Two am. You’ve wandered off of an Atlantic City boardwalk and into your office, a dangerous corner of New Jersey at any time during a workday. Your love for her is as thick as the wad on Franklins you try to hide in the shallow pockets of your card player’s black, silver pin-striped suit, your office armor with the power red tie, minus the white handkerchief, and you’re paranoid that the voices that line the artificial walls of every cubicle you pass can call out your most valuable secret.
“No. The money’s not real. It’s a metaphor,” says your mother, “for the value of what you really think you’ve won by being with her.”
Metronome Mom wags her right index finger in time as she lectures you on what’s right and what’s wrong. Wearing a cliched London Fog raincoat and a weathered Fedora, she stands at the end of the Steel Pier, teeny-bopper dance hot spot of her day used to play, now matured into the entrance to the company break room.
“Sleeping with a married woman is not a real relationship,” Mother mouths an echo as you move past her on your way to sustenance, energy you need to get through the day after a long night with her.
And in one sentence, underneath your breath, you tell your mother that doing the babysitter isn’t a commitment, remembering Alice Richmond, uber-babysitting babe and the many weeks she spent atop your father’s Top Ten and how she practiced being your mom every time she put you to bed, read you a good book, kissed you on the head and tucked you beneath the warm Robbie the Robot bed sheets. Even after dreaming this same dream, you still want to tell your mother that you are not your father. That what you have is something different, because even in dreams your life is always something different than what happened before you happened into your own experience. But as you see yourself seeing yourself from your father’s side of the street, the bedroom door is always closing as you watch your father next to Alice.
And on those nights when her husband is away, she feels at home in your self-described studio above a two-car garage where no one will find her. Even her cell phone’s ring-ring-rings pour off the nightstand and into a bucket of voicemail. And as she lies next to you, her breathing relaxes you while all hell breaks loose several hallways over. Ferocious assistants fighting fisticuffs to protect the vessel holding your greatest fear: being discovered. Those frontline figures, guardians of executive officers, formers of their own gossip grapevines, control the flow of the details of your adulterous escapades, vividly reminding you that you are vulnerable, your secret ever on the verge of discovery, as you sleep, her in your arms.
C.H. Coleman lives in Vermont. His poetry, short stories and articles have appeared online in PiF, Ducts, Poetry Flyer and in print in Takoma Voice, Uno Mas, Washington, DC’s City Paper and The Lynn (MA) Evening Item.