51/365: Hot Flare

aidan and j

Nights were spent at bars,
smoking with strangers in the dark
and shivering against cold I barely noticed,
cigarettes borrowed
and drugs palmed into pockets
while I measured the distribution of pressure
along the bottoms of my feet
to remain steady,
joking about beer rent.

One woman thought I was a witch
and gave me long strands of her hair.
I need real love, she'd say,
the real kind,
and I'd pocket it,
ball it up high in the air between thumb and forefinger
while she ordered another drink for me
and clutched my hand.
I burned the hair in a bowl when I got home,
so I wouldn't be a liar,
and I told the smoke to float away
and touch the one she needed.
It worked every time.
The new man was always nice.

Another told me she loved me, secretly,
that there was a place in her
that felt like it turned as my insides turned.
That's a nice thing, I said,
because it was,
even if her name had slipped off
into my last beer.
I told her I had a husband.
You have really white teeth, she said,
her shame a hot flare, even in the dark,
but I noted she was right.
Under the street's halogen lights,
I did.

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