Oracle

Do not read into signs. Who knows, it’s too early probably. Ease into things, without that spiteful sheen that he can read, already, at a distance. I hate family, doesn’t he know? His, mine, whoevers. I have days, moments of easy comfort, but they belong to my specialty mostly: first impressions.

I know what to do then. It’s a careful mix, but I play it by ear, letting what’s barely visible sum itself up to the surface. You like animals, I can tell, I will drop a simple funny story, laughing at and displaying myself. I want you to understand early on that I am witty, but a good girl. I read people, and that’s what pays. But this continuity of effort, this showing up day after day, for the long talks, the baring of the souls: it is sick. His fucking normal childhood: the strawberry on the cake. Yesterday he wanted to play board games. Board games! I don’t know anything about board games. I told him resolutely I had had no childhood, but he didn’t get it. Who did he want me to play board games with, while my dad wasted away at cancer, and I gave facials and swept my grandmother’s floor for coins that I diligently exchanged for Barbie furniture I roamed downtown streets for? Or that was later, but I couldn’t have been more than nine, or eight. Board  games! The nerve! When everyone is fighting there are no partners for freaking board games, and if it weren’t for the carefully diced cheese and quince jelly that my grandmother concocted, complete with tiny colorfull sword toothpicks, what might have become of me, even lonelier?

This is normal, I told myself last night, peeing, go with the flow woman! But I made trouble early on, as I got there. He is often late and I just accept it, seeing no point in attempting reforms at a 32 year old. But he dared ask me why I had gotten there so much later than planned, and I seethed. He claims he was concerned and it wasn’t reproachful, but I was already on edge at the goddamm family invite: parents, uncles, the game on TV, and, thankfully, wine. His mom told me she had already drank a whole 2 glasses! Why my! I made the mental note to slow down ingestion, lest they see me as a drunk because I have some tolerance. It was interminable, old people topics, and he holding my hand steadily, and me looking past him into the screen, wishing for a soccer player, or anyone, not there now, more like the imaginary men I often frequented before he showed.

On the bus I missed O painfully, his subtle old man smell, all he’s been through: exile, deaths, children.  I had seen a picture he took decades ago in the paper, his name a brand other photographers say with some awe. And on the bus on the way to the whole parental inferno, in one dark stop by the elm, a man hopped on the bus with difficulty. His hair was peppered too, he was missing a limb from the knee down. He was dirty, missing teeth. The driver, an austere looking woman I detested intesely from that moment on, asked him once, twice, thrice why he didn’t have his bus pass, insisted he was getting her into trouble. He smiled looking down, he’s been through this drill. Have some mercy woman, can’t you see no one loves this man? You have no plight if you are stuck in this nonsense of bus passes, but he is rather alone at life, don’t you get it from the dirt on that raincoat, from the way he expertly places his knee over the leg, his filthy plastic bag firmly bound to his wrist?

When it gets like this I can’t stand it, because darkly I know- I just know- we are of a different breed, and the rest of folks, dealing happily with the mundane, getting together for family time, hinting at children and joint vacations… well, easy enough to read it in the tea leaves, to make it out in cloud sentences, to read it in the sprawled out palm of public transit: they can smell at darkness in our wake, while they go on about board games, and bus passes.

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