All she asked was for honesty, occasionally cab fare, and
a knife to cut the crusts from her sandwich.
She had no expectations, always washed her dishes, and
made the bed each morning, so as not to leave a trail.
She arrived with June.
Summer began, as summer does. You always know
it is coming and then, one night, it’s just there. She was there.
She said she wanted a summer love, the kind you would read about
in vintage magazines or a Harlequin paperback. Uncomplicated.
Unplanned, as it was. A patio.
A bartender, a warm breeze and a bottle of Malbec,
then another. The ream of bangles on her wrist chimed
with each movement. Her eyes shone bright,
but hid an untold sadness.
I didn’t have a type, and she wasn’t it, yet
she insisted she was.
She said she would prove it, almost as if it were a dare.
Many days were
daring adventures you would know nothing about
until you were caught in the middle.
Jazz clubs, after hours, because she knew a person
who knew a person. A foreign film, without subtitles,
or an evening at the Fringe, on a whim. Picnics at Sugar Beach,
wicker basket full of import beer, consumed quickly
from paper cups.
We rarely made plans. She was routinely late,
and blamed it on her father’s wristwatch. It needed a new battery,
and a cleaning, she said.
Sometimes you like it slow, when there is no place to go.
The universe has a plan, she said. Sometimes we
are not in control, although we like to think we are,
or would like to be.
I was more the planning type.
In my button-down world, things had a place,
although I was never quite sure of mine,
nor was I sure the universe would follow through.
So I tried to plan.
Romance. I tried to do my part.
Flowers were appreciated, she said, but an unnecessary expense,
easier liberated from gardens in late-night strolls through
unrecognizable streets and parks. Not fond of daisies, she said
she always ended up with the love me not. Black-eyed Susans
were her favorite. Lovely, and common, she said.
They could withstand the rain,
and the heat.
She could convince you, with an unexpected phone call,
that a beach was a better place than a desk to spend the day.
Paperwork could wait, there’d always be more, she said,
and summer for that matter, was in limited supply.
My honesty was not hers. She worked evenings, and later,
knew her wines, loved the tips, and enjoyed her job,
but that’s all it would ever be.
A few credits short of a useless degree, she said
she was too young to have a career. Her mother had a career.
Her father died when she was a teen, so Mom was always working.
A career never allowed for fun,
Maybe, after kids, she said,
would then say nothing.
She had tried, once before,
with the husband and the house.
He was older, as well. A lawyer. She was wife number two
and spent most weekends alone while he said he golfed,
or tended to the kids from wife number one.
Or was, more likely,
on the search for soon-to-be wife number three.
Trust was her nemesis,
and truth rarely worked in her favour.
She’d said she had spent too much time alone, and
walked away from a relationship that promised nothing
and provided even less. If she were to be alone, she would do so
on her own terms.
Her terms included a downtown apartment
with more clothes than closets, and few close friends.
She adored dresses from the Sixties, hairstyles
from last week’s magazines, music that was now,
and would rather go barefoot than wear shoes without heels.
She walked her bike
more than she rode it.
It’s harder in a skirt, she said, and even more difficult with heels.
She rarely answered, or charged, her phone. Showing up
when she wanted, waking me with a whistle from the street;
the kind of tomboy whistles my mother would have detested.
Or she would sweet-talk the concierge
into letting her up.
Middle-of-the-night grilled cheese paired with one particular Bordeaux,
or another. Prosecco with scrambled eggs, or Zinfandel, because
it was chilled, and went well with the humidity,
and the colour of the clouds
I woke once at 4 a.m. to find her naked on the terrace, the spray of the summer
showers dripping off her hair. She said she wanted to feel the rain on her skin.
She wanted me to feel it too, and brought her storm to bed.
The pillows will dry, she said.
She thought nothing of interrupting and would, often, correct my verse
with words that wouldn’t fit. Often, she said, my poems were about her
and I wouldn’t reply, as I knew they couldn’t be.
A muse has to play with your heart as much as your body.
There was not the time.
Summer ends, as it does. Cooler nights hint of autumn,
the new girlfriend smell fades, you tire of sand in the sheets,
panties left drying on the shower rod, and music,
if not of your generation, then of your choosing.
All I wanted was honesty, at least with myself, and a knife
to cut away patterns preventing me from seeing what this could be,
instead of what it was. Spirits wilt slowly with the Black-eyed Susans
in the melancholic mood of mid-September.
She said the universe does have a plan, but one
I wouldn’t accept.
She was like poetry, and had become a distraction.
While I spent time noticing the flowers, or savoring the taste
of new wines, I had been putting aside what was important.
Should you simply accept the convenience offered,
you may never know a deeper taste, greater love,
or the likely truth.