Remember that night when your black curls tumbled down onto your shoulders, your still-sober lips tracing the outline of my neck beneath my inch-long hair? We were quite a pair then, and you said so, as we dangled our bare feet from the third story fire escape and talked about the world between us in an essential moment alone that burned into my memory as if it were a habit. Your guests chattered in the living room, their fiddles and talk of Vallejo and the light from the apartment now theirs, not ours, the smoke from a neighbor’s barbecue, the stars, the rush of the busy world faraway. It was cooler here, high above, outside, the heat and grime of the day only lingering in the un-air-conditioned buildings and down below on the expressway with the cars and the people walking on the other side, tomorrow’s headlines from the dangerous park across the way. You pointed to the roses there, the pizza joint with its stained glass windows and Italian statues, the woman who held tight to her purse and lost it anyway as she fell to the sidewalk, gunshots still echoing each time that you watched my old car drive up to your building and you ran down the stairs to meet me outside in this, the only affordable neighborhood nearby.
You were young then. A week later you showed up outside my work and called up to me, then realizing that we had no balconies in these office buildings, ran up the four flights of stairs. I startled to look up and see you there, insisting you had to see me now, not in three hours. I screamed to see your head shaved, your indecency now reaching its heights as you told me of your adventures, your readings, your rock star status across the states, your friend’s car broken down for hours on the side of a rural highway, you told me. And you told me of remembering the days you spent there once before, before you knew me, and I gazed at you, reaching for your hair that never grew back, gazing at you and your lips now distracting me from anything that may have been worthwhile in my office, the ladies laughing as I wandered back to my desk, struck down by your grand gesture, your impatience, by the thrilling thought of 5:00. They knew, you see, they knew what I did not know, and I would love you then, in spite of it all, as if fate had ordered it.
It was 2am when I drove home, Aretha singing on my AM radio, a natural woman, me, your fingers lingering beneath my lace blouse, the narrow neck of it stalling you. I had to unbutton it myself. You then removed my clothing like scarves one by one, the remaining hooks and zippers and buttons and such much simpler to decipher, to undo, to push apart the openings, your finger, tongue, words so filthy, I know, mi conchita, you said, I let you, begged you, moments like this, dark summer nights, a hot mattress, the whirr of a ceiling fan, your skin, your strange words still imprinted somewhere, retrievable on cold winter days, yes, it was real I tell myself, and then sometimes like now I wonder at times what was real, even now what is real.