Главная страница «Первого сентября»Главная страница журнала «Английский язык»Содержание №34/2001



She read her poetry in soft, sultry tones. Whether the content of the poem was harsh, sensual or humorous, the mellifluous quality of her voice charmed him, lulled him into a trance. It seemed as if she was speaking directly to him. The clamor of the coffee shop simmered down; his lecherous neighbor elbowing him faded from consciousness as she read “sniffing you, tasting you; drowning in you, surfacing and gluttonously wanting more,” a heated flush rose across Daniel’s cheeks.

She had appeared suddenly three months ago, right around the new year. It was a rainy evening and the slick sounds of heavy traffic on a damp city street filtered into the coffee shop. The front door was open and she seemed to fall into the cafe followed by two men. She appeared nervous as she closed her umbrella, juggling her purse, a water bottle and a purple folder while easing out of her hooded green raincoat. One of the men ordered three cups of tea as she headed to a corner table to stash her gear. Timidly, she approached Drew, the coordinator of the evening’s read.

“Just sign your name in any of the empty spaces here. I’ll call you when your number’s up.”

She signed a single name “Louise.” She seated herself, conspicuously sipping her tea and shuffling the papers in the purple folder. The two men offered a bit of encouragement and then studied the room. Her hair had a red tint to it. Her dress was black, short and hinted at a bursting bosom. Outwardly, she did not appear shy. Except for her eyes – pools of shimmering blue looking as if she just had a good cry. Those eyes expressed sadness and joy simultaneously. When she smiled one front tooth slightly overlapped the other – it only added to her appeal. She looked fresh, almost newly hatched for a woman in her early middle years. She seemed unaware of her beauty. Innocent of her affect on others.

Daniel noticed her almost immediately. He sat at a table that angled facing her own. He tried not to stare. When she caught him at it, she behaved self-consciously. Not wanting to cause her embarrassment, he pretended to stare past her, out the window at the glare of headlights off wet pavement. He didn’t fool her. The poets in the evening’s lineup were mostly men – old codgers who spewed on over the tough life in the streets, frustration with women, violence, war, the computer age and then Daniel’s poem about his dog, Rocket. When it came his turn to read, Daniel didn’t look at her. He feared a look of disinterest or worse, disdain. As he returned to his seat, he blinked her way and saw her applauding politely.

She was next. Her debut he was sure. What would she read? Probably a poem about flowers, nature or love. She carried a water bottle with her to the table. Drew handed her the microphone. Her hands shook slightly and her voice seemed to quaver like a nightingale’s call as she read:

Monogamy... true to you, true to the rules, true to promises made in naivete, false to myself.” Daniel’s attention was riveted as she read on. Her poetry emanated from a very deep, painful place. He knew that place. He avoided such places. His poetry reflected life’s more pleasant distractions like Rocket the dog.

“Marriage, who invented it and why? in love? enslavement, entrapment?” she read on. “What if you aren’t true to me, break all the rules, refuse to make promises, must I remain true?”

Daniel knew he would be true to her – promise her anything. She walked awkwardly back to her seat as applause rang across the small cafe. She didn’t seem convinced that she was a hit; that this mostly male audience liked her and, of course, her poetry. Her two companions nodded approval as she sat down releasing a big sigh.

Daniel looked forward to Thursday evenings at the Monkey’s Uncle Coffee House in North Beach. He sat in the same place suspecting that she would choose the corner table consistently. She did except for one night when someone else beat her to it. Then she sat on a stool at the bar that faced the readers. After the first night, she came alone. He assumed she had been scoping the place and now felt comfortable enough to venture out on her own. After the reading was over, she didn’t hang around to socialize, she scooted out of there – a Cinderella fearing her coach might become a pumpkin if she lingered too long. If only she’d leave a remnant behind, Daniel might find a clue to her mysterious identity. All he knew was that she answered to the romantic name “Louise” when called upon to read.

He presumed she was single. In fact he created a life for her... presumptions based on her poetry. Last week she read a poem, “Loneliness.” A few phrases lingered in his mind. He clung to them – utterances meant only for him to turn over and over in his growing acquaintance with her. It was all so intimate... words spoken to him in a crowded coffee shop that proffered mostly anonymity. “That loneliness that drips like a rainy day mercilessly... that sneaks into bed at night a snuggly cold companion... that loneliness that won’t be filled by a lover, a book, housework or...” Daniel was sure he could fill that loneliness. He knew he could meet her on common ground blending their loneliness together.

She had been battered by love. “Damaged” she read, “bounced back like a rubber ball that loves the paddle because... you’d see what a prize I was. Your eyes would open in recognition of my true value... you’d love me and want me...”

He began to write poems to her. “Mending your heart is what I dream of. I am your humble tailor trawling spools of healing threads, weaving broken pieces into new promise that won’t fail.” The night he read that one his cohorts chortled and teased relentlessly. He didn’t care. He had to speak to her in some way. He had memorized it and looked boldly at her as he spoke his heart’s message. She didn’t shrink from his gaze but slipped quietly away afterwards, not even reading her poem that night.

Months passed and his contrived poetic tкte-a-tкte did not seem to draw Louise any closer to him. Momentarily, he conceded stalemate. He could have changed his seat; sat at the table adjoining her own. He could have followed her from the coffee shop risking a word or two of proper introduction. He could have directly dedicated a poem to her. He could have declared his admiration – to declare love was like declaring war – it could put a rift between them. But admiration, who could decry that?

One evening, her poetry veered off course. His virginal seductress had a carnal experience. He was not the benefactor. Her poem “Desire,” whetted his appetite. Still, he could interject himself into the scene. Yes, it was only her fantasy which now included him. No longer a solitary being, she was interacting with him, staging a fantasy, enticing him into her dreamworld. “Sparks, my nervousness your certainty, chemistry, the law of opposites attracting. Go slow are you patient, building energy, romantic dinner, first kiss, electrical charges, circuits ignite, no sex, not yet sustained tension, restless nights.”

Oh yes, he thought lovers-to-be, sweet to each other. Holding hands, grocery shopping together buying the ingredients to prepare a gourmet meal. His poem a continuation of where hers left off. Telepathically, he offered “A long walk by the lagoon, spring blossoms, crispy air fanning the flame, talk and eat together by candlelight.”

As she read on “Was it a mistake to use so much garlic. Leave the dishes, cuddle on the couch, no sex, not yet sustained tension, restless nights.”

Daniel’s anxiety was growing. This tension a prelude to “a long walk on the beach, waves breaking, storm clouds blowing out to sea. Seagulls calling, story telling, a kiss by the sea, playfulness, falling down in the sand. You are beautiful,” Daniel proclaims. “I want to make love to you all the time.”

“Maybe you are too much for me,” Louise answers demurely.

Out to dinner, the waitress senses our attraction. “Our energy sparkles, we are brilliant, amused and amusing.”

Daniel could go no further with the fantasy and stay in his seat. Abruptly he jumped from his chair and strode out into the cool night air. She read on and he could hear her dulcet tone as he walked down the long, lamp lit street to his car. Her voice was now a part of him. Her poetry and his had truly merged into one orgasmic expression.

The following week, Louise read first. Something about a transitional man. Daniel couldn’t follow it. His mind wandered not wanting to endure the words, the possibility that she couldn’t commit to this relationship. “Commitment? I’m not ready for commitment. Been there, done that, no fun in that for me.”

“But I love you,” Daniel inwardly proclaimed.

“Please don’t say that,” Louise replied. “You might just be my transitional man.

Daniel gulped hard, feeling somewhat devastated. Louise left immediately after she read, not bothering to listen to Daniel’s culmination of last week’s fantasy.

The following Thursday, Louise arrived looking unusually perky. This whole business was becoming a sweet torture for Daniel. Louise wore a clingy red dress – a rather bold display for a woman alone in the big city, he thought. He would protect her if anyone was too forward. What! A tall, rather handsome fellow was joining her at the table. He leaned in and gave her a lingering kiss – not brotherly at all, Daniel observed. Pangs of jealousy shot through him. Daniel found himself falling, plummeting into an old wound that was far from healed. He spiraled downward through painful memories – recalling how he had trusted before, been so gullible and misread so many signals. Here it was happening again. He knew he shouldn’t have gotten involved with this strange, seductive woman. This was the outcome – him lying on the ground spread-eagled, flattened, unable to peel himself up off the pavement like some overrun cartoon character. He couldn’t breathe. He felt queasy. His mouth had a bitter taste. Ah yes, the familiar taste of betrayal.

Daniel composed himself as he sipped deeply of his warm tea. Watching her giggle and flirt with this stranger was too much. He noted how she dipped in low showing too much cleavage. Adrenaline rushed to his fists. He should go right over there, overturn their table, and punch the handsome jerk out.

Wait just a minute. Wait just one minute, please! Who was that delicious blonde over there by the door. Daniel didn’t recall seeing her before. Hmmm. Now she really looked interesting. In fact Louise faded away by comparison. Daniel focused his attention. She was alone; yes she was definitely alone. Maybe, she’d sit at the table next to him. He beckoned, without a sign, for her to come sit next to him. She read his unobtrusive invitation and settled herself at the table beside his own... a breath away.

By Christine L. Gallegos, Mt. Shasta, California


mellifluous flowing in a smooth or sweet manner
lecherous man preoccupied with sex
read poetry reading
old codgers middle-aged eccentric men
spewed on force out in a stream
monogamy marriage (relationship) to only one person at a time
riveted held in place
emanated originated
scoping checking out
scooted out left quickly
proffer to present for acceptance
tкte-a-tкte a private conversation between two people
lagoon shallow body of water in tropics
dulcet pleasing to the ear
perky lively and spirited
gullible easily deceived
queasy nauseated
cleavage the space between a woman’s breasts