*I adapted this piece from a short story I originally titled Wear Me Like a Winter Jacket which I posted on this blog in May of 2016. I’ve been in a poetry course for a little over a semester, and have found that where some of my single moment oriented pieces fell flat as short fiction, they translate well into prose poetry.*
The Tame and Wild Olive Tree
“How’s work?” Question.
“Great, mom.” Answer.
“And Will, how is he?” Prying question.
“Doing just fine, mom.” Blank answer.
“A proposal in the works? A grandchild, maybe?” Prying question.
“Not anytime soon, mom.” Avoid answer.
“And what about-” Cut off.
“Hey, mom, I’ve got work to do, sorry to cut it short.” Bite your thumb, tear a strip of salted skin down its length.
“Oh, of course sweetheart! I love you!” Desperate, sad, full of exclamation points.
“You too, mom. Bye.” End call before inevitable One more thing!
You sigh, shift pillows under your back, reach for pack on your table. Light cigarette with match, pull deep, watch blue smoke curl out of your lungs. Fill room with choke.
You don’t enjoy lying to mother, keep saying you’ll tell her the truth, truth is it’s just easier not to. The cigarette clicks as it exits your mouth. Baltimore is far from Salt Lake. She hasn’t visited since first year, you were still in school then, still living in a clean dorm on campus. Five years, more than enough time for good habits to become chain smoking and daily cheap wine.
You’d picked Salt Lake because it’s what good Mormons do, realized you were stuck somewhere you’ll detest forever only after breaking up with Will. You miss him, sometimes, then you remember he cried after every orgasm, hated most of your friends. Nothing else could be expected from a BYU boy. You only see him on TV, second row in The Tabernacle Choir.
You couldn’t imagine what mother would say if she saw your apartment, cluttered with not vacuuming, candles, half-pots of coffee, books filled with portraits of naked bodies.
Being able to hold down a steady job is relieving, it pays well, a boring position that is suitable for saving money. Saving money to drive yourself out of this Mormon hellhole. Daydream as you sit at a desk, send emails for someone else.
Daydream; Racing across icy tundra, through the Amazonian rainforest, climbing peaks. Maybe you’ve saved plenty, maybe your mind is stopping you, maybe your mind is shouting coward! on repeat.
You light another when there’s a quiet knock on your door.
“You know you don’t have to knock.” Playful statement.
She pushes the door open, small in an XL BYU Class of 2015 sweatshirt, baggy cut-offs, pads the short distance from the entrance to your mattress, plucks cigarette from your fingers. You grab her free hand, pull her to you, soft body folds easily into your lap. Long chestnut hair settles on shoulders.
Pass the cigarette back and forth, no prying questions, blank answers, avoidance. Last pull, drop the butt into a half empty glass of water on the floor. Sunset spews gold light.
Brush her curls back, kiss her neck, think maybe this is why you’re still here. Not money, not cowardice, but her. Best part of every day, when she crawls into bed in varying stages of undress, asks what you want for dinner.
She’s wonderful. She stays wonderful. She stays.