and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
– William Stafford
They were in a white plastic bag, tied at the top, and neat. He handed them to me over the bar, said “Here are your clothes. They’re clean. They’re even folded.” He folded my clothes. A little thing, but important to me. Attention to detail, being sympathetic and kind for the sake of being kind. Something I’d forgotten, it’s been so long since I’ve been in a relationship. His smile. Warmed, I was warmed. Better than oxygen, but then the conversation turned. There was a group of us, a small cluster. The bartender, two regulars, a friend of his from Deep Cove. Turn and unfamiliar water. “With? You’ve obviously got the wrong impression.” Plummet, crack. The sound of an egg fracturing.
If I were younger, if I still believed in my own self-worth, I would have left. Stood up, folded my shirt over my arm and walked out into the snow to cry. Instead civilization won out, I’m not surprised anymore. Here is the axe. I froze in place, caught my smile as it dropped and hardened it. Only someone paying attention would have seen the fragility that suddenly flashed the bar. No one noticed when I stayed silent, unable to speak without shattering my voice, ruining my dignity and their nice evening with spilled emotion.
When he said goodbye at the back door, he made sure to hold me and talk to me. I wanted to take him and drag our bodies downward to sit on the gray concrete, but his friend was waiting for him upstairs. It’s the ghost all over. He takes the time apart to talk to me, but never seeks me out. He called me determined, said I freak him out. Too much for him, too different. The part of me that isn’t slipping him a love letter I wrote earlier wants to yell a little, wants to slap words. When I leave, I say, “You don’t know me. I don’t expect you to.” My voice breaks and the door, it slams. Halfway across the parking lot, I hear the deadbolts scraping into place. No one I love has ever come after me.
Wounded, if I am guilty of a dream, it of someone who would slaughter my expectations.