Sunday, October 03, 2004

OCTOBER 3, 2004 (SUNDAY)

Happy Ending
Denise Duhamel

I lost my virginity in a hotel
although on the police report I said it was stolen.
My virginity contained my only picture ID
and concert stubs that proved I’d seen Kiss and Queen.
I wanted it back. I wanted to slip my virginity
into my pocket where I’d last seen it,
the smooth red leather and the jingling coin pouch,
the tight metal snap. I looked at each stranger
in the elevator – Did you take it? Do you recognize me
as the one you had for lunch? I sniffed the cubicle of air
for the scent of my sex on someone else. I sniffed
the lit buttons after each man had pushed one
hoping I’d left my smell on his hand. I finally went home
and wept, the blood on my panties three cherries
that won me nothing in the slot machine.
I watched a black and white TV, doodled on a hotel napkin
as my mother cried she didn’t know me anymore.
I was grounded until the mail came back several days later.
A kind stranger had sent me back my virginity
in a padded envelope so I could keep it
or lose it again, this time sober, with a boy my own age.
I checked the crotch of my panties I’d hidden under my bed.
The blood dots slid off like new pennies or cinnamon hearts,
then disappeared. My mother put down her iron and smiled,
braided my clean shiny hair as the whole world sang
a song about what a good girl I was.

Self Portrait of the Writer as Ophelia without the Tragic Drowning Scene

She sank without anyone noticing
her lily-white hands floating above the water

like twin fishes. Perhaps death is more welcome
than heartbreak, but I prefer the slow, languorous

entrance of forgetting. These days, it’s difficult
to conjure up the sound of your voice,

or your habit of separating the broccoli from the beef
swimming around in its own brown sauce.

When you left, I was tempted to become the tragic figure
of love stories, the jilted heroine whose skirt billowed

like clouds or flower petals floating upside-down
as she bravely walked into the water

and vanished. These days, I prefer sinking
into solid things - books, computer screens, walls.

I wear white now; mourning you
is overrated. I find it ironic that I used to choke

on my memories of you, my lips tasting like seawater.
Nowadays, I value the first morning I woke up

without dreaming of you: that particular sunrise
where there was no burst of light, only a gradual

shift from dark to gray to a pale damp brightness,
as if the sky was uncertain of the shift from night to day.

I surfaced from my bed, the sheets swirling around
my body, realizing for the first time that my pillows

were no longer stained with old tears.

Poetic Weather

This is perfect poetry weather – this quick rush of rain, as if it was hurrying somewhere, to catch an appointment with the Pacific Ocean, perhaps, or a small island just off the Visayas where the children are all burnt brown and can dive into the sea until their lungs burst. I am watching the slant of rain, these liquid check marks that keeps on falling down in staccato rhythm, like curved fingers quickly dropping down ivory keys.

A friend told me last night that he had a fight with his lover and wanted to be alone, drinking beer in a strange bar where everyone was a lonely soul, where he wanted to be anonymous. I wanted to tell him that you can do that without spending: just walk down the streets of Cubao during rush hour, when you go against the people who are hurrying home. We all want a place where we can go back to – somewhere we can put our feet up without fear of dirtying the cushions. See? Now the rain is slowing down, stopping, realizing that it’s no good to run when you’re not quite sure where you’re going.

Later, the rain will have moved on to greener pastures, and I will be left contemplating the beads of water on the empty wash line, the Rorschach puddle patterns on the asphalt driveway, the blue smell of new rain that we call alimuong or alimuog, depending on where you’re coming from. Later on, my friend will tell me that he’s all right, that he’s drunk one bottle too many and threw up on the toilet seat, that’s he’s in love again. And I will sit here, listening, watching the distant clouds roll across the horizon, obscured by the first tentative rays of sunlight.

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