At seventeen, I did not yet have words to praise your sudden
marriage, Bruce, an event that followed hard on that sultry
summer night we parked under Cygnus at our favorite spot
among other dark cars at Holdenville Lake. You broke up with me
then dropped me off at a party in the next cove, where your best
friend, Cowboy, comforted me with Southern Comfort and weed—
and, after declaring his hidden devotion, gave me a ride home.
At seventeen, I was mortified, when, two days later, my
mother came home from work at the Lady’s Ready-to-Wear
Shoppe and informed me that her big-haired, ample-bosomed,
thirty-five-year-old coworker had just eloped with you. You
who had two years before dated her daughter. I do not know
if her daughter was mortified or if the three of you had a kinky
relationship like those in cheesy Seventies’ swinger pornos.
At seventeen, I was not too dumb to realize that you must have
been fucking me and her all along; me in a lumpy twin bed in
your bedroom in your mother’s house, in your Torino’s narrow
backseat; her in her (imagined) queen-size waterbed with silk
sheets. Did the two of you laugh at my cluelessness or not think
of me at all? I didn’t consider that emotional endgame at seventeen,
but last week, when I found our spring formal photograph, I did.
At seventeen, I did not know how lucky I was that you dumped me
at the lake—you freed me from romantic attachment to our small
mean towns; you fueled the ensuing wild years and their ravaged
poems. You hardened my young heart against later, greater, brutalities.
At forty-seven, dear Bruce, I can praise your quickie Vegas wedding
to what’s-her-face, who I see you’ve now divorced. That through it,
you confirmed for me I was not lovable; I believed you for years.