Edge of Town IV

I swallow hard
and circle my glass.

Alice? Let me start
with the family.

My folks didn’t last
either. I don’t think anyone cheated
but one morning after high school
we found a note from my mom.
She was visiting a friend
in Maine. Except she took
all her books.
And didn’t come back.

Wow, Mike says. Left her job…?

I sigh again. At the College, yeah.
They called half the summer, until…
until we moved.

And your dad?

Still trying to sell those picture-novels.

Crazy. Got to admire that commitment.

So what about it, man?
How’s Alice… Garfield? Granger?

Gavelston.
How do you even remember her?
By the time I was really into her…

Dude. You were so obvious.

I must be looking somewhere
with my mouth open.

Oh, yeah. I always think of you
getting all worked up when she came over
to ask you to dance in sixth grade.

She came to ask you.
I mime socking him across the table.

Nah, man. She was all about you. You just
looked like you were about to throw up on her
so she picked me.
Not a bad choice.

He actually socks me.

So what happened?
Where’s the ring?

I look over the bamboo. I look at my drink.
I look Mike in the eye.

We went on a few dates
at the end of high school.

That was it?!

Well, we… had sex
at the Reservoir.

And then she disappeared.

His eyes narrow and soften.
Disappeared?

Yeah, kind of like you.

Shit, man.
Mike looks into his drink.
I’m sorry.

I nod.

It was like she was never there.
For a few weeks
I just cried; then I pined
for about two years.
I read books and thought of her.
I went on dates and thought of her.
I wrote articles and thought of her.
Stared into the distance
and thought of her.

Then one day, I was doing
dishes, watching the trains,
or something. And I just…
reached a point
of aloneness. I just knew
she wasn’t coming back
to me. She was somewhere else.

Been there….

Sure….

I mean, we never belonged to each other—
that’s a stupid way to think of love—
but god, you know, does being a teenager
make you feel like love is belonging
to somebody.

Or that you lost
them. ’Cause that’s how we talk
about everything: owning
and losing. Yeah, you can lose a loved-
one to death, but when Alice took off
on her own path, I didn’t lose her.

I mean, you and me, Mike, we lost
touch by then. Maybe if you’d been there
and I’d been there, we could’ve, it would’ve…
I don’t know.

I push my hands through my hair.

Alice was the only person
I’d ever want to be 18 with
again, Mike. No offense.

If I had to do it over,
she’s the only person I’d pray
I’d meet again.

He chuckles
in the way only old friends
and some family are allowed to.

Sounds like you never lost her at all.

Added: February 4, 2013 | Last changed: January 23, 2015