It all happened while I was waiting for you
and you were late
later than usual and I was trying not to worry.
The book in my hand,
the jukebox playing Lou Reed softly,
the drunk Russian next to me,
the sweating beer on the bar,
The bartender asked me if I wanted another,
but he knows I am waiting for you,
so I glance at the door again cause you have never
been this late.
But I’m trying not to worry, see.
And I sneezed, as I often do
and a chorus of “bless you” and “Gesundheit”
echoed down the bar to me. It’s that sort of place.
And the Russian next to me says, “This is life.”
Almost to himself so I figure it was a proclamation.
A Fact. Yes, this is Life.
But he taps his index finger hard on the bar, next to my book
and says it again. He expects an answer, so I say
Because my wit is low these days.
And he sighs. I go back to my book and read.
The Russian stares at my breasts and occasionally shakes his head
like he’s dismissing a dangerous or ridiculous thought.
I don’t say anything.
This is before he gets loud. Cursing this country and his ex-wife.
This is before he wants to know why I fiddle with my hair when I read.
This is before he badgers me about my pocketwatch.
Before he wants to know if I have somewhere so important to go that
I can’t listen to an old man. He opens and closes his mouth
showing sharp yellow teeth. Like a badger.
This is before I tell him I am worried.
That I am on that edge where my brain is finding horrible things that could be keeping
you from being here tonight, where you are supposed to be because
it is Wednesday night and this is where we meet. Always.
This is way before you finally show up, angry and pale and throw down your bag.
This is before all of this.
Right now, He is just an old man.
And I am a woman.
There is music.
There is beer.
This is Life.
13 hours ago