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Close Call

Ted pushed through the bathroom door, 

knocking into a stranger idly chatting,

who shouted, Dude, what the fuck!

And threw the stall door behind him 

As the vomit flew out his mouth,

On the seat

And the blinking red flush button.

Disgusting man, the stranger continued,

As Ted became able to re-collect his thoughts 

and the blinding waves of nausea vanished,

A melancholy perspiration dousing him 

Into a comforting chill


I feel so much better.

I reflect on the markered stall walls.

Christ, but-

I lift my hands from the cold floor. 

Jesus. This is disgusting.

And there’s puke everywhere.

Jesus, it’s a fucking mess.

I stand and roll toilet paper on my hand.  I wipe the seat into the bowl.

I pull more toilet paper and wipe down the button.

Brown liquid settles in some of the tinier crevices

And I begin to see some futility in my task.

I pull more toilet paper and wipe my hands, 

tearing it in shreds, dropping it in and flushing the whole mess.

There is still vomit all over the floor and the back of the toilet.

I’ve got a small splash on one of my shoes and a little on my pea coat.

I head out of the stall and wash my hands.  

There is a large stack of paper towels and I consider taking some to clean the mess.

Instead I decided to abandon it.

Simultaneously, the door opens.


Tim, Rick and Harvey entered the men’s room.

Tim, the loudest of the three, always led with Rick only a step behind him.

Rick was very serious and very stern.

Yo, this fucking bathroom reeks- yo, holy fuck, check that out.

Tim stepped to one urinal and Rick to the other. 

Harvey looked in the stall.  

He thought of himself as a funny person, but only a handful of people, including his mother, agreed.

Oh my gosh, that’s disgusting!  I gotta piss.

Well you’re gonna have to wait man, unless you want to use the toxic john.

Rick laughed loudly and shook Tim by the shoulder. 

Ted threw away his paper towel and left the bathroom.

Yo - you know that fucking guy did it.

Definitely.

Fucking, straight up, didn’t say a word about it.  I’ll bet you that motherfucker just goes right back to drinking.


Water.  

Bartender heads the other way.  

Who else is waiting?

That guy is leaning in hard.  

He’s making it impossible for her to miss him.

She’s already running left and right, her eyes down.

It’s not clear if she sees anything, but she sees her perimeter.

What can I get you?

Club soda lemon.

She moves with speed.  She knows I’m issuing a distress call.  

There are places where the bartenders just get annoyed.  

The cocktail places where tips are more than a buck on drinks.

She plants an enormous red cup like something from my childhood  

From the top I see the floating lemon in a sea of ice cubes,

but in the dark of the bar, 

and through the blood red of the plastic, 

the water inches deep is dark as night.

In my ear, WE’RE GONNA LEAVE.

It pierces through the music’s deluge like a needle through my ear drum.

I ask where they’re headed.

HOME and then they began making excuses to me why they were heading home.

They called themselves lame and made these squished up mock apologetic faces.

We told each other how good it was to meet, 

separately, in whatever way I,

as a strange man

does with another strange man-

“Great to meet you”, we each say, then clap each other on the back

And then as a strange man like myself does

with another strange woman, saying the same words, 

but with emphasis on syllables

And the hug sharp and clean, 

like two spiders might hug

I checked my cell phone for the time.  It was past two o’clock now.  

I flagged the waitress for a $5 beer that came in a glass bottle.

It’s too late in the night and my supper’s been rejected,

I can no longer chance your dirty taps,

Uncle Tiffany’s, 

I gotta get the beer that’s gone through filtered tanks.


(June 2022)

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