Across the back of a checklist for inspecting the power lifts at work, I scribbled in black ink:
– continue maintenance of the grounds
– reassemble court
– put the king on a strict diet
Those things are so much more easily declared than carried out.
Faith points to the dirt on my shoes and says, “It looks like the queen is leaving at night. But why?”
“What am I doing?” I ask myself on the way home from the sports bar. How many times am I going to wave my credit in front of the waiters' face, knowing that the men will never allow me to pay?
How many more times have I got left, to act like I don’t notice that one of them has regularly taken to the stool on my left side?
“Not gonna lie,” he says before anything similar to a confession. And I think, ‘not gonna lie’. Isn’t that a bold statement.
I hate it when they break from the jokes to ask me a personal question. I hate it even more when something personal slips out.
“So like, what kind of gardening do you do?”
“How do you know I garden?”
“Uhhh, you told me last week?”
“And you actually listened? That’s incred-Wait a minute, I get it,” I catch on, and fold my hands neatly. Turning my head to the side, looking like a sappy lending ear, I say in my fake caring voice, “What do you want to talk about?”
“You’ve never been there?” he asks about some place down the street or some blocks over.
“I told you, I’m not from here!”
And he always says, about the arcade, or the restaurant, or what-have-you,
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
Like there is no reason for a good time to end. And when I sit with them there, staring down the length of the steel while they tell competing tales and share the absurdities in their lives, not gonna lie, I am never entirely ready to say when.
“When is your birthday, Autumn?”
“Forget it. If it’s anything about her-“
“Wait, when is your birthday?! Isn’t it coming up? Are you gonna have a party?”
“Nice deflection,” he says to me, and looks at me again once I have successfully changed the topic. I pull on the strings to my hood as if it should never have come off.
Maybe there are no good excuses for lowering the draw bridge.
Maybe there are no knights of round tables.
Or, maybe, they now sit at one long bar.
Sometimes we talk for so long that the place closes and makes us take slow steps outside.
“I laughed so hard at this music video. If you want, we could probably hop in my truck and I could show you on my phone.”
I look across the rainy parking lot at the vehicle sitting there. The doors that close. The simple invitation from that bar stool on my left.
No matter how disconnected or uncertain life can get,
I find it makes the most sense to never forget about being Queen.
“I’ve got to get going. Thank you for letting me hang out with you guys again.”
“Have a good night.”
And later, on my phone:
I hope you made it home ok.
If I didn’t, this ghost gets text messages.
Either they have no idea that two beers are hardly worth the cost, or they know the journey I take to get back to my kingdom.
Someday, I tell myself, it will all come together. And a pen name won’t matter, what trail I leave, or what makes my heart beat. The mediums will collide, the anti-glare will turn to flesh, everyone will get along and the