coffee (generally, spray-dried Nescafe), water and sugar.[1]short *(story)

A poem
They say
a math major. Surfaces, boundaries
don’t really bind eat

“I just don’t have a poetic way to say it.” Marcus looked down at the ground; the paved bricks were almost imperceptible. There were tufts of green strings lining each. A dead leaf shuffled by. His date stared at him with an unmoving gaze of need. Fuck, her eyes didn’t even blink. She moved in closer. He thought of two grey wolves sensing breakfast soufflés, a shoulder to cry on, sex. His brain shuddered at the thought, and he wished he’d never given her his business card, made this date, bought a cell phone.

“To say what?” she asked. A fly landed on her forearm and she didn’t even flinch.

Marcus broke free of their eye war and thought for a second. “Oh, I guess, just the horror of it, the dream I had… I want to make it into a poem and…” he stared at her and wondered if she’d even read the blog like she’d said, “…and I can’t seem to do it.”

He wondered what would come next. When he had returned to the patio with his coffee, he’d sat down attempting a joke at a frape and she’d blurted out that her mom had cancer.

“And a little Parkinson’s too… some dementia.” She looked like she was about to cry yet holding it back, then Marcus had the uncanny sensation that she’d done this exact same routine before.

“I’m so sorry to hear that.” And he was.

“Yeah, I help take care of her… it can be stressful at times.”

“That is good, that you help.”

Marcus thought of gas masks. He’d been thinking of the ones they wore in those old wars and what it means when a human gases another human, like, what makes one capable of that. He wanted to ask her but decided not to be weird today. He could do that.

She got up to heat her coffee, taking her beige clutch with her, he noticed. She had on a summer light pantsuit, silky and well-suited for her body. He watched her walk to the counter, the light blue pastel fabric swished at the mid-point of her thighs. The night before he had come to the conclusion that it was dehumanization, the gassing, but what did that mean, really? He thought of slaves… bodies…that poem “Winged and Acid Dark.” A leaf blower snapped on angrily. Next to the wrought iron gate, a crunchy bunch of them.

He watched Shelly watching the microwave ticker. He couldn’t shake it. What kind of person would spit in another person’s mouth? And if that happened to him, or more horribly grotesque, his little baby girl, how would she mentally reconcile that after it was over? He thinks he finally understands Beloved, that movie he watched long ago with Kat, when the woman slits her baby’s throat before the slave owner can take them.

“What kind of workouts do you like to do at the gym?” Shelly asked him. She smiled.

“Uh, I don’t think about it too much really.” How much longer would he have to sit here sipping frappe before he could leave? They watched a man walk out onto the patio, he wore a red shirt and the back of it read “Keep Back 200 Ft.” He sat down and snapped open his daily, no coffee. In the distance, Marcus heard a lawnmower rev up and begin its layers.

“Funny how a lawnmower sounds when you hear it recede, come closer, recede, hit a twig,” he said. A crow high-stepped by, sleek and oily. To the left, the beeps in succession of a truck backing up. There were shifting people going the usual places, rays of sun, suicide-inducing ambient jazz fizzing softly from the small outdoor speakers.

“So what’s your story,” he tried again, must be less judgmental, he thought, “and not in an interview way but like, say whatever you want to say.” He took his lips off his frappe straw too soon and a few splatters fell on his shirt. Damn. Men shouldn’t really drink from straws.

“Like what?” Her thick black eyebrows scrunched together, hoping to meet.
“I don’t know anything.” A long shot. Was he always such a snob? And was he being one, really? Marcus looked up into the sky and noticed out of the corner of his eye: the camera. Right there, nestled discreetly against and under the corner of the patio canopy, the black orb in white-stucco casing stared back at him disinterestedly.

“I don’t know, that a hard question,” Shelly finally answered, and he couldn’t blame her. What a jerk.

“Hey did you notice that camera there?” he pointed. She shrugged one shoulder, “No, but now I do lol.”

“Did you just say lol?” he laughed and looked at her wide-eyed. “No.” She frowned.

He stopped laughing and looked around him. People were chattering loudly, an increasing din of glamourous sorrow.

“You know in Paris they talk real quietly in cafes, well…usually, kind of like a church.” He fiddled with the straw, “They think we’re loud…” he attempted to lean over to whisper in her ear but she jerked her body back, startled.

“Oh!” she laughed, and he did too. Good god, it wasn’t all a bust.

“Hey, do you think that camera finds us boring?” he asked and looked surreptitiously at the black orb.

She looked at it, bored. “It’s probably just some guy in an office somewhere staring at us, so he doesn’t care, it’s his job.”

“What if he did? What if he was a writer or something and used all of us as characters?”

“He can’t hear us though…” She sipped her coffee and glanced at the exit sign, “it doesn’t matter.”

“What if he can? And even if he can’t, he can see us waving our arms around and stuff, like this.” He stood up and rotated his arms in little concentric circles, similar to a jazzercise instructor showing a move.  Shelly laughed.

The jazz sound clicked off.  “Please sit down sir,” the patio manger intoned from the speaker. The music clicked back on.

“God he’s such a hard ass,” Shelly muttered. She blushed as he stopped moving his arms. He stood there with one arm still erect, wiggling his fingers. A man in a business suit leaned over from the next table and whispered in their direction “Oh don’t worry, he’s always like that.”

Marcus picked up his frappe and sat back down. He slid out his straw and placed it on the tabletop, nudging and tapping it over until it fell on the ground. He waited to see what would happen.

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