Bill Roberts
Interlude with Mary

That evening had been arranged pretty carefully
by our basement boarders, Jim and Pheenie,
and they reassured me it wouldn’t hurt a bit.
We rehearsed where we’d go, what would
and wouldn’t be said, how Jim would
pick up the tab for any food, beverages,
the tickets, and how if I had a mind to,
I’d hold Mary’s hand in the backseat
of their car and possibly kiss her goodnight,
if I was so inclined and didn’t mind too much.
It went pretty well according to plan,
except I was shaken by how simply lovely
Jim’s niece turned out to be, and we all knew
she’d be thrilled to watch stockcars
go round and round a dusty dirt oval.
I could tell she’d have a cheeseburger too,
if I ordered one myself.
She only ate half of hers, explaining
partially why she was so slender.
I held her cool hand in the car and kissed her
on the front porch of the house where she lived.
She said goodnight, smiled, and
met me with urgency when I kissed her
a second time, then hurried in the house.
Jim thanked me, which wasn’t necessary.
Pheenie couldn’t find words, which was okay.
I told them I’d enjoyed meeting Mary.
We’d rehearsed everything except
how we’d feel when she died a few weeks later.

First published in the April 2001 issue of ‘Offerings.