Continued from previous…
I sat down at their table, bold and brazen. (At least, I hope that’s the impression I gave.) By way of introduction, I ventured, “So, tell me your names and about yourselves.”
I get the story: friends from Nevada, traveling and doing legwork in support of Proposition 8. We make introductions but I focus on the blonde boy’s name alone. Initially, I sense he’s amused by my presence. To get a shot with him, I need to charm his friends; I have to win the group over and get in their good graces. It’s only fair–I took the group by surprise so it’s my job to carry the conversation and offer my wit. And if I do say so, I did my job well. One of them even remarked upon it: “You are really good at making conversation, you know that?”
Why, thank you, I guess.
I discover my target is an English teacher in Nevada (swoon) and an aspiring writer. We chat about books and literature, his writing, and teaching. I find out his buddies work in the coal mines… and I genuinely was shocked that coal mining still exists in this country. Moreover, in Nevada it is fairly common for high school and college age students to work there as a first job. Not to be ignorant, but I had just assumed the U.S. had mined all of our nation’s coal decades ago and sourced these essential minerals abroad. An eye-opener, to say the least.
They are finishing up the last of their pitcher around this time and, being gentleman, offer to me some. I don’t have a glass so, being the classy lady I am, I grab the pitcher and sip right out of it. It was a ballsy move, but I knew I had to prove I was chill to roll with them the rest of the night.
It did the trick. They laughed, and my blonde-haired man offered me his pint glass to share. They said they were going to go next door for pizza and invited me along. I agreed, and told them I’d meet them outside the bar after I closed my tab.
Arriving at the bar, I see one of my friends taking shots with the Irish gentleman. She yanks me over and demands, “take a shot with us!” She’s a little blitzed, but enough in control that I don’t need to worry. I’ve got higher pursuits, so I decline the shot and share a little that I’ve learned about my target.
“So, ya’gonna sleep wit’him?” slurs the Irishman.
“I don’t know, we’re going next door for pizza. Hey —, I’ll text you and let you know if I need a ride home.”
When I step outside, I look up and down the block but can’t see them. Shit. I worry they took the opportunity and left, that my English teacher wasn’t interested in me at all and was just playing along or being polite. I check the pizza joint next door, to no avail. I wander back inside the bar, deciding to use the bathroom and then check again before giving up completely.
My friend spies me exiting the restroom and yanks me aside. “What happened? Thought you were going with those guys?”
“I couldn’t find them. Think they ditched.”
“Damn! He was hot though. Come drink with us then, — is pissed at one of the French guys. He knows her cousin and said something weird so we’ll probably leave soon.”
“Nah, I’m going to check outside one more time. Hopefully I just missed them.”
When I step outside again, the trio shouts and waves me down outside the pizza joint. “Where’d you go? We thought we lost you,” they ask.
Thank god. I relax a little, my fears unfounded. “Ladies,” I say by way of explanation.
We go inside, they order slices and we wedge into a corner table with stools. Loud hip hop mingles with revolving noise of drunk customers and street-side shouts. I have to lean in closer to the my blonde-haired boy to talk to him, and during conversation catch myself resting a hand on his knee. He doesn’t move away. Our conversation turns to his teaching, and he shares that his favorite work is The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe.
He pulls out a book from his messenger bag and hands it to me. “I always carry The Raven with me. I have it memorized, I re-read it constantly.”
His friends laugh and tease him, “We’re sick of it! It goes everywhere he does.”
Throwing our greasy paper plates away, we head back to the street. I ask him why he loves that poem so much–why The Raven of all the stories by dead white men in the canon of literature? He seems affronted by the question at first, but then I see this shine to his eyes and notice the steadiness of his hand as he takes the book back from me.
He opens a page, and he begins to recite.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore –
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door –
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door –
Only this and nothing more.”
I can’t help but gape at him: in the middle of the sidewalk on Pine St, as young people pass him by and linger outside bars and hot dog stands and food trucks, this beautiful man is reciting poetry. To me. Holy fuckballs.
He continues on, unabashed. His voice rises and falls with the rhyme, picking up speed, escalating in volume. He’s planted himself firmly with the open book in his right hand. His eye darting periodically down to the pages, but I suspect holding it is just for show.
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore –
Nameless here for evermore.
There’s nothing for me to do but watch and listen, smiling broadly. His voice is loud enough now to attract attention, and I catch stares from nearby smokers. A few naive youths pass us on the street, jeering and snickering and cat-calling, but my Poet’s attention does not break. Enunciating the consonants and vowels, applying rhythm and tone from stanza to stanza, the recitation is theatrical. Shakespeare in the Park? No, I’ve got my own Poe on Pine. His devotion to the text is forceful, his cadence well-timed. He’s magnetic.
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore –
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never – nevermore.'”
But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
By now, his voice cracks and breaks in places; the telltale signs of the spliff he smoked earlier. Nevertheless, he persists. He is going to recite the poem in its entirety and I am entranced despite myself. Who cares if he woos all his women this way? He’s a goddamn Casanova. He is a beautiful man but it’s his passion that creates a pull in my hips and a tightness in my throat.
I want to take Raven boy to bed.
To be continued…