Great ExpectationsHe was sitting to himself, reading, in the public library when a young woman came next to him wearing tight, winter-weight black leggings and a down jacket. She hovered at his right side, pulling a book from a shelf and then casually returning it. She bent down to pull a title from a lower shelf, then scratched her knee with vigor at some length and the outrageous question is Should he have scratched her knee for her since it was just inches away from his face and hand? As he thought this through she stood straight and moved a few feet away, undoing her coat with a loud zip but the moment had passed. He sat there, still, for another ten minutes but she left.
He was mistaken. She returned, her back to him, perusing a different shelving of books and he looked at her a bit more closely. She wore her hair pulled back and knotted, plain silver earrings and stood with her legs slightly apart in a challenging warrior stance. Her sneakers had a pink rim around the top, much like those of a young, young girl, but she was at most thirty. After a minute or so she pointed a toe in first one direction and then another. Had he made her impatient? He now thinks that he should have scratched her knee, scratched it hard until the legging material frayed and her skin showed through.
The next day he returned to the library at the same time and of course sat in the same chair. To no avail. No fairy tale: no leggings, no down jacket, no itchy knee.
On Thursday he tried once again, choosing a current magazine to read. Nothing. Now he finds himself going to a library of hundreds of thousands of unread books yet with no expectations.
- - - - - - - - - -
Fifteen months, almost to the day, he was standing at the library’s elevator when his elbow was inadvertently jostled. Excuse me, she said and he immediately looked at her knees. She was not wearing leggings, but it was her. I haven’t seen you in a while he said and she said No, I have not been here but am back to do some work in the research department. The elevator doors opened and closed and he joined her on the second floor. He sat next to her at a study table and put his hand on her knee. Her skin was softer than the black winter legging material would have been. She said she remembered the last time, she said You wanted to scratch my knee, didn’t you? And he admitted as much. Go ahead, she said, go ahead. He said he wanted to scratch her knee until it reddened and nearly bled.
It is a room of solitude, empty of all
except a few furnishings and shadows cast.
A length of heavy black velvet material
going grey with dust of the ages, at one time
a drape or curtain evident by sun damage
on the back and by the frayed bottom edge,
casually drapes across a sofa though it
was never meant as a coverlet.
The sun had to have been persistently bright,
the window or covered area
—French doors, perhaps—
quite large and the material cut too long.
The bare hardwood floor would only require
vacuuming and a decent size oriental rug
to make a presentable appearance though the
black velvet is beyond its serviceable time,
past a higher calling.
A woman stranger to the surroundings
enters the room mid-evening
feeling along the wall to the light switch,
pushing it with a mature forefinger
ornamented with a bright red nail.
Flipping the light switch changes everything.
Chrome Hood Ornament On A Red car
One supposes they don’t make
chrome hood ornaments like they used to
back in the thirties, forties and fifties,
nor as many, nor as often.
The shiny decoration (a sleek animal or
nude female muse, as a rule) is an
after-market add-on; nowadays
no car manufacturer would append
such a garish-yet-glamorous fixture
to a production model but they are
in their own way compelling.
Looking at the chrome, a rational image
morphs into a barely recognizable face
distorted like a funhouse hall of mirrors
and better yet if you want to ride flat across
the car’s hood after a bit of partying
while Larry the driver tries to spin you off
doing figure eights, you can get a firm grip
on the chrome and hang on at least as long
as a rodeo bull rider.