Page 41 - WTP Vol. XI #5
P. 41

man-hating leftist who saw oppression in my pos- ture and manliness in my mannerisms and I hated her for that coldness. With pleasure I prepared to not leave a tip.
The silence settled before I realized I was the cause. Everyone on stools along the window turned. Two young Asian lovers laughed in disbelief, even this nervous laugh an act of love between them. An older woman in a shawl took her handbag off the table. The man at the end of the bar was looking up. Everyone came out of the kitchen and saw I was the only one not turning. The bartender blinked silently. I could
 The green-eyeshadowed bartender went out back and talked to a coworker, a skinny pale hollow- cheeked black-haired teen like me. Through the round windows in the swinging doors I watched them arguing, listening to each other, mutually ap- proaching the core of their disagreement with the intention of arriving on truth. She helped him lift
no longer pretend this had not happened. She leaned forward with a gentle whisper, saying “please leave.”
"Ilurked through the hall into an unused room with silence
“No, just go.”
“I’m sorry,” I said softly. “It’s fine, just go.”
in my wake, creaked down on the piano stool. The grand piano turned the whole house into an instrument, its hollow chamber shaking with the perfect lord- pleasing finger-wide fifth."
The highway descended towards exit 50. There were four routes to our house but exit 50 led into town my favorite way. Past the dark windows of friends’ hous- es; below the cemetery hill overlooking Main Street where the best after-party cigarettes were smoked as the sun rose; by the entrance to the boardwalk over the marsh where we first kissed; that perennial pothole, that curve in the road, that pine.
“I have to pay,” I said, starting to cry. She transferred compassion energetically, she understood.
 something up to a shelf.
If I could point to an event which explained this change from a good guy with lots of friends into an anti-social, off-putting failure, life would be bearable. I was abducted by the Taliban, I might say, and then people would think, oh, that explains why he’s like this. But no, I’d left home at eighteen like everybody else
I knew, bound for glory, and had completely fallen apart after only a few months. I was too in love with my high school girlfriend to do any work, on Face- book too obsessed with following her and her new boyfriend to care about showing up for class, and so lost without the people I’d grown up with that I’d lied about it all to stave off the crushing reality that my sheltered childhood was over, and the real world had consequences. Maybe some people more than others needed their roots to function. Maybe (and I believed this, but it was too lame a thought ever to acknowl- edge) some people found happiness by never leaving their hometown.
I was misperceiving her coldness towards me, I knew that. Maybe she’d had bad experiences with men or
I reminded her of someone. Maybe I was unpleasant to serve. Or even if I was right, if she really was cold because she unreasonably hated men and performed it through unwelcoming service, I could never know what lay behind it, and it wouldn’t define her as a person; and if it did define her as a person so what, many people gladly define themselves as leftist. And I would never have the courage not to leave a tip. Peo- ple were complicated. She was probably just tired. The door to the kitchen opened and the cold-acting girl came out. She brought a tray of tea mugs around to the ladies sitting at the low table. She wiped the bar down with a rag. That brought us face to face and we both squinted kindly.
It was almost 10pm when I got home. Entering the mudroom, I heard laughter in the kitchen. Brother was talking to Mom and Dad on the sofa—visceral, tangible bonds of love. Would I be able to enter a
“WELL FUCK YOU ANYWAY,” I screamed triumphant- ly at her.
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