It's not that easy, at 21, to gauge
people more than twice your age can be
for a new sensation; how bored,
how hollowed out and jaded they have become.
The couples pretended to be matter-of-fact.
That this was business.
By assuming expressions of no expression.
Like hit men. And women.
Still, when the other couple appeared
Laura could have relented.
I pressed her not to go through with it.
And she looked at you, dewy-eyed, as if to say,
"it stinks, but you'll protect
me and make sure
things don't get out of hand."
Was she that desperate for a free portfolio?
I can't imagine why when as I said she had no intention of
becoming a model, only of modeling.
For three hours of work she'd earn
what she earned in a week.
Or so she claimed.
She was an immensely practical person.
This is standard issue stuff.
The girl whom they entice.
The pressure toward nakedness.
The tapping of her
insecurities, the fantasies
that exceed anything
the offer can offer,
even a spread in Vogue; a poster hung
in every bus shelter: a career.
I wish you hadn't brought it up.
Now there's no escape
from the heat of the September night
the vanished summer's stale, pent-up air
rising tormentingly off the tar,
the grainy wooden table in the dim Irish bar
west of 6th on West 4th.
And she rarely wore her hair pulled back
to adopt a clean-cut, fresh-faced look
as she did that night as she ordered a tall Beck's
on draft, reaching across to rub your knuckles;
intimate, yet not quite coming on.
And all to get me to come along so she wouldn't be alone
in a situation whose outcome she couldn't predict.
I'm not saying that the role of protector didn't appeal.
Or that there might be some rewardeven though you'd called it
The part that made me sick was the obligatory dinner,
"our treat,"at a generic Beer & Burger type joint,
"super-convenient,"a mere fall
from the studio.
No one forced either of you to go.
You could have insisted.
I tried! But she was gripped by a notorious
hunger fit and, having to "eat right away what did it matter
who with and why not take advantage of it being free."
And so we went.
Vicious red seats flooded with infra-red.
guaranteed blast-off from the high
"I only drink with friends,"I wish I'd had the nerve to say.
(Anyone with any sense had switched to seltzer, soda, beer
or stayed with water, cool and clear.)
But it was good that the uninvited couple
disappeared after the shooting.
Quick good-byes, fast handshakes,
straight delivery: "Thanks for letting us come."
I squelched my reply.
Were they hurrying home to the darkroom?