Perhaps she shouldn’t have agreed to let him take her home.
Melinda and Kevin were seated across from each other at the diner. Their plates were strewn with a leftover single fry here (Kevin) and a hamburger bun there (Melinda). “Well, Melinda,” Kevin took her hand, “I’m glad I met you. But I have to be transparent—”
Kevin thought of himself as a tragic figure in a state of decay. Love and destruction were the topics of the poems he wrote in his spare time. At 35, he liked to believe he would never be married and had once been told by a fortune teller that this was true. He also thought that every girl he took out was ruined to some degree and therefore not worthy of his love in its entirety.
That’s what had happened with Melinda.
Melinda worked for Sculpture Magazine as an administrative assistant which she knew was just a fancy way to say she was a secretary. She had met this guy, Chris, who seemed really interested in her. They had met at a party. He was three years younger, a computer programmer who wrote science fiction poems in his free time. As things turned out, he had been lying to her that he was single, when in fact, he had a girlfriend for eight years—going on nine. Melinda had found this out through a mutual friend, Sandy. And, this had come as quite a shock—although she and Chris weren’t really past surface flirting with each other. They had had lunch and dinner together. Later, she would find out that these were the times his girlfriend was busy.
Melinda was 32 and wrote poetry about pop culture. She had met Kevin at a poetry reading that Chris had told her about, in a small bar on Avenue A. Melinda’s friend, Stella had come along and encouraged Melinda to read some of her poems that evening. Actually, Melinda really didn’t want to read, she had terrible stage fright, but Stella would not take no for an answer and indeed, Melinda did read toward the end of the evening.
Chris had come with his girlfriend—and Melinda took note of her appearance: she was heavy with big bones, but had a pretty face with cascading blond curls. Chris read a science fiction poem about ancient aliens creating the first pyramid which was really a power station for their spacecraft. Kevin also read a poem, and after the reading was over, Kevin invited Melinda and Stella to join him at a table in the back patio of the bar with his father and his father’s girlfriend.
It was a little chilly, so Kevin offered his jacket to Melinda. He draped it over her shoulders. Melinda felt happy that she had this attention so she could forget about Chris.
Stella smoked cigarette after cigarette and Kevin’s father asked, “Aren’t you afraid of lung cancer?”
“Nope,” Stella said and blinked as she blew smoke into the air while twirling her red hair with her free hand.
Kevin said, “You’re really attractive, Melinda.”