In other words, still not wonderful enough.
Luisa A. Igloria, “By Hand“
Not too surprising: doctor grounded
me from driving, from really using
that shoulder in much of any way. Told
me not to roll over on it in my sleep,
recommended sleeping upright, more
or less, in some sort of chair. Five
weeks. Stuck in the city. Sleeping
mostly less, upright mostly more.
Three AM, another week of double-
shifts. After fourteen hours of
monitoring software fixes outbound
over phone lines, I’m on meal break
with a coworker at the all-night
diner two blocks down the street.
More coffee. Much more coffee.
I don’t know how it is now, times
and technology have changed,
but used to be, the people working
for mainframe software companies
became, not quite like family, but
at least their own community, small
village in the middle of a city.
And every village has a matchmaker,
one or more, someone perhaps a little
nosy, or just hearts-and-starry eyed,
who thinks that everyone who isn’t
married or at least taking some
steps toward pairing up with someone
is in need. Across the table, self-
invited company, the matchmaker
is turning his attentions back to me.
What you need, he starts assuring
me, what would really make you
happy, is a man who’s stable, settled
into his career, one who is ready
to go house-shopping, get married,
get started on a family, a kid or
two or three. I stare at him blankly
for a while as if I do not understand
the language he is speaking.
And in truth, I don’t. Not really.
But I’m tired and it’s three AM
and watching amber numbers turning
over on a dumb computer monitor
for fourteen hours has weakened
my defenses. I don’t dodge his
assertion gracefully. I don’t dodge
at all. Instead, I dig into my
purse, retrieve two napkins
marked with tiny print in ink.
(Systems engineering, sorry. All
pipe-dreams must be designed
on napkins. End of story.)
I don’t gloss it up or make it
pretty, but say firmly: No. That’s
nothing close to what I need.
Not interested. Not aspiring.
I’ve assessed what it would take
for me to live with someone else
successfully long-term, the kind
of person it would have to be.
I carry these napkins out with me
as a reminder, should I happen
to be tempted by a bit of gallantry
to give away my number in a bar.
There are minimums that would be
needed for it to even be considered,
and I really doubt the guy exists.
I unfold the specifications
for the myth, begin for the first
time ever to read them out
to someone, make clear why
I’m alone and always will be.
About money: needs to not be greedy,
see it mostly as a means, tend
more toward frugal than extravagant.
He needs to be able to cook
sufficiently to feed himself if
I’m not home, am still at work
or have decided to go out alone.
And that has got to be okay,
me going out alone. I have to
have a little time with friends,
and lots and lots of time in
solitary. He’s got to be able
to handle that, and to handle
his own laundry, and maybe most
importantly, he must have come to
some sort of understanding with
the planet, needs his own relationship
with whatever patch of earth
he works and walks and lives on,
an understanding with the sky
and dirt and all its other denizens.
And I don’t so much mean humans.
I don’t so much care if he even
ever speaks to them, including me.
But I need a man that can spend an
evening wakeful, watching long-
nose bats fly up to saguaro
blossoms. One who can sit by
a campfire till dawn without
speaking. One who can wander
in the desert, one who notices
which plants grow on which hill-
sides, which way dry washes flow.
One who can lose a map without
a panic, because it doesn’t
mean he’s lost himself. One who
understands that venom, rattler
spider scorpion, is not malicious
or evil, simply self-protection.
One who sees mankind’s pollution
also as a kind of toxin, and does
his best to minimize his impact.
One who doesn’t need to have TV
for entertainment. Hermit, mostly.
So you see: the only man I’d
want to be with is someone who
absolutely doesn’t need me. So
forget it. It won’t happen.
End of story. Cold scrambled
eggs are rubbery. And cooling
seems to have left them with an
unpleasant hint of green. I poke
what’s left of my breakfast
with a fork, decide against.
I look across the table to see
if my matchmaker-colleague is also
ready to leave. He’s frozen, his
fork is resting on the edge
of his mug of coffee, his bite
of pancake partly slipped into
the brew and getting soggy.
His mouth is open. What? I’ve
already folded up my myth-specs,
put them back into my purse,
pulled out my wallet. What?
That guy, he says. I look around.
What guy? THAT guy. That you wrote
down. He points at my purse with his
fork and the pancake submerges.
That guy, he says. I know him.
Read Bridal March, Part I: Scything.
Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba) grew up in Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in Missouri. She serves on the editorial teams of Praxis Magazine Online (Nigeria) and Right Hand Pointing (USA). Her most recent poetry collection is Anchorhold, and The Heretic’s Hymnal: 99 New and Selected Poems, is forthcoming from Babylon Books / Balkan Press in 2018. More about her poetry is available at arkofidentity.wordpress.com.