table

I.

My God, how long

has it been?


Drinking strong

liquor,

thinking wrong.


Let me cut you a

deal. You take

this hand, I'll pay

up.


But listen: next time,

warn me. I'll fold.


Do you know, how long

it has been?


I've been taking small

doses, getting rich

fat elbows.


Probably they're

imprinted

with this table's edge.


This wine's a good

vintage, have you seen

the grapes?


Bigger than life, been growing

in this hothouse

for--


My God. How long

has it been?


If you're going to dig up

this seed,

you might need

a thicker spade.


II.

Concubines. Ever thought

of those?


What is this, why do

you give me this—smell it, it's

fragrant.....Taste it,

it's good.


What did you expect--

gratitude?


Charity loaves. You rub it in

our faces, and what can we do

but eat?


III.

All right, I'll pay. But don't think

you own me;

nothing's free.


Oh, no. You're not unearthing

old wounds tonight,

I said I'll pay.


It doesn't matter how long.

I'll pay.


You know how

this will end,

don't you.


I'll go to bed with you,

next morning I'll

be back here.


What does it

take

to break a heart?


Think about it:

concubines.

4 comments:

JamiLynn said...

you are not a bad person...but this is very bad behaviour. There, i said it! ha ha. Ok so I decided I didn't want to post my story on my blog just in case anyone who might be mentioned in it might accidentally stumble across it and gt offended even though it's technically fiction. I just kept everyone's names the same.

JamiLynn said...

THIS WAS ORIGINALLY A NON FICTION PIECE I WROTE A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO AND I RECENTLY REVISED IT AND FICTIONALIZED IT FOR MY CREATIVE WRITING CLASS. TO THOSE TAGGED IN THE NOTE, YOUR NAMES ARE USED BECAUSE THEY WERE USED IN THE ORIGINAL PIECE. YOUR CHARACTERS HOWEVER HAVE BEEN ALTERED FOR THE SAKE OF THE STORY.

I looked around the café, guarding my empty cardboard excuse for a coffee cup. I silently read

the label over and over, wondering if the apparently profound paragraph printed there was truly a

work of artistic genius or just words that sounded good when you strung them all together.

Profound or not though, people read them; I read them. I read them until I was aware that my

coffee was gone and everyone’s conversation had been directed elsewhere. And I was back, in

that familiar and strange Thursday night atmosphere, at a table occupied by four other people

that knew me too little. We had all known each other for so many years that we all just assumed

the title of “friends” and this is what we, as friends did every other Thursday night. We sat in a

nicely lit coffee house that stayed open late and we talked until we didn’t know what we were

saying.

I watched everyone in the café walking by us on their missions to fill their bodies and

heads with the sweet hot cure for everything and the break from life as promised by the sign in

the big glass door. I watched a group of college freshman happily stressing out together in a late

night study session. I watched the young guitarist in the tight black pants talking quietly and

laughing loudly with his similarly dressed band. I watched the people who came here to be alone

run into people they knew. My eyes, perhaps as a result of excessive people watching, were

beginning to ache and burn. My head decided to follow suit by pounding in sync with the bass

line of the Death Cab song on the overhead speakers.


I was suddenly tired of all of it and wanted to go home, but I didn’t want to go home. I

already knew my husband wouldn’t be there no matter how late I got back. I had tried calling him

earlier, I just got his voice mail message. God, I hate that message. I used to believe it, now it’s

more like a joke, a taunt if you will. Maybe he wouldn’t get back to me as soon as he could.

Maybe he would never get back to me, but it didn’t matter tonight. I couldn’t let myself care

because it was Thursday. I slid my phone back across the table and let my eyes rest on a tired

looking stranger a few feet away from me. He was sitting at a table alone, Bible opened in front

of him. He seemed to be studying intently. I wondered if he could really believe what he was

reading.

I wanted to talk to someone. I would have talked to anyone, really, had I been drinking

something much stronger than single shot americanos. Either way my words would never have

reached the ears of the friends sitting around me. It wouldn’t be that they couldn’t hear me, they

just didn’t want to know. They were willing to listen, just as long as everyone talked about

Thursday night things. No bad feelings, no real problems, not the things we all think about right

before we fall asleep. Everyone knew what was going on when we left the warm café and went

home. Everyone had met Bethany’s boyfriend and knew that her bruises weren’t from falling

down the stairs. Everyone knew that Tyler was living in his parents basement and that Kate and

Aaron couldn’t have babies. Everyone knew that coffee couldn’t cure what was wrong with us.

I had gotten lost again, now they were discussing their families. “Aaron and I can pretty much

talk about anything” Kate was saying. Bethany mentioned her newly healed relationship with her

parents and how she might spend some time with them this weekend. The only one who stayed

silent was Tyler. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking. I didn’t feel worthy of asking. To me Tyler

had always been a silent god of sorts, held high on a pedestal that I could never reach to ask him

what he was thinking. It was his silence that made him seem so godlike and aloof. At that point I

wished I could hear anyone’s inner thoughts..My own were growing far too obnoxious and loud.

For a second or two no one said a word. We looked around at the faces we had seen every week

for the last few years. Perhaps in that small, silent moment we all realized that we were not

friends, but strangers. We did not trust each other. We did not care as much as we thought. Or

maybe we didn’t think anything, for the moment was over and the talking had started up

again...Talking about something else, something that didn’t matter and there just wasn’t enough

time to think about anything. That was the whole point of Thursday nights.

I looked back over at the table where the man had been reading alone. It was empty now,

as most of the tables were rapidly becoming. A girl came by tiredly pushing a mop. The old man

behind me closed his computer and searched his pockets for his car keys. The lamps in the

windows and behind the counter were dimming and going out. Everyone was going home.

Kate looked at her watch. It was close to eleven. She looked back at me and must have seen that

my eyes were struggling to stay open, because she gave me a sympathetic half smile. “I need to

get you home” We got up and walked out, my head throbbing so bad I wasn’t sure I’d make it

home alive. Minutes later, however, my doubts of surviving were vanquished and I was tripping

graciously out of my shoes and into my bed. My stomach hurt. My head hurt. Everything hurt. He

wasn’t home and I didn’t care. I threw the covers over my head and the darkness momentarily

calmed the drumming in my brain.

My memory read over images of faces I had seen tonight. Bethany’s curly blonde hair

trying desperately to cover the healing contusion above her left eye. Tyler’s morose posture made

picture perfect by his Kurt Cobain haircut. Kate with her hair cut shorter than her husband’s.

Even the images of people I didn’t know swam around in my head. The Barista, Staci, who wears

a blue knit cap because she doesn’t have any hair. The pretty blonde girl with thin arms shivering

in a sleeveless dress and the name Sara Grace tattooed at the top of her right breast. The Irish

sounding man with the blue eyes sitting alone in his black pea coat and saying through the phone

“I have to stay late at work, damn presentation preparations. I’ll be home when I can.” It

wasn’t just the usual crowd who had problems and secrets. The world had problems and secrets.

My last thoughts before everything was carried away into restless sleep were of the

stranger-like friends in the coffee house. Was everyone now sleeping or were they all still there?

Sipping on Chai lattes and cheap Americano’s. Some of them talking without thinking and some

of them thinking without saying a word. It’s possible that any given group of people could be

strangers whether they meet for coffee every other week or never meet in their lives. And they

may know each other just as little if they talk for years or never even open their mouths.

And I wondered...If in a week when the sun goes down on a certain midtown café will we all

still show up and have everything be as it has been for years...Or did something change tonight?

HSS said...

Jami,

first impression: it' s brilliant. thanks for the privilege of a preview. you should consider posting this to cross-hatched, where you should definitely be a member. Since there are few of us (besides Jesse) who are writing anything that's not for school. I'll get back to you on this. I'm going to bed...

JamiLynn said...

I know no cross hatched. So is it some kind of story posting group? I only have one other work of fiction and it's somewhat unfinished. I only write from my soul, yo, I don't have the smarts to write from my head.