When I know you’re not going out anywhere in the morning,
I get dressed, brew some flavored coffee, put it
in a thermos, and bring my book
to that hut on the corner of San Lu Rue Avenue.
The coffee tastes good when the Florida air
is just chilly enough to open your eyes.
I sit there, and I write, usually about
you, and I wait.
I know you’re a late riser, but
within a half hour you’re there.
Empty mug in one hand, drawing book and pencils
in the other. Cigarettes in pocket.
You look tired. But I’m awake.
I used to fear for your life, you know, when you were messed up with the drugs, the gangs. I’d sit up nights wondering why you didn’t call. I’d wonder if you were dead. I’d wonder if you were beaten up, bleeding on a subway, trying to hold your ribs in place. It hurt to care from five hundred miles away, for someone who couldn’t care for himself.
I’m glad that you straightened yourself out. Or I’m glad you almost did.
I remember being in your car, driving back from Tiger Tail beach. My skin felt itchy from the salt. My feet were sticking out the window, pressed against the rear-view mirror. I think you were holding my hand.
This was after you told me you wanted me to marry you. You never asked me to marry you, but you told me that’s what you wanted. I should have expected that from you. But you always surprised me.
I remember thinking that we could never get along for any reasonable length of time. You didn’t want to leave Canada; I didn’t want to leave the States. You wanted to backpack around Europe; I wanted to get a job, an apartment, some security. Vacationing at the tip of this peninsula seemed to be the only way we could meet.
But even though my skin hissed from the salt and the sun, in that car with you I felt like we could go anywhere.
I looked in my purse today
and found a box of Swan Vestas matches. You bought them
at the tobacco shop in the mall in Naples.
You asked me to hold the box for you.
I couldn’t understand why you bothered to buy matches
when you could get matchbooks anywhere, but
I must admit that you looked good when you lit one of them.
The box was so big. No American would want
a matchbox that big.
You always struck the match to the box three times
before it would light.
You made the art of lighting a match
seem like a pleasure.
I always liked the smell of sulphur.
I’m glad you forgot that box in my purse.
Copyright Janet Kuypers.
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