there are certain places,
that are somehow haunted
by the memory
of you, though you’re not
even dead.

it’s just that
every single time
I pass by the corner
of Fourteenth Street and
Second Avenue,
I remember, almost
against my will, that time
when we came out of
band practice and I had
just been yelled at
for being unprepared,
and I was so humiliated
and ashamed at how I
had just sat there
and taken it –
cowered abjectly in fear
like a child, particularly
in front of you – but
you said, “it reminded me
of my father, except my dad?
would have thrown
that pencil” which somehow
made me feel both
better and worse
at the same time,
and I could tell how much
you wanted to run away –
your eyes were darting
around in that way they do
when you’re looking for the
nearest exit – but I said with
tears in my voice, “please
could you just say one
nice thing to me
before you leave,” and you
sat down on the ledge
of the KFC window – but was it
a KFC then? that question in
particular haunts me, I think
it was but I’m not quite sure –
and you played scales
on the bass (electric,
unamplified) for me,
trying to demonstrate
some arcane point of
music theory, and you told me
to put my head right up onto
the neck of the bass, on
the other side
from the strings,
so I could hear it
and I still couldn’t really
hear it
but I pretended I could, and it
was starting to rain and the
raindrops dripped down my cheeks
in lieu of the tears
I could not shed and all
too soon you
ran away and didn’t come
to the next rehearsal, so
I naturally assumed you
wanted to quit the band and
due to my humiliation
(still severe) couldn’t quite
bring myself to
mention it and
nothing was ever quite
the same after that.

and just tonight I passed by
that awful pizza place
on the corner
of St. Marks and First
Avenue – which is inexplicably
still open – where
we used to hang out
with our friends, never
just you and me, always
in a group and
everyone loved it – except me –
because they have beer and
vividly flashed back
to the many awful nights
we spent there: you creeping
on anyone in a skirt, me
letting you disrespect me,
both of us sniping, needling and/or
pretending to ignore
each other, talking loudly
to anyone else
in the place, looking defiantly
everywhere and anywhere
but at each other, but knowing exactly
where the other one was
at all times, all
the while acting
like we couldn’t
care less – high school
type shit – and now
no one I know goes there
anymore and we don’t
hang out on Wednesday
mornings after the mic and
I guess I’m glad because

I’m doing much better
things now
than wasting hours
and hours trying
to make a silk purse
out of a sow’s ear.

Published by

R. Brookes McKenzie

what fresh hell is this

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