In the Dark
by Bryan R. Monte
If the story of my life were a movie
it would probably be made in black and white
on a low budget and in low lighting;
a real film noir piece.
Dateline Cleveland: November 1957
A county hospital next to an oily river
My mother in the stirrups
the doctor impatient, checking his watch
the Brown’s play by play
piped into the delivery room
the crowd roars
the doctor crouches
My mother cries
bloody, blind, crying in a cold room
weighed, washed, wrapped and taken away.
My three aunts hovering over me
whispering: Remember us
My father never came to pick us up.
My mother in close up
holds me tight, tighter, tighter still.
Fade to black.
Sixteen years later
A modern high school, three blocks long
The music room.
I enter and find the contents of a love letter
written to another boy
copied on the blackboard
and all the blackboards down the hall
the multiplication of betrayal
I run to my locker
find it covered in pink ribbons and perfume.
the high school recedes in background
as I look down at the pavement
searching for the trapdoor out of suburbia
I sleep overnight in a park
until a policeman taps my shoes with his nightstick
and gives me a ride home.
Six years later.
a high-rise apartment in North Beach
you want to be my rich uncle,
a doctor with a shiny black Mercedes
and the face of Ben Casey
you play your part well
I stumble with my lines.
Imagining no pleasure
in the after dinner cocktail
I try to think about
a warm place to stay
food in the fridge
next quarter’s tuition
all the Valium I could eat
or thirty minutes later
stroking the smooth keys
of your grand piano
the lights of the city at my feet.
As I put my hand on the doorknob
you say: “I hope nothing will be missing.”
I say: “There always was.”
I go back to my cold water, cockroach-infested flat
six all-night bus lines rattling the windows.
I sit over the monitor
in a dark room
silhouetted in the flickering light
worse than those three old biddies
who spin the thread, measure it out
and cut it off.
I run the film over and over again
hoping to see something original
but even with the best editing
or running the film in reverse
I’m still entering or leaving the same rooms
watching strangers become friends
and then strangers again
the same smiles, wilting.