Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Loon

I know it sounds crazy, but—like you—I might be a tenure-track catamite today, instead of a virtuous poet working temp jobs that I detest: if only Fred had selected a slightly tighter pair of pants that evening—our first date. 
Our dinner was fine. French. Bouillabaisse. His conversation and his choice of wine, thoughtful and excellent. We discussed my possible future—the famous men and women (and others) that I might meet at cocktail parties with his help.
After coffee and crème de menthe, we took a stroll. He waxed poetic, rattling off bits of Bishop and Merrill by the light of a waning moon. It was a beautiful autumn night. The sky was clear. The air was crisp. Three or four stars sparkled above Manhattan. I doubt that we would have lived happily ever after, but we might have enjoyed a few evenings of strip-poker in his apartment, or, at the very least, a healthy hand of Old Maid.
It was not to be. I was his student, you see, and a former gymnast, as I had just demonstrated on the horizontal bar in a little park near his apartment.
Fred Roland was here on a special Visa: a visiting professor of poetry at the university. And he wore baggy khakis.
I looked down at his face. I kind of admired the man for attempting to defy time as well as gravity: turning purple, eyes-bulging, hanging upside down in Washington Heights—keys, credit cards, condoms, and a handful of change cascading from his pockets. I realized with sadness that cards were probably no longer in the cards for us. Not even Old Maid.
So much for my career.
I lifted my eyes toward Heaven, and I sighed, “Don’t kill yourself, dear.”
He consented to live, with a grunt, after a painful attempt at something more spectacular—some kind of spin—before he dismounted, with stinging soles, upon the Earth.
Fred staggered over to a nearby slide and sat on its steely lip, to catch his breath and balance. I crouched to collect the scattered contents of his khakis, chattering about how I had once crushed my nuts in junior high attempting a similar move.
He said nothing.
When I thought I had collected everything, I handed the stuff back to him. He sorted it. He counted the change. He looked at me quizzically. And then he looked around. He squinted and he said, a touch tersely it seemed to me, “I think you missed something.” He winced, “over there.”
He pointed to a derelict disk shining in the dark.
I followed his shaking finger and walked over to where he was pointing, to see for myself.
He was right.
I had missed something.
I picked it up.
Even in the dim orange light under the swings, I could tell it was a coin. A newly minted dollar. A lost Canadian Loon.

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