My lover lives in a cardboard box under the bridge with her husband and a big brown dog named Ben. She begged me never to tell this story.
The prayer begins as it always begins. We bow our heads and remember how hard it can rain, how alone you can feel when nothing is ever said.
I sleep in a comfortable bed in a large house full of books and TVs and blankets. I make my own choices and I don’t have a dog or a cat or a wife or a husband. My friends all think I am happy, more or less.
Transparent is an adjective that means fine or sheer enough to be seen through. Free of pretense or deceit.
I went down to the river only once, years ago. I saw her sitting on a bench, rustling Ben’s matted fur with her fingers. She wore an Army jacket, Dodgers cap, heavy leather boots. She never looked at me but she knew I was there.
Martyr is a noun that means someone who willingly suffers for her devotion, for her faith.
Once upon a time my lover whispered my name under soft cotton sheets, in a rented room on the thirteenth floor. She told me I was the moon and the stars of her world.
On a bright sunny Tuesday, someone drives by in a dented red sedan with the windows rolled down. Chet Baker plays “My Funny Valentine.”
This isn’t a story. I’m not telling you anything.
~ ~ ~
One day you’re sitting in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Princeton, New Jersey, eating ham egg and cheese on an English muffin at a wobbly table next to a guy in a red cap reading a stack of crumpled pages full of equations and in walks a Nazi soldier. Seriously. It’s July 2016, and there is a Nazi soldier decked out from head to toe in real-life Nazi paraphernalia standing in the middle of Dunkin’ Donuts and you’re wondering if this is some kind of gag or if this crazy dude is testing out his Man in the High Castle Halloween costume or something, but then he is standing right in front of your table, yelling: You—you fucking perverted bitch, up against the wall. Now. Bits of egg and cheese hang on the corner of your mouth as the Nazi bangs his fist against the table and sends the rest of your breakfast sandwich flying across the room. You push back and stumble out of your chair and see the guy in the red cap fumbling his papers to his chest as the Nazi steps forward and says: There is no place for you here, you deviant bitch. Then he grabs the lapels of the sports coat you paid $75 for on sale at the Men’s Wearhouse, so proud of yourself for stepping foot into a Men’s Wearhouse in the first place, and then you’re closing your eyes and seeing white stars against a sea of midnight blue and you don’t even feel the pain as your head bashes into the wall and your feet fly out and you can’t believe how quiet everything got all of a sudden. Where the hell did everyone go? Are they still eating their donuts? Are they watching this? Have they fled for their lives? You feel the Nazi’s foul breath in your face and his hands closing around your throat and you try to scream but nothing comes out. You know the guy in the red cap is gone. The kids behind the counter are gone. Everyone is gone except you and the Nazi.