“Can I move in with you?” you asked me from my open door.
The porch and parking lot were dark behind you, to be sure.
We’d met when I was eighteen and you twenty-three; we’d spied
Each other on the stairs to our apartments side-by-side,
You’d there invited me and my new housemates for a meal
With you and yours. Some good home cooking sounded like a real
Smart way to get to know each other. Six of us, all told,
Soon gathered round your table, ate warm pasta, veggies, cold
Red wine that you’d laid out. For months thereafter, I was hooked.
I’d never dated anyone before, but since you looked
Yet willing to be asked, I figured well, why not. We went
Out to the Irregardless Café Friday, and we spent
A part of Saturday just talking. Then I left that night
For organ practice at the church, and came back late. You might
Have thought I had another sweetheart, but it wasn’t true,
Unless my sweetheart was a bunch of metal pipes that blew
Out music. When I heard you’d gone out dancing, I was glad
You’d found something to do. You never said if you were mad
At me for going elsewhere; nonetheless you came back drunk.
This music always speaks to me. At dance I’ve always stunk.
Next morning, on my way back to the church in suit and tie,
I met your housemate laying out in her bikini. “Hi”,
She said “You’re looking good!” and my reply was “So are you!”
It was a vacuous enough exchange, far as I knew.
You started getting drunk more often, staying out real late.
I wondered if it would be wise to try another date
When you seemed more attracted to the bottle than to me,
Which came as no surprise: I was a nerd, as you could see,
And you too cool, with all your dance, your British car nonesuch
Until some shmuck wrecked with it where you’d parked and left not much
Worth saving from it. You knocked and came in to see me then.
We took another meal together. That’s the last time when
I thought that you might need me, for the next time when you knocked
Was dawn one morning. I asked what had happened. You were locked
Outside since night; you’d lost your key. I said why don’t we share
Some breakfast. I set it before you; all you did was stare
Ahead, you barely touched it. Soon I had to go to work.
I bade you use my phone to call your housemates. “It would irk
Nobody in the least if you would stay long as you like.”
I’d no idea that what I’d said just possibly could strike
You as an invitation to live there with me for good,
Since you now stayed out all night, and night after night. How could
I know this day was coming, even once you’d packed your things
In garbage bags you’d set inside my doorway, tied with strings?
When I’d asked why, you’d said none of the housemates would be staying:
Not yours, not mine, just me. Now that the landlord had me paying
For the summer months my share, while your old place would stand
All empty till the fall semester started, had you planned
To let me think, up to that evening, that your bags were there
Presumably just till you found a place? You knew I’d care
Enough about you not to throw you out into the street
Some muggy late spring night like this; where else could you retreat?
And once you were moved in, what would our lives be like? Just think:
Would you leave me here every night, alone, till I would drink
About as much as you? Or would you compound my frustration
By coming home with hunks off dancefloors all across creation
To take them to your room, their hearts all pumping with elation,
Allowing me to carry on my life of masturbation;
My only visitors, my family, wouldn’t like this scene:
Me living with a wild femme. Their feelings wouldn’t mean
As much, if we financially could make do on our own
But as it was, I couldn’t earn for two, nor get a loan
Enough for us finish college while we had to pay
The rent on this apartment. Still, “I wish that you would stay.”
I looked, but there was nothing but the open door to see.
You’d taken your bags with you, while I, in my reverie,
Had failed to notice. I walked to where you had just been standing.
But you were nowhere within sight from up there on the landing.
I stood in place, who knows how long, then realized the AC
Was wasting all its breath in laughing quietly at me.
I tracked you down a few years later, called, and got a guy
Who passed the phone to you. You told me you were glad that I
Had called, that you weren’t drinking anymore. Your man and you
Were happy just to be together. Simplest things are true.