There were times, Davis would admit now, and only now, now that everything and nothing was at stake, that he had been truly happy. These would be the opening gambits, the first moves, the early rushes of desire: the catch of breath when he saw a woman’s hair move just so in the light of the subway; the slight double take he’d do to catch a door just because the woman coming the other way deserved to have it held, and, because he held it, Davis deserved her smile, a small bit of magenta lipstick on her teeth; the nod of his head he might give to someone in the elevator. Possibility. Possibility like a new credit card.
And oh the ways to run up the tab. There were the getting-to-know-you dinners, the drinks with shared stories, that search for common ground: oh you like dirty martinis? "Me too, and thus another round was ordered;" there were those early kisses—the beautiful uncertainty of it all.
Beginnings, Davis would admit, were always happy.
And yet there, stretching out in the dawn light of such dates was a long shadow that ended eventually somewhere in the distance, always with rancor and remorse, always with something gone wrong, something he could easily shoulder the blame for.
In his twenties, the endings he could forget, quickly if need be, a night out with friends, some live music, maybe light flirtation like a bowlful of peanuts on the bar–nothing to satisfy hunger, but enough there to take the edge off. In his thirties, when his relationships lasted longer, when he’d actually wed and divorced and stood before a judge with something akin to tears, he’d stay in. He nursed his pain the way he would a bad back. He lay in bed. He took muscle relaxants. He watched television. Inevitably he went out again; inevitably believed again in the restorative powers of kissing.
Now, nearly fifty, it was hard to even imagine the beginnings without seeing the end already there, like a flaw in the very DNA of any relationship. How he longed to kiss someone, but refused to, how he got caught up in just flirtations, let them stay there as if just that moment was what mattered, as if just that moment might be enough.
Then the aching for more made even the first wink feel like a grain of dust there in the corner of his eye.
Gerry LaFemina’s numerous collections of poetry include The Parakeets of Brooklyn, Vanishing Horizon, and Little Heretic. His collection of essays on poets and prosody, Palpable Magic, came out in 2015 from Stephen F Austin University Press and his textbook, Composing Poetry: A Guide to Writing Poems and Thinking Lyrically was recently released from Kendall Hunt. A new book of poems, The Story of Ash, is forthcoming this year. He teaches at Frostburg State University and as a mentor in the MFA Program at Carlow University.