Never Sent To Spain

Every day they were there.

For weeks
I came home
in the afternoon
pretending to have

any sort of purpose
other then smoking
and working as
a telemarketer
in that dingy
23rd floor office
in Grammercy Park.

I was sending out
color-coded tickets
to free screenings
of new TV shows
to retired couples
in Pebble Beach.

When I came home
the two of them
were always sitting
on the top stair
whether it was
raining or sunny,
warm or cold.

They looked about
fourteen years old,
and though I rarely
saw them touch,

nor even hold hands,

the obvious feelings
they were trying so
hard to hide
from this city
and each other,

the fact that two kids could
find one another,

was only one more sign of my utter
incompetence and despair.

I hated them for this,
hated their guarded happiness,
hated his Jets
hat cocked perfectly
to the side,
his bleached white
turtleneck beneath his
Sprewell jersey,
and the gold link
chain he wore proudly
over top.

I hated her hair in tight braids,
hated her clear pale skin,
hated those expressive,
ancient, blue eyes,
and that
slightest trace of unbleached,
black down
above her lip that only
made her more mysterious
to him.

I hated the luxury
and patience
of the game
they played
with their youth.

I don't know what they talked about,
their language was neither
English nor Spanish
but something in between,
and even when I tried to do
my "private eye" thing

I was totally unable to penetrate
the secret of their fascination
with one another.

Sometimes, though, I caught him
getting up and mimicking
somebody, a friend
or mutual acquaintance,
a member of his family
or maybe hers
(I imagined all this.)

Sometimes, when she looked away,
wouldn't give him the time of day,
he'd break into a funny little dance
that was all elbows and knees.

I half recognized this dance
as if it was a dance I could have once
danced for someone a long time ago,
and I often wondered if he made it up on the spot,
or saw it somewhere on TV.

She would try
her best not to,
but she'd finally
then act all pissed off
that she did,
whine three words,

"O.K. Enuffff. Stoppppppp!"

And he'd quickly sit back

adjust his hat back to that
perfect angle, and
turn his face back to stone
as the silence of the
city returned.

Sometimes, though,
in the late afternoon,
when she thought
no one was looking,
she'd lean her head
on his shoulder and close
her eyes.

Always he'd let her.

I'd watch them from across
the street,
stand like that for minutes,
just watch them.

one day
three weeks ago,
right after my career
as a telemarketer
was unexpectedly
for sending
the wrong color tickets to
the wrong retired couples in
the wrong city,
the two were gone.

I haven't seen
either of them
on the stoop,
in the streets,
in the park, or

The stairwell is empty
when I return and
when I leave.

I no longer
have to wait for
them to endure my
one more time
as they part
their two sets
of bony legs
for me to
step through.

They no longer
have to pretend
not to notice
me as I take
the garbage out
or run to the bodega
for my cigarettes...

I don't know
how much longer
I can take it here,

and I dream
it was there first


New York - 1/99