We hug on Bergen Street.
It’s been more than ten years
since she moved to Sante Fe.
She takes a few steps back, says
I always knew you’d turn
into a handsome man. I mumble
thank you, feel my face burn
when I look in her eyes. Realize
she means it and remember
junior high school summers
hidden behind my bedroom curtain
watching Mrs. Lind sunbathe, swim
in our backyard pool. I held
my breath, imagined my fingers
rubbing baby oil into her skin,
pushing the thin black straps
off her shoulders, pressing my hands
into her calves, sliding them
up and down her thighs. When she stayed
for dinner, lingered over cups
of coffee, it was my job to walk
her home. Frightened of shadows
and stray dogs, she grabbed my hand,
walked fast, asked about school,
my rock n roll band, the girls
that kept calling on the phone.
She made fun of my one word answers,
warned she always went for the quiet
type. I stood at the gate, waited
for her husband to open the door.
We walk to a nearby park, talk
about my parents, her two month old
granddaughter. She divorced Lou
eight years ago and can’t believe
I still live in Brooklyn. She touches
my wrist, lowers her voice.
I’m staying with my sister
while I’m an out patient
at Sloan Kettering. My eyes
try not to stare, try
not to find any signs.
She describes the chemo,
that seasick feeling,
the constant taste of metal
tingling on her tongue
before she forces out
a laugh. She takes my hand,
lifts it to her head. See?
How soft, how real it feels.
I stroke her hair, comb
my fingers through, push
it off her face. Arm
and arm. We walk back
to her car. I watch her
bend, fit behind the wheel.
She’s still wearing a black,
lacy bra. I lean over, kiss
her on the lips. Her mouth
opens softly. Our tongues
touch and it stirs something
that tastes like wild honey.
Published in The Ledge
He never showed me how to get down, stay
in front of hard hit grounders. Never bought
boxing gloves or taught me to use tools.
We never went hunting or fishing. Never
woke up at four in the morning, whispered
in and out of the bathroom, packed gear
in the back of a station wagon. Never fed
a fire or slept under the stars. No ice cold
beers to drink. Not one Korean War story.
My father went to work six days a week, left
while I still slept and came home hours
after dark. Sitting down to supper, he grunted,
nodded his head when I told him about A’s
on history quizzes, no hitters I pitched.
He ate quickly, drank black coffee, flicked
cigarette ashes in his dish and pushed back
his chair. He kissed mom’s forehead, brushed
a hand through my hair, went upstairs to bed.
Originally Published in West Branch
Tony Gloeggler is a native of NYC and manages group homes for the developmentally disabled in Brooklyn. His books include two full length collections One Wish Left (Pavement Saw Press, 2000) which went into a second edition and The Last Lie (NYQ Books 2010). Until the Last Light Leaves was published in 2016 by NYQ Books.