It’s not normal to cry over an egg salad sandwich.
I know this.
Three days ago, he called to say he was clean
but hadn’t eaten in nine days.
I’d heard from him maybe five times
in the last quarter century, but I knew exactly who he was.
You don’t forget a thing like that.
The day I met him, I was a screaming fucking maniac
throwing all of my douchebag boyfriend’s clothes down
steep stairs into the street.
I was 17 and hadn’t been home in months.
He parked that piece of shit motorcycle, and without a word
helped me pitch a six-drawer dresser to splinter in the green grass.
Guns and Roses raged from the neighbor’s porch
and suddenly it was all rain in my face,
wind in my hair,
strobe lights down there.
Come on, baby. Give it to me good.
Cocaine, fat joints.
Fists and I’m so sorry.
You know I love you, but we should
put some ice on that.
It’s just you and me –
except when it’s me and her, me and whiskey, me out all night.
Bruises, band aids, motorcycles sliding on asphalt.
World by the balls and small, small town.
Eight ball, stripper pole, black lights,
shots of Jaeger before each shift.
All I wanted was for him to love me.
And love me he did.
Some people love with fists and fat lips.
Then it was crack cocaine, sharp fear in the night,
that glass table in so many knives on the floor.
I remember watching his tattoo as he cracked
five eggs, each shell shattering itself again and again
on the tips of his fingers.
He wasn’t wearing a shirt.
I had red lipstick and cleavage,
both a little too much in the bright light of the kitchen.
We were still drunk
with the power of youth,
didn’t even suspect the devastation to come.
No way to see
the son, the daughter, waiting quietly beneath his skin.
Only his stark beauty and the fact
that I’d never before eaten egg salad, which explains
why we two left the party, boiled water
in a stranger’s pot, and spent the next five years
loving each other almost to pieces.
Now those kids are older than he was then.
Now it’s been 23 years homeless.
I can’t stop, baby please help me.
Snow, ice, batteries
from dumpsters, cardboard signs, dirty,
Old man face, brain a cluster fuck of need and regret.
Four fingers, two toes gone.
Staph infection and no ride to the hospital.
The stench of bridges burning to the ground.
So yeah, I sent him money the other day
because nine days is a long time and your first love
is an addiction worse than any drug.
When the hospital called
to say he’d stroked out, that he sure as fuck
wasn’t clean, never had been.
That those two kids, grown now, are next of kin,
and could I ring them up on the phone?
I happened to be eating an egg salad sandwich
and I couldn’t help but cry over those five dead chickens.