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Free of Her

"You'll think about me after, won't you?" she asked.

First, "Of course." I lied.

Then, "I won't." I lied.

Next, "I don't," I lied.

Last? "I can still see her face." I lied.

Only the hot tears on an old, cold face were true.

writeworld:

"Think about me once in awhile, will you?"

Writer’s Block
In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

I don't know if this should be poetry or prose. Some of the best works that I've read can blur the difference. Also - wear sunscreen.

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins

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Neighborly Interest - Part 1

She leaves her house every morning and takes a cursory glance across the yard to the house next door.    It’s not close, mind you, but close enough to see him.  He always sits on the porch sipping his coffee, watching the birds fly.  He’s a thinker, she can already tell.  Thinking to herself, she’d love to know what goes on in that head of his, she bends to grab the paper from the bushes.  The paperboy always seems to miss the doorstep but at least this time it was IN the bush and ten feet in front of it in the lawn.

He waves at her as she looks up, of course in his direction, and she raises her hand to acknowledge it.  She’d love to sit and talk to him but how do you make something like that happen? Part of living out here where there is just… nothing but nature is that there is solitude.  She thought that was what she wanted.  Needed.   However, the more she wondered about him the less she wanted solitude.  Truth be told, she had almost marched right over and disrupted his coffee time a couple times but couldn’t find the nerve to be so brazen.  She was positive she wasn’t his type.  She had too much weight hanging around and having twins had done unmentionable things to her abdomen.  Instinctively she threw an arm over her belly as the thought entered her mind.  He was filled out in all the right places and seemed so comfortable in his own skin.  She could see it in the way he moved around the yard in the evenings some times.  No. She’d just keep daydreaming about a tall, broad stranger.  Wondering what could be and hoping maybe he was curious too.

Moving back into the house, she pushed the door shut behind her.  The click of the lock dropped a sense of loneliness onto her shoulders.  There was something about this house that needed a crowd.  She couldn’t put her finger on it but there was a pervasive sense of emptiness either emanating from her soul or from this house.  Something told her it was her.

Shaking herself lose from her sullen thoughts, she set to work on her morning routine.  She was supposed to be writing a novel and the publisher had gracefully pushed back the deadline but that wasn’t likely to happen again so she had try to get control of her mind.  She stripped down out of her pajamas, an old t-shirt and some knit shorts.  She bent to retrieve her clothes from the floor and upon standing noticed her reflection in the mirror.  Her eyes showed the abject weariness of a woman long alone and insecure.  Her body long since lost it’s shape to the pressures of carrying twins.  The reminder bringing a rush of emptiness.  She was sure she’d never recover from the loss of the babies.  First one, then the other. Her marriage had ended not long after, neither of them able to cope with the pain.  Sliding her fingers over the scar running down her abdomen she almost let the memories creep back in but quickly slammed the door.  Not today.  She couldn’t feel this today.

Tossing her dirty clothes in the hamper she headed for the shower.  The faucet squeaked as she turned on the hot water.  Making a mental note to fix that she turned on the cold and adjusted for the perfect temperature.  She needed the consistent pounding of the water against her skin.  Something to wash away the tension she could feel creeping into her neck. 

Scrubbing vigorously over her whole body like she was washing away the memories, the tension began to subside.  The ritual was one she was familiar with.  It didn’t really work perfectly but the repetitive nature of it helped her calm down.  Scalp, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, back, tummy, bottom, thighs, calves, shins, feet.  The same every time.  Turning the squeaky faucets once more the water stopped and her wet feet made contact with the soft bath rug.  She wiggled her toes a bit, contemplative, trying to decide where to start with her story.  She just couldn’t get her head around writing but the publisher wouldn’t be put off any longer, she had to get started.  She towel dried her hair, letting the curls spring to life and went to work on her teeth while her body air dried.  With all the scrubbing in the shower, she didn’t want to further irritate her skin with a rough towel.  Slathering a cool lotion over her parched skin felt heavenly and warmed her mood.

She stepped into her soft panties and very worn denim capris.  Not sure how they were even still holding together.  A delicate bra and thin white v-neck tshirt completed the ensemble.  She was simple.  Never too much fuss, what was the point?  Out here, she expected no company.  There never was any to speak of, at least not impromptu company.  The only company she ever had were long planned visits from family and college friends. 

Pouring herself a glass of tea in the kitchen she heard footsteps outside.  Who on earth…  Her hand flew to her wet hair as a knock sounded on the door.  “Oh God…” she choked.  Slowly she made her way to the door.  Her heart pounding out an urgent rhythm as if it was spurring her on.  When she reached the door she peaked out the peephole and gasped. Holy hell, it was him.  She shook out her hair as best she could and took a deep breath.  This was it.  Pulling open the door he turned to face her and a smile broke out across his face.  She couldn’t stop the smile stretching across her face in echo. 

“Hi there, I’m ah..Paul.  I live next door?”  He seemed nervous.  Maybe he’s just shy.

“I’m Annie, it’s nice to finally meet you.  I’ve almost come by a few times and just haven’t.”  She couldn’t’ think of another word to say.  She was so floored by his presence.

“I wish you had, it would have saved me this awkward meet and greet.”  He laughed, an easy laugh.  One she wanted to hear again, and again.

“Don’t be silly, I’d much rather you suffer.”  Giggling she waved him in.  “Can I bring you some tea?” 

“Sure, sounds great.  Thanks.”  He glanced around nervously and she was a bit embarrassed by her lack of decorator skills.

“Sorry the house is so bare.  I’m still figuring out where to put things.  Decorating really isn’t my forte, I’m much more comfortable outside.’” 

“Mine either. My ex-wife used to do all that and honestly, I don’t know where to begin.”  Her eyebrows raised with the mention of the ex-wife.  She wondered what had prompted a sane woman to leave such a decidedly handsome man but you never know how people truly are until you get to know them.  Still….she must be nuts.

“Yeah, my ex-husband used to complain about how I did everything so I suppose I’m a little gun shy." She winced, “Sorry, that was probably a bit more than you needed to know.”  She wasn’t used to talking about her divorce and wasn’t sure what exactly prompted something so personal.  The utterance caused her to blush.

“Not at all, as a matter of fact I’m glad to know there’s an ex and not a current.”  He smiled a half smile that made her gut twist.  Sweet Jesus, she needed to get a grip.

“Right, so, your tea!  I’ll be right back.”  She practically ran from the room, desperate to get away.  His presence was so all consuming and it made her nervous.  She needed to chill, and fast. 

He watched her leave the room, practically at full speed and wondered if he’d crossed a line.  Trying and failing to keep his eyes above her waist, he groaned inwardly.  She was curvy, and adorable.  Her hips swung mercilessly even at that nervous speed.  The curl to her hair, the blush to her cheek, those wide eyes blue and stormy.  He was smitten.  The question was how to gain her trust because he could already tell it was going to be difficult.  She was wound tighter than a turkey the day before Thanksgiving, as his grandfather used to say.  He had an idea, playing it out was going to take time and he had nothing but time.

She emerged from the kitchen carrying a pitcher and two glasses on a tray.  Smiling at him, she tried to look calm but the humor in his expression was evidence enough that he was on to her.

“Shall we take these out back?  I usually spend the morning on the deck.  Sometimes you can catch the deer roaming by.”  There, that seemed a casual enough way to say “Please don’t leave.”

“I’d love to.  Catching the deer out for their morning graze is one of my favorite things.”  Why did she feel like he was toying with her.

“Oh really?  And what other things do you enjoy in the morning?”  Where the hell did that come from!  She raised an eyebrow at him and he chuckled.

“You really want to know?”  He was baiting her and she knew it.

“Absolutely.”  Who is this flirt and where was her sanity?

“I have this neighbor lady, she comes out every morning in her pajamas to get the paper.  The rub is seeing how much I have to pay the paper boy to throw the paper short of the porch so I can watch her pick it up from the yard.  Most of the time he’s successful but this morning he threw too hard and it landed in the bushes.”  He grinned a huge grin at the look on her face.  The shock dropping her jaw as a bright red blush spread across her cheeks.

“You’re joking!”  She was completely flustered and quickly losing her head.  He was watching her.  On purpose.  Surely there was a punch line.  Oh please God, don’t let him be laughing at her expense.

“I’m not.  It’s a horrible thing and I probably should be ashamed of myself but it’s a bright spot in my morning and I’d hate to give it up.”  He looked a bit sorry and she couldn’t quite stifle a giggle.

“That might be the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.  That or you’re crazy.”  Although she was leaning toward sweet. 

“Let’s go with sweet, I like that.  Just not my tea.  I didn’t even think to ask, is this sweetened?”  Good grief, she’d been that close to sweetening the whole pitcher.  Wordlessly thanking heaven for not doing it she shook her head.

“No, I don’t drink mine sweet but I almost sweetened it because generally people around here drink their tea like syrup.”  They laughed together, a warm encompassing laughter that she hadn’t experienced in too long.

“No, I like my women sweet and my tea bitter.”  He chuckled and she smiled as she tried desperately to swallow her tea. 

She feigned irritation, “This tea is NOT bitter!  Of all the rude, ungrateful…”

He laughed from deep in his chest. “I didn’t say I liked it, either.”

Now it was her turn to laugh. He’s quick. “Ok, good point, well made.”

“Listen, I was wondering if you might like to take a walk.  I know you like to watch the deer and they seem to frequent a creek on the far side of my acreage this time of day.  I know it’s a bit hopeful for me to presume you’d spend the remainder of your morning with me but I’d really enjoy your company.”  He fiddled with his glass nervously and she couldn’t help but smile at him.  Her eyes flashing a bright blue in the sudden sunlight that poured across the deck as the clouds broke.

“I’d love to.” I was all she could squeak out.  As hard as she tried to think of something amazingly witty to say in this moment her mind went blank at the boyish grin that spread across his unshaven face.  Man, did she love scruff.

“Perfect.  Shall we?”  He stood and held out his hand expectantly.  She took it relishing the warmth of his fingers on her palm.  She was sorry when he let go. It had been a while since she’d experienced such gallantry. 

They walked easily together, their gait perfectly matched and a rhythm established quickly.  He talked warmly about his garden and how he’d landscaped.  The outbuildings he’d built shortly after he’d moved here, with the intention of spending more time with his children.  As it was he had them every other weekend, sadly a standard time allotment for divorced fathers and the pain that etched across his face at the mention of it pinched her heart a little.  Poor man.  He obviously missed them very much.

She found herself sharing personal things with him that she hadn’t spoken of to anyone.  The stillbirth of her babies. How responsible she felt. The wretched pain of her divorce when neither of them could deal with the grief. He squeezed her hand and tucked it into the crook of his arm.  It was a simple gesture that spoke volumes to her lonely heart.  The pessimist in her assumed he must have an agenda but her heart ached for this person to be real.  She couldn’t take another disappointment.

They had been walking in silence, each perfectly comfortable with the other’s company, for the past several minutes when he paused.  She stopped up short and looked at him and then followed his line of vision.  A doe and her fawn were just ahead munching the sweet grass in a stand of large maple trees.  It was a sight and as long as the wind continued to blow into their faces they would be able to observe this pair, each lost in their own thoughts.  Sliding his fingers over hers against his upper arm, he snuck a peek at her and found her looking at him.  Their silent gaze spoke more than either intended but couldn’t be silenced.

He slid her hand off of his arm and into his right hand, lacing their fingers together as he stepped behind her and took her left hand into his.  His chest against her back he wrapped his arms around her.  A bit forward for just meeting someone, yes, but something in her eyes told him it would be welcomed.  He tucked his nose into her hair as her heart hammered in her chest. Her hands were shaking as she tried to relax into him.  Her body trembled, defying her. 

Pressing his lips close to her ear, he whispered, “Don’t think too much, just relax and let it happen.  I feel it. I think you feel it too.  I want to hold you, smell you, enjoy you.  Please let me.”

Her body stilled and slumped against his chest. An instant sense of sweet calm rushed over her body. The back of her head nestled into his neck as she listened to his heart pound in her ear.  He smelled of soap and she inhaled deeply to gather his scent into her memory.  She never wanted to forget this moment.  The deer, the sound of the creek, the softness of the grass under her feet, and this man holding her.  She felt safe. She hadn’t felt safe in years.

The doe lifted her head and spotted them.  The wind had changed direction and given them away.  She walked off to the east unhurriedly and the fawn followed.  They were both sorry the moment was over.  Taking her left hand in his right he spun her gently around to face him.  They stood that way for what felt like an eternity.  Eyes locked, neither able to look away.  His hands gliding up and down her arms slowly as if he was at war from within.  Finally his hands slid over her shoulders and up her neck, thumbs stroking her cheeks as his fingers slid into her hair.  She was breathless, expectant, terrified.  His eyes roved over her face, drinking her in, relishing this moment with only the chirp of the birds to interrupt it.  He leaned in as her eyes began to close and brushed his nose against hers, a tender sentiment that worked it’s way right into the depths of her heart.  Softly their lips touched, sweetly, gently.  Her hands slid up his back as his lips pulled at first her bottom lip, and then her top. His arm slid around her shoulders as his other hand slid completely into the curls at the back of her head.  She barely stifled a whimper against his strong lips. A sound that wordlessly begged him to continue.  His tongue slid between her soft lips as they parted in invitation.  Her head guided by his practiced hand to the side as their tongues danced together.  Such sumptuous, rich, feeling was welcomed by both of them as their bodies seemed to meld perfectly together.  He was so tempted to lay her in this grass and show her all the pleasures a woman’s body could experience.  The earnest nature of it shocked him and enthralled his senses.  He slowly withdrew his tongue and reverently brushed his lips back and forth against hers as his raging hormones calmed. 

She was trembling in his hands, a sincerity that endeared her to him.  He didn’t want to rush this.  He wanted to treasure this moment and make it the first of many.  He could satiate himself with her sweet and gentle disposition until the time was right.  He kissed her nose and leaned his forehead against hers.

“Annie, I don’t want to rush this.  Don’t think I don’t want to make incredible sweet love to you right here in this field because I really do.  I just want to do this right.  We could have something beautiful together and I don’t want to mess it up.  Am I making sense?”  He gazed into her eyes, hopeful that she’d not run.

“Yes.”  It was breathless.  All the response she could muster.

“Good.  Thank you.  Thank you for being exactly what I’d hoped all those mornings.  Thank you for being open to coming here with me.  I couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect beginning.”

“Me either”, She smiled up at him as his lips pressed against hers for a second taste of her.

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Pry Bar Blues

I jam the pry bar into the divot, pull back with all of my weight and quickly press forward, extending the dock-plate onto the back of the truck. I greet Virgil with a smile and make a bit of small talk; I ask how his kids are, he asks how my tattoo is healing. He tells me he has two for me, and I leap into the driver's seat of the forklift like my last name was Duke, speeding into the back of the semi in a manner my supervisor would refer to as "unsafe." I take my time unloading the skids, carefully tagging them and logging them in, before signing Virgil's bill and wishing him safe travels. To any observer it seems my mind is firmly within the confines of the warehouse, logging and processing and organizing, but that's all become second nature. Certainly, there's volumes on my mind, but every single one might as well be entitled "You."

I jam the pry bar in the divot, extend the dock bridge once more, and start making small talk with Billy. I don't care much about his wife's decorating to be honest, but he doesn't notice. He's rattling on about drapes, I'm thinking about the way you tasted this morning. You were having such a hard time getting up, and I got you to agree to make me breakfast if I could manage to get you out of bed. I'll be the first to admit that I cheated, that I knew you'd be willing to get up and get that shower after I spent some time licking between your thighs. In my defense, I knew I wouldn't hold you to your promise of breakfast the minute you wrapped your fingers in my hair and pulled me in deeper, though I had to be cocky and tell you I wasn't hungry anymore.

I jam the pry bar in the divot, ignoring the hollow thud. Scott seems to want to talk about going to the zoo this weekend, but I'm too busy thinking about the weekend with you. By the time I punch the clock and make it home, I'll feel the ache of the work-week in my bones, but when you ask if we can go out dancing, I'll agree with feigned reluctance. I'll sit out half the time, always ready to re-fill your drink, and watch the single scene try to swallow you whole. I'd be lying if I said I won't smile to myself every time you have to turn away a guy looking to score.

I jam the pry bar in the divot, staring off at the clock as I rip it back out. Terry doesn't say much, and I'm perfectly content with that. I have forty minutes left until I'm sitting on the couch with you, your feet draped across my lap and something by Fitzgerald in your hands. You'll have changed into some sundress that clings just enough to every curve to remind me how dangerous they are. Sometimes I see you like that and I want to slide my hand up your thigh, sometimes I just want to ask you to read aloud to me, and sometimes I wonder if you know just how lucky I am.

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Ice

     "Somehow I knew you would be here," She says to him and sits down on the stool next to him.
    "I'm always here," He replied. Grumpy. "Why would you expect otherwise? You're always telling me I drink too much. Do you really expect me to change for you?"
    "I would never expect anything from you for me," She answers.
    "Goddamn it, why are you always so fucking understanding?" He said suddenly. He took a swig from the glass and the ice jingled as he set it down. "so fucking accepting of shit. You could wrap me around your finger and I would give this up in a moment if you just got angry for one fucking second." He motioned with the drink, the ice chiming against the glass. "If you just got pissed once and told me you wanted me to be better, I'd be better..."
     "Do you want me to do that?" I ask.
     "There you go again. Fuck, I don't know-how the hell should I know?"
     "Well it's not exactly my job, is it? And it's not my job to clean you up, and it's not even my job to wrap you around my finger. You do all that yourself. You know you can't blame for all the shit you're in and you can't blame me for not pulling you out of it. And can you really blame me for being even and letting myself be, especially when it comes to you?"
     "Clearly, since I obviously such a piece of shit."
     "I didn't say that-"
     "I know you didn't," He took another drink, but the liquor is all gone; nothing the the clinking ice remains. "But it's true all the same."
     I pause and look at him struggling with the empty glass. I know he wants to order another. His pride is battling with that heartbreaker that he won't tell me about, who he pours himself over ice until he's sufficiently watered down for. 
     "Why do you still talk to me?" I ask him finally. He poured a piece of ice into his mouth. It crunched violently against his teeth. I cringe.
     "Maybe one day I hope you'll fix me," He answered.
     "Well-like I said-not my job."
     "I know what you said!... Doesn't mean I have to hear it."

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American Hearts: Hurricane

I can't help but stare. I'd say I hadn't noticed it before, but I was sure it simply wasn't there. He notices me staring at the wall as he re-caps the bottle of ink and returns it to the open drawer.

"That's my eighth one," he says, dipping the needle into the ink and tapping his foot on the pedal, "It's kind of... It's for the one the got away, yanno?"

I stare at it again, the watercolor on the wall, taking everything in. It's so traditional that it wouldn't look out of place on a sailor's bicep, the eagle, the roses, the heart. But it's the banner that sticks out to me, the banner hammers the sentiment deep into my skull.

Across the lands you have my heart.

I'm still staring at it, feeling every single word like they're scarred and healing on my hard heart, as he presses the needle against my arm. The calming comfort of the needle zipping in and out of my skin snaps me back into reality right before he starts his story.

"You might know her, I think. We all went to high school together..." he starts, and as he says her name, I'm brought back to drunken house parties and the way her cigarettes balanced out the sweetness of her lip gloss. I feel pangs of guilt but they subside quickly. I'd never ever loved her, I'd just kissed her.

"Yeah, We're actually pretty decent friends. I haven't spoken to her in a while though, living on opposite coasts and all," I mutter, staring down at the permanent changes being made to my upper arm, "She's a great girl though."

"Yeah man, she's... We just never could work it out. In high school we were always seeing someone else. And then, the fucking day before graduation man, it's like a movie, we were sitting on a blanket at the park and we kissed, and I'm telling you, I never bought into any of that movie bullshit before, but it was sparks and a fucking Goo Goo Dolls song, I swear," He kind of laughs as my shoulders tense, his hand sitting heavy on sore and irritated skin, "And then, man, right after graduation, I walked one way and she walked clear across the country."

"And then, man, we just stopped talking. She was with a guy, and I was here trying to make good, and I couldn't try and tear that apart. But she came back to visit and man, it was like nothing had changed. I didn't want to be 'that guy' but I kissed her, and she kissed me, and can I be honest with you? She was the second person I ever had sex with."

I wince as he again presses the needle into my skin heavier than he normally would, but I can't hold it against him.

"And then she went back out west. And I guess... now she's married. And I mean, dude, don't get me wrong, so am I. And I'm happy. My daughter is beautiful man, and my wife is incredible to me. And I could never be the person that just tears her marriage apart. But I guess, I'm still painting pictures for her, yanno?"

I do know. I want to tell him just how much I know, how much I understand "the one that got away," How much ink I've shed over the woman who won't be mine. I want to tell him that I swear I can taste the faintest hint of your kiss when there's gin on my breath, that this tattoo means nothing if I'm not thinking of you. But instead I stare at the way his needles turns the storm clouds a deep shade of violet.

"Yeah man, I definitely see where you're coming from."

Sometimes we don't get what we want. We get what we get.

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The Loss to Legend

(Prompt: Kate Zueva by cbyn, via writeworld.)

It was my fault that I lost her, really.

All of my poetry went wrong somehow. Rather than see her lips, I saw the color of the practiced paint. Rather than the fine lines of her neck, I saw the lack the jewelry and felt so ashamed. I saw right through her dress - not to her skin, but to the secret that some seamstress captured. I didn't even see her eyes - not the color, not the shape, not what even saw she saw.

I never met her eyes. I never wanted to. It would have shattered the illusion.

Instead, I saw the fury in her brows. I saw the outrage on her spitting tongue. I felt the passion of her pressure on my old assumptions. She moved me, but it wasn't the destination that impressed me - I was in love with being moved. For all of her fire, for every wonderful idea, I didn't hear a word. I didn't learn a thing. I didn't grow, except for carnal inches and the height of my nose.

I never met her principles, either. I never really tried. Believing is so much easier than effort.

I painted her in the subtle light of everything I needed her to be.

Then I congratulated myself for my enlightenment. How sad.

We could have fucked. We could have fought.

We could have really met.

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Bloody Sunday

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Blue Halos

Blue halos fall through my sky as if they were suns, raising their coronas to kiss the endless sea of clouds, spread like breaths and whispers over the horizon, with the knowledge of today, tomorrow, and of something special, beyond say or ken, which floats mysteriously up, lands on my brow, and sings its morning revelry - good morning - this day is something untouchable, intangible, filled with precious moments too fragile to touch or name - we spend it breathless.

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Extinguish

Three days go by and he still doesn't understand what I say when I flicker the bottom of my tongue and tell him this is youth.

--

The cheapest beer we could find, crushed into origami figurines displayed haphazardly around the field grounds the way your grandmother's collection of flea market elephant miniatures was as a child. Passing around glassware blown more intricate than the spindling lanky fingers of Meema's small hands.The millimeter by millimeter squares adorning every rapunzel haired, breast bared woodnymph's tongue. Whiskey breath and shy smiles too close for talking. Men crowded around fires like gazelle at the watering hole. There are always too many damn gators in the bayou, we're all so hungry for a taste of blood in the water. 

--

Flick Flick
He still hasn't called on the fourth day.

--

Trance rhythms and techno beats pump through the trees. Another few hits pass from finger to finger, and we barely brush thumbprints but already I could confess guilty at the stand. Punishable by proof of intent, you and I haven't got good intentions. Just the mood of the moon vying with the bonfire for shine. The way your eyes smolder like the coals but still flicker with the flames. I see my reflection spinning around their glare like a pow wow dancer. Fry bread indulgences allowed only on these special occasions. That is to say, when he is out of sight and I am out of my own mind. For a moment I can fly and my first thought it "away". Swishing hips side to side with the possibility of you. The newness of you and the dewy grass against my back, so far away from home and his worn in sneakers by the side door. Toto, we're not in kansas anymore.

--

Does he know yet that I'll never let him build a white picket fence? He stays over five nights a week these days. I miss waking up in an empty strangers bed more than I ever wished for a full one of my own. 

--

Last time around, it was back seats of yellow taxi cabs and clammy hands just like my father's. Call it a pattern but the concept of making a home out of the other sex never did seem weather proof. The storm clouds set in and God plays the thunder so loud I go running back to mama every time. Even after all these years. You've got those deep belly laughs and pouting eyes I could never resist or live without. Consider it a supplement. Vitamin XY, root of danger, and adventure elixir. I was never very faithful to a well balanced diet.