Playing for Keeps

the depression
left in this bed when they leave
the impressions
staining the duvet when they go
the smell
left behind in my sheets
when they’re gone

are all mine to keep

the rest they take with them

and I replace it all with
my imagination
which is smarter and sweeter
than the pieces they left with

I heard something in the news
about binders full of women but

I’ve got this
Trapper Keeper
full of men

Withholding 

love is a slice of frozen orange
i twirl around the inside of my mouth
i can’t
shake
the shape
of the syllables
even when i should be distracted
by this man inside my body but
inside my mouth
are these words that get warmer
as they stay
still or
as they sway

if i don’t say them
will i swallow them?
how will he know?

will he be able to tell
by the way my mouth looks
when i swallow the slice

when the letters
don’t matter anymore?

Ageism

It was the fourth time this month he showed up at my office. “I had a meeting in your conference room so I thought I’d swing by.”

It was the fourth time this month he uttered those words in exactly that spot, one foot on the linoleum of the reception area, one foot on the carpet of my cubicle. I too felt myself straddling the line between professionalism and allowing him inside.

He’s got at least twenty years and five titles on me. We don’t even work in the same department. But he still feels like my boss. I’m unsure where this imagined authority is coming from: the linoleum or the carpet.

I’m also unsure whether it’s pure desire or the thrill of the game that makes me continue to engage him for an inappropriate amount of time. As I’m thinking this he’s moved inside my cubicle, to the left of the door, as if hiding from view of our “colleagues”. I fucking hate that word. When I call someone I work with my “colleague”, it means I would never get a beer with them.

But this guy, my new boss who doesn’t even work here, I would totally get a beer with. Except I wouldn’t order a beer. I’d order a “dry martini with a twist”. An older woman once taught me how to order a martini and I’ve been charming middle aged men with my uncharacteristically superior taste in and knowledge of after work cocktails ever since.

I don’t need to drink cheap gin anymore.

The door isn’t closed and this is a cubicle. It’s not like this guy is some lothario ready to lunge at me at 2 pm on a Wednesday. I’m glad of this because the fluorescent lighting doesn’t do us any favors. I did mention he’s got like 20 years on me, right?

No, it would have to happen in the dark, and not only for aesthetic reasons. He stopped referring to the mother of his child as his “wife” after our first coffee together. Every time he refers to his “spouse” I feel like I’m a fly on the wall of the law office of a divorce attorney. Except he never brings up a separation or a divorce, which indicates that neither are actively occurring, but that he’s not really into it, either. I guess this is what justifies his amorphous body language shifting into the territory of every man 20 years my senior to buy me a martini.

He likes to watch me talk about the very 20-something things I do. There are two elements of this performance that excites him. The first is my mouth moving at dick level when I’m sitting in my office chair and he’s standing against the wall of my cubicle. The second is the accumulation of a great many references to precisely how much younger I am. He writes down the names of all of the bands I’m excited to see over the summer at whatever music festival I decide to attend. I never know if he’s actually going to listen to them. I don’t think he wants to impress me in that way.

He is my boss, after all. I’m the one who needs to impress him.

I do the obligatory dance of inquiring about the well being of his children. He understands this means the conversation is over for the afternoon.

Strange Liars

I scribbled a 40% tip on the bar receipt. I knew I wasn’t getting laid, but he deserved the dough for indulging me in the pursuit. I had some of my fun, at least. I had given up by then, so I decided to have a little bit more of my fun before calling a car to take me home.

“You look just like this traveling salesman I fellated in a Marriott once.”

He had honest eyes, but they were directly competing with his perfectly straight and white teeth that could sell me anything. I don’t remember what he sold but he made me feel like I needed something he had. I don’t believe most liars, but I can believe in the best liars, which is different. I don’t fall for anything but I can fall into most things if that’s what I decide to do. I have to choose.

Good liars respect other good liars. Real recognize real, and bullshit recognize bullshit.

His teeth and his occupation made him a liar. But the truth living in his corneas made me  thirsty and miserable, fully ready to pay for a remedy. I was feeling like my throat was as deep as my pockets.

I’m not talking about the bartender. He didn’t know what to do with me so he laughed nervously at the brazen broad at the bar while he desperately looked for a different patron needing service. His loss. Most of the men who leave prematurely come back in some form, full of regret. But unlike the traveling salesman, this was all they’d be full of.

I liked him too much too quickly for him to have come from money. So I thought those teeth grew in like that naturally. Straight, white teeth tell me about the person’s parents: did someone work a job with affordable dental insurance that included orthodontics, or did someone pay a few grand out of pocket? Either way, I’d see a set of straight teeth across a classroom at my “elite private college” and think the worst of the skull holding them. I knew that I had invented this heuristic all on my own but that didn’t make the heuristic any less useful.

Anyway.

Crooked teeth indicated a particular social class until I met rich international students. I liked them just as much because they were strangers in a strange land. I wonder now if money makes you familiar with any new terrain, as American Express can buy you time and convenience in any first world country. There’s also this thing called purchase protection. You can return those things you no longer have a taste for when you’re rich. But most importantly, you become the kind of person who needs protection for his purchases. I can’t imagine a more vacant concern. I guess my body has never felt protected enough for there to be room for care about objects.

At the time, the salesman was the prettiest thing I had ever seen that was full of something. Whether it was bullshit, truth, beauty, or some combination of those or other things did not particularly matter. He was just full. I wanted to see what was in there. I wanted him to part his pearly whites so I could get a flashlight and a magnifying glass to figure him out. I had just visited the land of “pretty, but so what?” and had the scars to prove it, so I wanted to explore this new terrain while I licked my own wounds.

I had crooked teeth and I was a stranger in a strange land. But only my bottom teeth were crooked, and they were covered by a full bottom lip. My pout was my black card. The SAT words pouring out of it could sneak my white trash into the ivory tower and I had some hope that they’d help me to never return.

So I fellated the salesman in a Marriott in the nicest suburb outside the city. I thought he must be a solid performer if his company sprung for the better neighborhood. He climaxed soon enough that my craned neck wasn’t sore but not so soon as to be embarrassing. It was a seamless transaction. Both parties left feeling satisfied, except nobody left.

I stayed the night and I went to work the next morning as if that wasn’t the sluttiest thing I’d done in years. Truthfully, it wasn’t. I had Ubers queued up at 11:30 pm on plenty of nights within moments of a male orgasm. It wasn’t the sluttiest thing I’d done because I managed to sleep remarkably well in an almost three star hotel room next to the traveling salesman.

Hook, line, and sinker. I was done for. I would need the full set now.

“Don’t be a stranger” I said to this stranger in my strange land.

I was certain I would never hear from him again as I said it. Even so, he would never be a stranger to me.