Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Separate Checks

You tell the lady we’ll take separate checks.
There was tea – English breakfast
and coffee.
And I’m nervous because it’s Tuesday
and I have five dollar in my wallet
and need to get some sort of lunch
before working the late shift.

The lady at the register rings it up and looks at me.
Her hands suddenly look much older than her face,
as they whip through and straighten the five singles I gave her.
The total is exactly forty-four cents more than
I have in my wallet.

I dig through my pockets
wondering if I can remember
how to say forty-four in French.
I’ve been practicing but I still can’t.

I don’t leave a tip in the jar and I pray you don’t notice.
I’m normally not that kind of person, I want to say.

We walk down to 4th Avenue
and part there.
The change in my pocket jingles.
My wallet is empty
and I wonder if I have enough for a bagel
but decide on white rice
because I know that only costs a dollar and change
and I can feel the heaviness of quarters as my fingers
dig through the metal,
saying goodbye to you on the corner.

We talked about writing, dogs, neighborhoods, children.
Change, we talked about change.
I tested the weight of words
like I test the weight of change in my pocket,
stirring it like a soup, like something edible

and realizing that maybe these kinds of things,
these mornings of conversation, and tea and coffee
maybe aren’t all that bad.
I think I need to stop being afraid of people.
And maybe my husband was right
when he said I could use a new friend.

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