If it hadn’t been for the two hour line at Giordano’s, I may have never found you off a beaten path from the Tri-State Tollway.
I think often about our introduction, your Midwestern twang and my Northern vim and vigor; we made an odd pair -- we were never a pair to begin with. I knew you for less than a moment, I’ve thought of you every moment since.
To say that you were a muse would be an understatement. I think of you often as a kindred spirit, but I don’t think that quite fits either. Perhaps you were a soulmate of some kind, but one whom I was only privileged to be privy to for a few fleeting glances.
I remind myself of the way that your tongue pressed through the gap between your two front teeth as you spoke. The nasal tone that you exuded as you breathed light into a dull and deserted bar was enchanting in a way that eluded me then, and still eludes me now.
This isn’t to say that you were beautiful. In fact, you looked no different from any other young single mother from Michigan, expatriated to a Chicagoan suburb might look. Dark hair, half-lidded and exhausted eyes, with bags beneath a deeper burgundy than the red wine you spilled on my mother’s designer purse. You carried your weight in your hips, which I wonder about often, considering the burden you bore on your arms -- and the heavier burden on your heart.
I remember the glazed and empty look in your over-lined eyes as my mother asked just how dangerous Chicago was. You explained how your husband died, how he was shot in warm blood, not cold; instead of letting tears befall you, the words you used were antithetic, your tone monotonous, and your face blank.
It was then that I learned that pain doesn’t necessarily equal beauty. Instead, pain looks like a broken down bar with the best pizza north of Chicago, pain looks like the heel on your shoe that broke halfway through your shift; it looks like wage labour and beer spilled on your t-shirt as you hold back tears.
In the same way, beauty might just be the snow cherry toned lipstick smudged against your teeth, beauty might be hair so frizzy that no elastic can contain it; it might be the faded nametag whose contents I don’t quite remember.
Part of me wishes that I’d stayed, built a home for us in the liquor store parking lot across the street. Instead, I hold onto the ghost of you and the first stage of grief as I disappear back home down the I-94E.
Moretti's by b.pick
b. pick is a poet and creative non-fiction author based in small town Ontario. They currently study remotely at Western University, where they are heavily involved in LGBTQ2S+ and feminist activism. Their work has most recently appeared in SAPPHIC and Grubstreet Journal.