A bearded man in ski boots watches me as he sips his orange juice and I wish I could drink like that. All that sugar first thing in the morning. He seems sad in that way that bearded men sometimes do when they are trying to pick up women. The waitress asks what brought me here and I see him look at me again, turn his head so that he can half listen to his friend, half hear my story. He seems to like it — Au pair... Australian family here on holiday...flew me out to visit. I wonder what I might say to a man like him if he hobbles over in his space suit. Sorry sir, I’ve got a man of my own back home. I picture his life -- pushing down a french press alone in some cabin in the woods, humming with a voice like an indie musician because all bearded, lonely men sound like indie musicians — as I cut into my toast with the edge of the fork, pull it through some eggs, hold a book open in my left hand and wonder about the way people meet. If it is ever as romantic as he is wishing this could be. He hears me order another latte and tells the waitress it’s on him. He smiles. I smile. He asks if I mind if he sits, I say of course not. He asks me my name, where I’m from. I ask him the same. Suddenly it’s hours later and he’s asked for my phone number and we begin a long distance romance. He spins me around in his kitchen on the weekends, I take him on long walks, we fall in love with each other’s friends. He ties a piece of string around my finger and a ring appears, dangling in the air above a white down comforter. People only meet this way in movies. In reality it’s work, school, sneaking away to kiss by the refrigerator when their friends aren’t looking. They fall in love fast and out faster. They are constantly apologizing for getting too drunk, for not saying good night in the right tone. For driving other women home from bars. This man thinks that because I am twenty-something, and alone, drinking coffee and eating raspberry jam on the last bit of my toast that I am different. He thinks that he is different and that he deserves me. I think that I am an asshole for this imagined dialogue. The way that I pretend to read while I am really practicing what I will say to him if he comes over here, how I will prove that life is not an independent film. But as he stands and tips the glass and empties the last of the orange juice into his mouth, and stares at me for a good long beat before he nods at me in that bearded, lonely man kind of way, picks up his yellow tinted goggles and his gloves and walks away, turning as he goes to look hard at me one last time and show his white teeth through the red web, I realize this is an independent film. The kind you have to watch over, and over, before you truly understand.
Kate Peterson earned her MFA in poetry from Eastern Washington University in Spokane, where she lives and works as an adjunct professor. Her poems have been published in Medical Literary Messenger, Barnstorm, and Eat This Poem, among others. She has poetry forthcoming in The Examined Life Journal and The Sierra Nevada Review. Her feeble attempt at a website can be found here.
FLASH GLASS: A MONTHLY PUBLICATION OF FLASH FICTION, PROSE POETRY, & MICRO ESSAYS
Cover Image: "Spots"