Exclusive Excerpt from Late Night Poetry
by Nell Iris
Thursday, November 5, 1990. 06:14 PM
“I thought about you today. When it snowed. About how much you love the snow. I wondered if you tried making snowballs, even though the snow was too loose. And if you made a cup of hot cocoa afterward. Then I saw the weather report and they said it will be warmer tomorrow and the snow will melt, and I know you’ll be so disappointed. I’ve never met anyone who loves snow as much as you do.”—Throat clearing to cover the crack in his voice—“I got a library card yesterday. I checked out a couple poetry books. Can you imagine what my dad would say if he knew? ‘Don’t read that shit, Lou. It’s for sissys and fags.’”—disgusted snort—“Anyway. I wanted to read something to you. Are you ready? ‘When we two parted, In silence and tears, Half broken-hearted, To sever for years, Pale grew thy cheek and cold, Colder thy kiss; Truly that hour foretold, Sorrow to this.’ I probably didn’t read that very well.”—Long silence broken by the roar of a passing truck in the distance—“Take care.”
I don’t listen to his message again but I don’t delete it either. Instead, I walk over to the window and look out at the snow still glistening on the trees and shrubbery on the street outside my apartment building. I shove my hands into my pockets and lean my forehead against the cold glass, letting my long curls fall across my face, hiding me from the outside world, wishing the chill penetrating from outside was enough to freeze all the memories of him out of my head.
Our first date-that-wasn’t-officially-labeled-a-date was on a snowy December day almost two years ago, when he laughed at what he called was my child-like enjoyment of the snow slowly sailing from the sky. We strolled side by side—at a respectable distance so anyone watching us would think we were just two friends hanging out—through the Christmas market, me carrying a steaming cup of hot chocolate and him sipping from a mug of coffee that smelled so bitter even at a distance I almost grew hair on my chest.
Our walk was littered with awkward silences and sideways glances at each other. It was the first time we hung out alone—we’d only seen each other in the company of others, his friend Bill knew my friend Lyle—and even though neither of us had said the d-word out loud, we both knew this was more than a friendly outing.
He was so handsome that day, in faded black jeans, a denim jacket that accentuated his broad shoulders and that looked far too cold for the weather. His usually wild, wavy brown hair was flattened by his hat and he wore a gray scarf around his neck, pulled up to the bright red tip of his nose. His blue eyes glittered more brightly than the cloudless winter day, and two red spots glowed high on his cheeks. I still don’t know if it was due to the brisk, nippy air or the fact that it was his first date-not-a-date with a man.
He wasn’t out—hence the respectable distance between us—but he told me his dream was to be able to be open about himself one day. I understood his reluctance—still do—because it’s not easy being out. Not even in our fairly liberal town.