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Not Quite Dating but Certainly a Mugging

[This piece was written and performed for a live audience in 2013 – I found it written out on a folded piece of paper in my coat pocket]

 

Eduardo and I had been going steady for about two months. Well, maybe not going steady, and you really couldn’t call it dating because we never really went on any dates, and we didn’t actually know each each other that well. I don’t know what you’d call it, it was more like… I would hang out at his coffee shop during the day, and by the night’s end, he’d be in my bed. He never really stayed there though, he lived across the balcony and would go home to sleep. What do you call it when you aren’t quite dating your neighbor/Latin lover? I guess it doesn’t matter. We did go on a walk once though.

After locking up the cafe late one summer night we decided to take a walk along the shore of Lake Michigan, I remember the breeze felt good on my face. Eduardo and I attempted to hold hands, but that wasn’t really who we were together, so we just talked, hands in our pockets.

What we realized then was that we didn’t even speak the same language. I mean, we both spoke English marginally well, I just mean, I spoke… still speak… like the world is held together with glitter and spiderweb silk; and well, Eduardo, he was a pragmatist.

Low on conversation and not even remotely in love, we did that one thing that we knew best; We made out, in the dark, on the shore, with the breeze against our backs; It was glorious. There was another couple maybe twenty feet away that looked to be doing the same, occasionally one of their heads would pop up like a prairie dog and look in our direction, then they’d lay back down and roll together with the waves. Chicago summer nights are enchantingly weird that way.

We were closing in on midnight when we decided to leave the beach. Walking back to my car we passed the couple who were next to us on the shore, two men in black hoodies. I got a chill up my spine, only this chill wasn’t the kind that’s an ode’ to love on a strange Chicago night, this chill was straight up fear. The couple turned around and followed us just moments after we passed them.

That’s when I felt what I would later come to realize was the chilly steel barrel of a 9mm against my temple. It really is cold, it’s the first thing you notice before you start to panic. We were being held up, not only that, we were being held up by a couple of dudes that a few moments earlier had been watching Eduardo and I all hot and heavy on the beach. My cheeks burned with embarrassment and my heart raced. Holy shit. Were we really being mugged by the prairie dog couple?

I don’t remember everything, but I remember they sounded scared, I picked up on that and it confused me. THEY were the ones with guns. I remember they pulled on the hem of my shirt and demanded everything in my pockets. I was infuriated with them. I actually yelled at them “You have guns, you don’t have to pull on my clothes to get me to do what you want, back off!” – and they did. Then they took my car keys, my cell phone, my drivers license, and my bank card. From Eduardo, they took $600 cash.

With the gun still on my temple, they asked me to take off my shoes, turn around, and run into the trees. You think facing a gun is unnerving, take a few minutes to think about knowing it’s there pointing at the back of your head and not seeing what was happening on the other end. Will I live? Will I die? Will a bullet get lodged into my brain? Are they planning on hurting me? Will the prairie dog guys kill my neighbor/Latin lover that I’m technically not dating? Why did they take my shoes?

Eduardo ran into the thicket and then I did, the grass was cool against my feet. We waited for what felt like hours. Then he whispered “Melissa, I think they ran away” and I swear to you that sounded better than any admission of love I’d ever heard before or since.

We walked the two miles home barefoot and in shock. We laid in my bed and tried to sort out what came next. To be honest, that’s not true, we didn’t actually sort anything. When we got back to my place we had incredible adrenaline fueled “we could have been killed” sex. It was the first and only time that Eduardo stayed all night in my bed.

In the morning I realized my bank card was FDIC insured and whatever the muggers had taken I could get back, so I called the police. They sent an officer over to take my statement, annoyed I hadn’t called them right after the crime. Eduardo wanted no part of it, I don’t know why – maybe he had a criminal history, maybe he was in the country illegally, maybe he just wanted a shower. Like I said, I didn’t really know him that well.

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Paper Cups and Paper Cuts

Love sits in folding chairs, packed trains, and idle thoughts waiting for a break in conversation

Love sneaks a poem into your pocket that is destined to become a hard pearl of dryer lint;

Love undercooks your steak and demands your praises.

Everything bleeds out;

Love paces, wandering the cracks in the hardwood floor questioning the integrity of its foundation;

Love tears a hole in your screen letting moths and birds and debris in.

Love refused to filter.

Everything bleeds in;

Love keeps you awake at night with worry. Love doesn’t care what you expect. Love waits in the dark, a hard pearl of dryer lint;

Love scribbles in your margins.

Love crosses out your keywords.

Love sends you to the printer and lets the best part fall past the bleed;

Love leaves you no options. Love doesn’t come with insurance. Love doesn’t carry a first aid kit;

Love waits for you in paper cups and paper cuts;

Love sits in the library and reads you, skipping all the dialog.

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Ninja Parlor Tricks

It was a mistake to make a parlor trick of her wall walking, the ninja thought, now people thrilled at the silent sound of her footfall before she dispatch them. They died with delight in their eyes, her employers wouldn’t like that.

Still, the party had been extremely edifying for the ninja. It was nice to be seen and appreciated for a change. “There’s always such a clamor for the world to recognize and appreciate service workers… aren’t I performing a valuable service?” she thought. She slipped under the fence undetected by the dogs and motion sensors.

“But even the service workers unions didn’t recognize ninjas. Aren’t ninjas in your service as well?” she asked this rhetorically of herself in the silence between entering the shed and beheading the gardener.

She sprinted home across ridgepoles and rooftops, anticipating the night ahead of her. Giddy off the thought of being seen and  admired by strangers. She laughed when she thought of ninja service unions and ninja strikes – silently of course, she was a very good ninja, and she was on the clock.

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Empty Except for Daydreams

No one ever bought me a diamond ring, though one did drive across country pulling tiger lilies out of ditches and filled his truck bed with them to be mine.

 

He opened the truck gate and those flowers glowed in the morning sun mightily. He was all salt sweat and tired from days of driving, his weary face beamed in the sun just for me. The birds were singing like they’d been waiting all night to queue up the moment. The storybook beauty of it isn’t lost on me, that morning was right out of a fairy tale.

I wish I could tell you a fairy tale ending, but we weren’t each others’ stories.

Broken hearts will cling to anyone; and my, aren’t I easy to cling to for those that are broken like that. They come to me all raw and vulnerable and I love them, I do… but I know to throw them back. Even a flawless diamond will appear dull and muted if the cut is poor.

And I threw him back, him and his flower bed, all the way back to Carolina. I wish I could tell you it was bittersweet but it’s only that way looking back… Back then nothing stuck and I didn’t want it to, my heart was scared and Teflon, cruel and non-reactive, and his heart wasn’t much better, empty except for daydreams.

Dispersion causes the white light to be separated into multiple colors

I’ve been married twice, and proposed to some times past that; Once I laid in a bed of tiger lilies and pretended for a night that I was a diamond, but I’ve never been offered anything past the daydreams of broken men. I sit with that, my weary face beaming in the sun… the light a diamond reflects is referred to as its ‘fire’ … The remaining rays of light travel into the center of the diamond and bounce off its internal walls.