Fiction

I am never sure when

by Cher Bibler

 

My poetry has slept around, you may not want to soil your hands. You may want to keep your distance.

The first time I saw my poetry out in public, I felt weird like people were reading my diary and knew my innermost thoughts, but people don’t seem to connect me with it. It takes on a life of its own. That’s hard to get used to, but pretty much of a relief.

I am not sociable. I don’t seem to have any social skills at all. I keep aloof and nurse a passion for a married man. This passion keeps me safe from all the jerks out there. My man is so perfect they are just dust under my feet compared to him. I keep myself pure for him, but my poetry isn’t like that.

I can sit in a bar with my food and a drink and watch a poem (my poem) across the room, clinging to unknown lips. It’s very interesting to watch. I know how I intended my poems to be, but they are perceived in many different ways.

Sometimes I get jealous watching, but I console myself with the thought of my married man, who is home watching tv with his wife, where he should be, reading the newspaper with his shoes off and his feet up, maybe a dog laying beside him on the floor. Yes, a dog would work very well with him. If I were with him instead of her, I’d want a dog with us.

The poetry can always come home and tell me what it did on its night out. That way I can keep up.

The waitress and I are good friends. We both read books and we talk about that. She reads sensational steamy best seller type things. I encourage her to tell me about her books. I don’t tell her what I read. I let her think I probably read about the same stuff. She loves those books. She gets animated when she talks about them. You’re never quite sure what color her hair will be. When she wants a new look, she changes it.

The bartender doesn’t seem to approve of me, so I never talk to him.

There is a man at the pinball machine who buys and sells souls for a living. I’ve tried to keep my poetry away from him, but he pretends he doesn’t want anything to do with it, which drives my poems crazy. I am sure they are heading for a fall. My poetry is so much more vulnerable than me. They are always out looking for someone to love them.

I don’t need to do that, because I have someone.

The man at the pinball machine is talking to the waitress. She is white blonde tonight and she’s laughing at whatever he says. The bartender calls to her that her order is ready and waiting and getting cold, and when she is gone, the man gets into the rhythm of the game, his hips swaying with the movements of the machine.

During the day, he hangs around the music store, hitting on young kids who come in with guitars. They always seem to think they can trust him, which is why he’s so successful in his line of work. He is a broker for the devil and he does quite well.

The waitress has been married three times. She’s going to be a grandmother, but no one would ever suspect it. She must be only 35 or so. I told her I wouldn’t tell people, but she laughed and said she would tell them herself. She doesn’t care.

I think what a life she must have, always searching for something she never finds, some sort of dream, or a man maybe. I don’t have this problem since I have found mine.

In my room, I have a poster on the wall, torn from a magazine, of a man who looks like the man I love. Really, they could be brothers. It is an ad for a movie. His hair is a little longer, shaggier. My man is so respectable. I like that in him. Whenever I think about falling out of love or moving on, I realize that even his failings are good qualities and I can’t hate him for it. It’s better to love a perfect man who is deserving of your love, even though you will never be together, than to waste it on someone who’s not worth it. I am not that desperate for affection.

Besides, I kind of figure my man must know about my adoration (how can he not know?) and he must respect me for knowing to keep my distance. He must love me for letting his wife and family have him and not interfering with that.

I think it’s a very commendable quality.

I’m not sure why the bartender doesn’t like the look of me. Perhaps he knows about my affair with a married man and doesn’t approve. Some people are so judgmental. He seems to like my poetry just fine, however. He laughs at it. He gives it free drinks on the house.

Because of my secret, I am always humble, always know my place. I think this is a good thing. Some people are always putting on airs, they’re so difficult to be around. As soon as you get around someone who acts like the queen of sheba, you start feeling inadequate.

I have no reason to feel inadequate. I am very fulfilled. I have my poetry. I have a place of my own, and a job. I am debt free. And I have found the perfect man.

Sometimes I wonder what it would’ve been like to have found him when he was unmarried. You can’t tell. Since we fought off the attraction for so long, it was a sweet slow period of gradual growth. Our love is solid because we took it so slowly. Had we met when he was single, we might have exploited our instant attraction and not been careful enough. Love needs to be cautiously nurtured, protected, respected.

I am very lucky to have met a man who cares so much about my feelings. Not many women can boast of this.

The waitress is sitting beside a man at the bar who is telling her about his fishing trip.

The bartender is glowering at the uncleaned tables.

Two young women are sitting with one of my poems. They are studying the second stanza. The poem sits preening, soaking up the attention. I would cringe with embarrassment if anyone knew it was mine.

The man at the pinball machine orders another drink, a beer. My poem watches him out of the corner of its eye, but he ignores it. This is driving it crazy. My poetry doesn’t like to be ignored. It’s used to turning heads, to getting attention.

I am watching all this. I can see it getting drawn in farther and farther by this man’s disdain, and I’m sure it’s all an act, that he’s doing it on purpose. It won’t do any good, my trying to warn it. My poetry never listens to me. Sometimes I wonder why I ever call it mine, I forget that I am there at the inception, that it is wholly my own creation. After it’s out, it doesn’t seem like mine anymore. It leaves me far behind.

I spend so much time alone, sometimes I find myself talking to the walls. Life can be like that. I was always very shy, and I even have a job where I don’t have to deal with people. This is a mixed blessing.

I am very habitual. I come here to the same bar most every night. The only person I talk to is the waitress. I sit alone with my passion for the man I love.

You are probably thinking he may not be as great as I think, that I have created a wonderful vision in my head, that he’s only perfect because I don’t know him well enough to be aware of his faults.  That if I ever really have a chance to get close to him, reality would slap me on the face in a hurry. In a way I think this, too, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I can’t stop loving him. Rational thought doesn’t sway my heart.

Besides, the world I live in isn’t so bad. Many people would look at me and call me crazy, but I think that’s just because the way I live is so different from theirs. I’ve never met anyone yet who’s perfect.

A person who writes poetry isn’t going to be “normal”. What do you think happens to you when you write out your most private dreams and desires and they look you in the face and then go flouncing out to show themselves off to the world? Who can be normal after that?

You have no control over it then. It goes out with people you wouldn’t go near. I just sit and watch.

I sit in my private world in a bar that seems to exist in spite of me. The man is tiring of the pinball machine. He turns and gives me a long slow knowing look like he has esp or like someone’s been telling him my secrets.

This is unusual. People don’t usually look me in the eye. I’m not that kind of person. I don’t know how to react.

He picks up his half glass of beer and walks over to where I sit. I think about this and decide I can use it to my advantage. I can keep him away from my poetry.

He leans toward me and says in a beer stained voice, “You’re the only one in this room who really matters.”

My poetry watches us anxiously. The waitress is emptying ash trays.

After I think about it for a minute, I decide it’s just what I needed to hear.

 

*****************************************************************************

 

Cher Bibler is the author of one book of poetry, California, California. She has worked as editor of Amanda Blue, a poetry magazine, and co-editor of a literary magazine, the Wastelands Review. She was a fiction reader for the Mid American Review and worked as poetry editor for the Heartlands Review. She was a book reviewer for Literary Zoo.

She was a founding member of the alternative band Tinfoil, as bass/rhythm guitarist, singer and songwriter. Over their career, they released 12 albums. One of their songs, People Don’t Know, will be featured in a film, Certainty, directed by Keith Mosher, due for a fall 2011 release.

Her short story, Not Waving But Drowning, was a winner in the annual NOBS competition, and her current novel, Billie, was a finalist in this year’s (2011) Faulkner competition.  Her poem, Merida, Easter, will be included in an upcoming Evergreen Review.

She now resides in Mérida, is in the process of forming a new band, and serves as editor of this publication.

detail from a painting by Mel Blossom

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