Potluck

 

T  H  I  S    W  E  E  K

Five Poems by Jo Barchi

I Do

“What did I do, baby?” he asked.

“You know,” she answered.

“Just tell me,” he said.

“YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID.”

But he didn’t. That was the problem. And she wasn’t offering any spoilers today.

“I grabbed the papers on the way out,” he said.

“I know,” she said.

“They’re in my briefcase behind your seat.”

“I believe you.”

“And the airline tickets of course.”

“Good.”

“Then what is it? Am I driving too fast or something?”

“No.”

“You want to change the station?”

“No, I like this song. You should know that.”

He was squeezing the steering wheel and realized his fingers were numb. He flipped through the rolodex of stupid shit he’d done in the past few weeks, but every suggestion he made fell short.

“Turn’s coming up soon,” she said. “You’ll have to take the next left onto Brody.”

“Okay.”

“After that, you remember which building?”

“I’ll have to see.”

“Okay.”

“That one up ahead?” he asked.

“No,” she said.

“Wait, which side of the street am I looking at?”

“I knew you wouldn’t remember.”

“Are you mad about me not knowing where it is?”

“I don’t want to talk about it right now. It’s there on the right,” she said.

I see it. Ah yes, I remember now,” he said.

“No you don’t even. You’re just trying to cover for yourself. Now park close, I don’t want to have to walk far in these shoes.”

Truth is, he WAS covering for himself. He didn’t know this place any better than he knew his way around Taiwan. It looked like any other dull building in any other office park. He turned into the parking lot and pulled into a space near the front. The fender scraped along the yellow parking bumper.

“Wait, don’t turn the car off yet,” she said. “I like this song, too.”

“You actually LIKE this song?” he asked.

“Fuck you. Forget it. Turn it off and let’s go get this over with.”

“We can stay and listen, it’s okay.”

“No. Dammit, why can’t you just tell me you’re sorry? Why can’t you ever tell me that?” she asked.

“I still don’t know what I should be sorry for,” he said.

“Of course you don’t.”

“I don’t know what you want from me.”

“I want you to apologize.”

“But you’re not going to tell me what I did?” he asked.

“Forget it. Doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t really be sorry,” she said.

“Not if you don’t tell me what you’re mad at.”

She sat and didn’t move. He arms were crossed tightly, tucked under her arms, her shoulders forward. She looked like she was trying to break her own ribs. Then she got out of the car and he grabbed his briefcase and followed.

“C’mere. I’ve gotta fix that stupid tie of yours.”

“What’s wrong with my tie?”

“It’s a mess. You should’ve rented a clip-on.”

“Clip-ons are tacky.”

“There. Now it’s better. How’s my makeup?”

“It’s perfect. You look beautiful.”

“I don’t believe you. I’ll check it myself inside,” she said.

“Fine. After you,” he said.

He held the door open for her, and they walked inside the building. The lobby was large and quiet, except for the sound of a small waterfall in the fountain behind the unmanned security desk. Her heels echoed off the marble floors.

“You know where we’re going?” he asked.

“Room 304, don’t you remember? Elevator’s this way,” she said.

“Okay. Memory’s vague. I was picturing some place over on 3rd,” he said.

“The Driver’s License Place?”

“I figured this kind of stuff would all be in the same building.”

“This isn’t at all just STUFF,” she said.

The elevator door opened. He didn’t remember if he’d even hit the button. They stepped inside.

“Okay. Which floor?” he asked.

“Think about which floor THREE-OH-FOUR might be on, Einstein.”

“Right. You ever push all the elevator buttons when you were a kid?” he asked.

“Of course not. What would be the point?” she asked.

“I don’t really know. Just something we did.”

“Seems mean. No surprise there, I suppose.”

“Oh, can you just tell me why you’re mad at me?”

“I don’t want to do this right now,” she said.

“You really want to be mad at me today?” he asked.

“It’s not the end of the world. People can be mad at people,” she said.

“I know. But the doors will be opening in a second. Maybe a hint?”

“Forget it.”

“Then make out with me instead!” he said.

“No!” she laughed.

“Would that be so bad? Then we could just forget about all this.”

“You’re such a jerk.”

“But I can still make you smile.”

“Yes. Sometimes.”

The elevator door opened and they stepped out. Her heels brought the top of her head almost in line with the bottom of his chin. For the first time all day she seemed relaxed. Well, her version of relaxed.

“There, it’s down the hall on the left,” she said.

“Oh. I remember now,” he said.

“See?”

“Isn’t this where we signed the license?”

“Yes. Well, one room over. This is his personal office.”

“Whose? The judge’s?”

“Who else?”

“I didn’t know judges had personal offices.”

“Well this one does.”

“Apparently,” he said.

“We’re here,” she said.

She stepped closer to him and stood on her toes, her face close to his. She sniffed his cheek.

“You smell nice.” she said.

“Thanks,” he said.

She smiled.

“Shit.”

“What?”

“I didn’t pick up the flowers.”

She stepped back. “I know.”

“That’s the thing, isn’t it?”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said.

“I’m sorry.”

“Thank you for saying that.”

“You’re not going to have a bouquet.”

“It’s okay.”

“No it’s not. Wait here and –“

“There’s no time. He leaves at two and it’s a quarter till.”

“Oh. I’m sorry,” he said.

“It’s okay. It’s not like there will be photos,” she said.

“Alright.”

“And flowers just die, anyway.”

“I got it.”

“Your hand feels really nice,” she said.

“Yours does too,” he said.

“We’re doing this, right?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Till death?” she asked.

“At least!” he said.

“Okay then. Open the door.

 

 

 

 

 

Aaron Grayum’s work has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post and The Colored Lens. He writes and makes art in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and family. His website can be found here.