Other Fugitives and Other Strangers

The nightclub’s neon light glows red with anxiety
as I wait on the turning lane. Cars blur past,
their headlights white as charcoal.
I trust each driver not to swerve. I trust each stranger
not to kill me and let me cross
the shadow of his smoky path.
Trust is all I have for patrons at the bar:
one man offers me a line, one man buys the kamikaze,
another drinks it. Yet another wraps his arm
around my waist. I trust him not to harm my body
as much as he expects his body to remain unharmed.
One man asks me to the dance floor, one asks me
to a second drink, another asks me home.
I dance, I drink, I follow.
I can trust a man without clothes.
Naked he conceals no weapons, no threat
but the blood in his erection. His bed unfamiliar,
only temporarily. Pillows without loyalty
absorb the weight of any man, betray
the scent of the men who came before.
I trust a stranger’s tongue to tell me
nothing valuable. It makes no promises
of truth or lies, it doesn’t swear commitments.
The stranger’s hands take their time exploring.
Undisguised, they do not turn to claws or pretend
artistic skill to draw configurations on my flesh. They
are only human hands with fingertips
unsentimental with discoveries, without nostalgia
for what they leave behind. I trust this stranger
not to stay inside me once he enters me.
I trust him to release me from the blame
of pleasure. The pain I exit with no greater
than the loneliness that takes me to the bar.
He says good night, I give him back
those words, taking nothing with me that is his.
The front door shuts behind me, the gravel
driveway ushers me away. The rearview mirror
loses sight of threshold, house, sidewalk, street.
Driving by the nightclub I pass a car
impatient on the turning lane. My hands are cold
and itch to swerve the wheel, to brand
his fender with the fury of my headlights.
But I let this stranger live
to struggle through the heat and sweat
of false affections, anonymous and
borrowed like the glass that washed my prints
to hold another patron’s drink.

Rigoberto Gonzalez, “Other Fugitives and Other Strangers” from Other Fugitives and Other Strangers. Copyright © 2006 by Rigoberto Gonzalez. Reprinted by permission of Tupelo Press.
Source: Other Fugitives and Other Strangers (Tupelo Press, 2006)
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