When he was in his twenties
and she was too,
they would talk regularly,
back when people did that
sort of thing on phones.
She would taunt him,
describing every mounting feeling,
and he heard the vibrator’s hum,
background noise to her
symphony of moans.
As she relayed her
she became one of his.
She knew this too.
It was a cruel pleasure at best.
She would finish and tell him
how she tasted like sweet peaches,
ripe and succulent,
a type of perfection he would
never ever get to sample.
She was married to another
and besides, preferred
the company of other women.
Now, decades later, as he pushes
his sad bachelor’s shopping cart
through the unflattering
overly lit fluorescence of
the local Piggly Wiggly’s
produce aisles, he is incapable
of passing those impressively stacked
mounds of seasonal fruit
without hearing those past whimpers,
and the accompanying buzz
of her electronic helper.
He walks by without taking any,
long past the quietly contemplated quest
of ever tasting that alleged
resolved to move on instead
and find practical items
his weekly list requires.
Tell me again about your favorite pair of leggings,
stolen from your sister and then used to seduce
your stepfather’s business associate that hot summer night
when the noisy party died down to a drunken mumble
and he told you the twenty dollars was only to find out
if you were ticklish. You were, and didn’t mind getting paid
to share that knowledge with a man who wore
nice smelling cologne, something between citrus
and sandalwood. Tell me again about the way
you managed to escape one close call after another,
playing Candyland with that musclebound
roofer who vowed to marry you if his numbers
ever came in. They didn’t, and one night he
managed to wrap his Volkswagen around a tree.
You moved to Jersey and took up with that
zealot of a preacher, becoming quickly the
preferred disciple of his rapidly growing harem.
Oh, the empty failures of your misguided loves.
It might have been just a matter of time before
the odds turned against you. Tell me again about
your summer in San Francisco, surviving on
menthol cigarettes and a dispensary’s worth of pills
while bedding the crooked cop who kept
you high with his magic pockets full of
stray evidence that he delivered as though
every night was your birthday. In a sense,
it was. You aged years that summer. Then came
the football star also stolen from your sister,
the one with the ‘roid rage temper who was
jealous of your every errant breath. He wanted
to own you, to mansplain his imaginary domain
that you had become, as if there was a deed.
Scars and broken dreams and broken promises.
Tell me again about the uncle who loved
when you danced on his lap, or the idiot
college professor who pretended you were
his favorite, when he hardly knew your name.
Tell me about the corrupt politician who actually
had his own wife set you up as a side interest
en route to an important state legislature campaign.
Tell me again how, even at the bottom of that barrel,
there might be salvation in the next feigned intimacy,
how when it had gotten to where you just didn’t care,
you’d pick up the phone and track me down and
we’d talk for hours, you never once considering
how you carried my heart with you through all
your imprudent adventures, the neighbor from just
over the hillside who only wanted to be one of your
unbelievable stories, perhaps the sole elusive happy ending
instead of startled witness and silent bystander
to years of wrong choices and constant sadness.
Tell me again how we both got to be so old.