Anonymous (When the Woman Who Asked Not)
When the woman who asked not to appear in my poems said we had to talk, we met at the Nighthawks diner. I held the door before we entered and seated ourselves with our backs to the window. Just us and the short-order guy. She’d chosen a red dress that matched the one worn by the woman who usually sat in the corner beside the gentleman who swore he knew Robert Mitchum. At the last minute, I’d slipped on an Aloha shirt with blurred pies floating across a jungle scene. The short-order cook took our selections as soon as we were settled: A tenderloin with pickles and a slice of tomato, onion rings, and a ginger ale for me, her regular glass of ice water. “I was never sure about you,” she said. “And I want to stop wondering, what if. I mean I don’t know how to say goodbye.” She took a sip of water after making her point. Shook her head and soured her lips. Memorizing kiss-off lines from movies was her Trivial Pursuit calling card. I’d sat in this chair before, mumbled sure and yes and fine when the blank
spaces in a hit-the-road afternoon popped up. The short order cook whistled “Heartbreak Hotel” over a coffee cup he was washing. She glanced at her watch, handed me a napkin to wipe away a crumb from my upper lip. Pointed to where I had missed it. Across the diner Robert Mitchum slid onto an empty seat and stared at us with his lazy eyes. He lit a Philip Morris and shooed the cook away with the cigarette. She nodded to the actor as she shouldered her purse. Said, “I’ve got a plane to catch. Either Key West or Shangri-La. First Class from now on. Trash the shirt.” As she made her exit, Mitchum signaled for my check.
Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who worked for 33 years in the schools of northeast Indiana. He lives in Muncie, Indiana where he is looking for a dog to adopt. Over the course of his 73 years, Brockley has companioned five German shepherds and a shih tzu. Since retiring, he has been submitting poems to small market and literary journals. His most recent poems have appeared in Shorts Magazine and Syncopation Literary Journal. Poems are forthcoming in Gargoyle.
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