An hour west toward the beginning of Long Island
we drive to a party in Hicksville. We pass a series of one-story houses.
Airplanes, coming or going, chase the birds from the sky.
A blue hydrangea blocks the back porch, where
the hosts are wide-eyed on coke and their mother
spoons baked beans and macaroni salad onto paper plates.
I am creeping out one of the boys with long hair who stares
too long when I speak. A. unpacks his keyboard case
and I find a lounge chair, buy a beer, and break mosquitos open
against my legs. I should stop eating sugar. I am tired
of the grotesque blood-suck-burst. My boyfriend
does not attract mosquitos, only women.
He was born without wisdom teeth or myopia.
I am primitive with childbearing hips, peasant hands.
Hours pass, as they should, on time.
In the bathroom boys divide $100 worth of cocaine.
“What’s she doing in here?” the longhaired boy whispers,
fishing a bottle of absinthe from the freezer.
People drinking absinthe are boring in their need
to be acknowledged. He will talk about it for the rest of the night.
“I’m waiting for the bathroom.” He is startled that I heard him.
Still he takes me aside to tell me about my boyfriend’s talent.
“Hold on to him, he’ll be famous.” The glow of the infomercial
throws light across the face, eyes exhaustingly alert.
His brother is purported to be a professional pickup artist.
He gave lessons in cunnilingus at Stony Brook.
“Like the school actually hired him?”
On the lawn I sit down with the pickup artist; he offers a blanket,
asks if I like his band. A. takes down a girl’s number.
“I liked the Neil Young cover,” I say because it’s half true.
He’s speedy and feels like talking. “Smell my hair.
It’s women’s shampoo, you know why?
Because girls are territorial, and they’re more attracted to a man
if they smell a woman on him.” “That sounds like bullshit,” I say.
“It’s true. You know what else?”—he doles out innocuous secrets
because I don’t matter to him. “Fear makes a girl more attracted
to the guy she’s with. So that’s why you should take a girl
to a scary movie, or on a rollercoaster.”
“Alright, pheromones,” I allow and A. returns
to tap my shoulder. By midnight we drop the rest of the band
at the LIRR station, to deliver them to the city.
We head east on 27 until I stop at a diner,
lightheaded in a way I can’t identify,
like an eyeglass prescription a fraction too strong.
“I think there’s something wrong, but I might just be imagining it,”
which is a problem for me always. The diner was voted best
on Long Island in 2004 and 06. We order a Belgian waffle,
two eggs over easy and fries. Abruptly A. says “That girl wants
to go to my shows. She lives in Queens—she likes my brother, anyway.”
The neat yellow yolks sit like closed eyes.
“I wouldn’t flirt with a girl right in front of you.”
He asks who I was talking to earlier and I say a very sober boy,
who asked pointedly what I do. I shrugged write,
and he guessed poetry —then ventured, I bet you have a special place
where you write, like by a window overlooking a lake.
No, I said recoiling. A. tells me, “I can imagine you’re impossible
to flirt with.” “You think I’m not funny?” I hate
the word flirt with its awkward phonetics,
the frivolous letter f, the harsh end
of consonants. He cuts the waffle with a fork; he never worries
someone could take me from him. I’m not stoned
from the downwind of a blunt, only sickened
by my sister’s perfume on the cardigan pulled out of the hamper.
Victoria’s Secret is a poisonous vanilla. For fifty miles we pass
deer grazing on the Sunrise. I hate them for their stupidity.
They wait to be harmed like a lesson in repetition.