Eighteen

I was eighteen years old and I was away from home for the first time. I was living with a family in a nearby affluent neighborhood as a nanny, a housekeeper, and chief cook and bottle-washer. I was only thirty minutes from home but it felt like hundreds more. I saw myself as the next Emily Dickinson, giving credence to being alone way too often. On an evening off, I went to a poetry reading at a college nearby, and took a seat a few rows from the back, second seat in.

I watched his face as he spoke with wild passions, my own eyes excited, my nostrils flaring, basking in the glow of electric poetry. I was an innocent, an ingénue. I had never had a boyfriend. But I was engaging in some serious eye contact with a professor at least twice my age and it was not my imagination that he was staring back, this man in a tan corduroy jacket with patches on the elbows. I wore Bass penny loafers with a cloud of Coty Musk perfume about my hair. When he was finished I clapped lustily and looked at the program to see who was reading next. As they started, someone slipped into the seat next to me. It was him.

My heart beat so fast I was sure everyone could hear it. The young student at the podium read her poem and I tried to listen but for this grown ass man next to me. What did he want? Was he really doing what I think he was doing? Doesn’t he know I am only eighteen? Just a kid? Half-way into the next poem, he got up and left. I was a little heartbroken and a little relieved. I can only imagine he thought I was someone else. I have a face like that. No not the one that launched one thousand ships. I have a face that says you’ve seen me before. A cousin, a fellow student, worked with you in the back line of a restaurant kitchen, or maybe it is just a line. But you are sure you’ve seen me before.

contemplating autumn
on a too-cool June day
a tom cat howls

 

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