Frances Klein

Waterside Bar, Lake Michigan, 1:53 AM

I want a black eye, and this walking haircut won’t give me one. I let him pay too much for an
umbrella drink and renew my request, but he just smiles with those teeth, and he’s every prep-
schooler who spent junior high with braces they didn’t need. And I love him, a little. At least, I
love how in love he is with this vision of himself, this savior he sees in sepia in the bar mirror.
Our shoulders knock, and his cologne is like the hot wind off a public pool in summertime: shit
and chlorine and suntan lotion. But nostalgia won’t get me where I need to go, so when he
reaches out-- four umbrellas in-- to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear, I trap his fist in both
hands and cuff it soft against my cheekbone. He winces, withdraws, won’t. In his mind he’s the
Pyramus to my Thisbe, not the lion, not the wall I’ve built myself with every minute of this
evening. Yet I could ask him for money, a thousand dollars even. He wouldn’t hesitate. He’d go
back to Nantucket, and I’d become just another story he gets laid on, the time he saved a
woman’s life. And though I’ll soon need to get serious, for now I close my eyes, let what this bar
passes off as rum soak into my cerebellum. I picture my black eye, bruise blooming out from the
center to shadow my temple, my brow, the bridge of my nose. I envision the burst vessels, blood
covering the sclera like a dropped veil.

27 May, 2021

Frances Klein is a high school English teacher. She was born and raised in Southeast Alaska, and taught in Bolivia and California before settling in Indianapolis with her husband and son. She has been published in So it Goes: The Literary Journal of the Vonnegut Memorial Library and Tupelo Press, among others. Readers can find more of her work at https://kleinpoetryblog.wordpress.com/.