Everything breaks my heart
In my favorite episode of House
House and his German girlfriend
embrace each other after sex
his wet eyes bluely staring off and tearing up
her breathing shallow, eyes straining shut
they in tenderness shuddering –
Her holding on to him
Him holding on to her
Leaking as one, so desperate, reassured.
Like hearts pressed close could close each other’s scars.
I had to pause the VCR.
Yesterday it happened again.
On my way to school I saw a couple —
a girl and her boyfriend standing together.
She stayed still for a second,
swaying on her heels like a drinking bird;
melting into him,
her black bangs resting on his chest
his hands alighting near her breast
And that was just as bad.
Blushing, I faced a suddenly interesting lamppost —
anxious, unkempt voyeur that I am,
I crossed the street on the other side,
hoping that for the rest of the day
no one would decide to hug.
But wait, there’s more. It actually gets worse,
My soul is pained as well by reading verse.
Painful enjambments – those get me right
in the gut.
Am I paying too much attention, or not enough
to the little things? — like
gravestones in a cemetery row
or credits rolling after the movie ends.
Every week she comes to my house
to work through SAT problems,
always making the best of it,
gamely tying up her long black hair
and defining “sedulous.” She works
in her parents’ restaurant
in New Jersey. I hold
no power to free her from the hungry customers
for whom she spends her shimmering expanses of evenings
breading chicken strips.
I cannot force her from
her father, for whom
she would work through college,
scratching out coursework on delivery menus.
She takes more pleasure in “brobdingnagian”,
than I ever will. I am blown helpless like dandelion plumes
by the clarity of her presence, by her hair
swishing back and forth –
all this I think of
as she sits in my red dining-room chair and smiles at me
Little men in their aprons
Bashfully I slip off my shoes, my socks on the linoleum into the kitchen,
perching against the counter, conscious of my body
as he cracks eggs and pours their yolks into a glass bowl, where they swim.
Dough on the cutting board, breathing in and out. Let’s start, he says,
and hands me an apron, frayed and stained along the side.
It doesn’t matter. He starts to sculpt the dough,
kneading with his knuckles, pressing it deep into the countertop, masterfully,
and my hands are clumsy dance partners – copying his moves,
slapping the cushion of dough so hard it exhales.
Rap moves in from across the hall, and he mixes eggs to the music,
churning the yellow froth on every beat. We take a break,
and little brother Noah brings a cardboard box into the kitchen:
inside there is a cluster of home-made shoes, colorful and small;
three rows of papier-mâché feet
like hidden treasures. I pick
the smallest one, turquoise with a silver bow
and he crouches to help it
onto my heel. It fits, the material crackling against my skin. My friend laughs and his brother does too
little men in their aprons, laughing with me as the bread comes out,
expanding in the red warm room as Biggie rumbles in the den.
I was at a party
for my mother and her work friends,
and I, out of place, politely declined hors d’ouerve after hors d’ourve
until I found the hostess’s husband, an author,
sitting on the couch
eyes straight ahead
like at a military funeral. “I’m driving my wife
crazy,” he said, writing drafts, writing drafts –
I saw the drowning thoughts in his eyes, murky
with emerald pond water
And deep circles spreading from his lower lids. He was semi-famous –
he had written Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents years ago,
and been invited around the country to speak about
the naked air baths Benjamin Franklin took every morning.
As he told me all this, his daughter,
clad like a nude banana in her electric yellow onesie,
came up to me and solemnly licked my hand. I could hear his wife
chiding my mom to shut up and take food home, for gods sakes! For them
his green eyes tried not to mourn
the better books that he had left unformed. I told him
that it would come, and he wished me luck,
and we sank into the red couches together in our dress shirts
like mexican skeletons. Before I left,
he told me the title of his new book –- about military history –
still in his head, still secret – in his soft and manly way it fell
“Outnumbered.” And then dinner was done. Arrangements
were made, and the producers fell into sedans
and lit up the quiet country night with their beams, driving back.
Mack Muldofsky, Age 16, Grade 11, The Dalton School, Gold Key