The girl with brown hair was from a good family,
“good” as in “with money.”
She was touted as a “good student” by her friend,
who set us up with a “blind” date.
The brown-haired girl told her friend later
I was “so swarthy,” and I “looked like a refined
ex-hood.” Next day I borrowed Dupree’s car,
and rear-ended another, skidding on morning
drizzle. Neither Dupree nor I had insurance.
He paid the damages and I owed him.
Dupree ran his own version of numbers,
a game any white boy needed to know
to go where he went, and now he went double time . . .
I walked everywhere. It was good for me.
I slimmed down. I started reading Dostoevsky,
the works. I was intent upon learning
how Seattle might resemble St. Petersburg.
I liked to fuck with Connie. She liked to mother
her lovers, she claimed. No need to mention
the food she prepared before or after,
nor how she kept going, caressing me
to keep me coming. I never told her I didn’t believe
mothers did that, but then she knew I didn’t know
anything about mothers. I must have had one,
but who? Would I ever know? Connie was childless,
and told me straight out making love with me
was the closest to having a child she would get.
I liked to call her Natasha, after the Filippovna woman
Myshkin desires. I told her all about The Idiot.
She said, “I love the way you talk, Bobby, you make
me want to take the time to read, when I have time.”
She took one day off after two weeks on.
She wanted to be able to afford to live on her own.
Her husband furnished her a place to sleep, for now . . .
Connie seemed to me more like the Sofya
who rescues Raskolnikov, though Connie
was more aggressive, refused to sell her body,
saw no reason to attach herself to another man,
no matter her needs. Marmeladov’s daughter had
no choice but to sell herself on the street.
She grew up in an attic room where she could not
stand straight. Connie read Crime and Punishment.
I never saw the girl with long brown hair again.
I didn’t fancy myself "swarthy" or "refined,”
and no one I knew–not Dupree, not Clark,
not Sanchez, not Jim (yet)–were cons. Sanchez
and I were swarthy, but only I read The House
of the Dead. Nor did we inhabit The Possessed.
In The Brothers Karamazov I took on all
the roles–Ivan, Dmitri, Alyosha, and Father Zossima,
even the child Ilyusha. But not the bastard son, Smerdyakov.
I was in Dylan’s when Jacqui showed up
a second time. She asked me what I was writing.
The Great Gatsby, I joked. She didn’t laugh,
but said she preferred Tender Is the Night.
She didn’t seem literary. She looked like one
who loved to fuck. I would find out.
Meanwhile, Connie dropped by when she was free.
Jacqui said she was reading On the Road.
Later on, she would read Last Exit to Brooklyn.
I preferred Selby, who knew more about a life
I knew in spite of what else I wanted
to know . . . As for Kerouac, I loved Maggie Cassidy.
When Earlene and I left the coffee shop the night
I walked her all the way home holding hands,
her hair falling around her small shoulders
after a day and night of the required hairnet.
It was a long walk in daylight, even longer at night,
and along the way she would stop so we could kiss.
She shushed me, inviting me in. Her son
was sleeping. She made tea and we whispered
loud enough to hear. She told me of home, Monroe,
Louisiana, then of her flight from New Orleans–
no place to rear Roderick, even with his father sober.
When she met him, Earlene loved to party
and live the good life, in the thick of things.
Then she became pregnant and they married
when he asked her to; her biggest mistake ever,
she vowed. Thank God that was all behind her.
Yes, she believed in God but didn’t go to church.
There was something wrong if you had to prove
to others how devout you were. Her God
was the voice inside that answered prayers.
After tea we kissed. Long, sweet kisses. I held her
very close, then left. She had a long day ahead.
(27 January 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander