by Bayard Johnson

publish this, she said, and we can be famous among the nobodies of literary fiction
swore I won't drink any more and stuck to it for what feels like years, asked what I should bring to party, red wine,stopped at Sav-ons on Sunset near Vermont and pick up bottle from Columbia Gorge, my neck of woods, like label and picked up second bottle, pull over at park crawling with homeless, pushed cork in and drank one, got lost in hills and roar up to right address by accident
half hour late but first to arrive, everyone else late on purpose, set helmet by fireplace, nobody seems aware I'm sitting because I can't stand, everyone's a writer or actor or musician, head gyrating and small talk makes my stomach sick, steel my nerves and walk into kitchen, I'm alone and puke in sink, silently I think, maybe nobody hears
a woman came in and told her name, I remembered it from somewhere and take a guess and tell her I read her story, liked it, she says why you staring at my boots?
just saw them resting on my shoulders
don't say that, I believe in premonitions
yeah, well
did you have to tell me?
I shrugged
gonna be famous? I heard something about
I laugh
I can tell my daughters about how, you know, show 'em these boots, here can you sign this magazine
wow, I don't know, that who I am?
isn't it?
better go ask someone
living room, everyone eats, I take food and pretend to be present, belched and belched, tasting it again and again
resolved to never drink again
hostess invites me upstairs to see something, holds open magazine in front of my face, story where her lover returns so she hangs herself, I read it twice, time blurs, saw her swinging from black stocking, do you have to get back to your guests? I think I say
no why should I she says, descending from her noose
close the door then
she did and turns around, nipples poking through dress for the first time
kneel and push up skirt, no underwear above stockings, she leans back against door with legs apart, head tilts back, purrs, rubbing her back against door, dress drops over my head making world green
is this silk?
over here she says and pulled me across hall into room with big bed, skirt comes up over hips jeans come down sheathed black knees clamp my ribs
got a rubber? she says in my ear
no, got herpes or anything?
I'm clean
me too
in, you sure go deep I think or say, yeah she breathes
slow or fast?
slow or fast?
slow she says, only my boyfriend'll come looking for me any minute
lives here, don't stop, good, better hurry
want come?
dunno, might get pregnant
what's the point?
put my mouth in her ear and murmur seks over and over
is that a mantra?
don't believe in birth control I say spiralling inside canal
oh shit
only, won't know if it's me or boyfriend
only fucks me with rubber
come instantly in a blur and he's rapping on door calling a name, I pull up jeans and go out window, slide off shingles onto balcony, crash over hot barbecue, duck around side of house and scramble through ivy to alley and motorcycle, shit, helmet's inside I stood still and guy busts through gate and peers up alley looking for headlights, stomps other way down alley, I go in, small talk and smoke, hissing from balcony where hostess dumped red wine on barbecue coals, can't find helmet
ask around, painter from Africa painting face and long blond hair on helmet, looks like me, pulled it on and ride with big round head pounding, night freezing, lost in hills, freeway looms, find wrong ramp first and spin around long way through Valley toward coast, wife, baby, hangover, woke up at 2:15, call, male answers, mumble in Spanish, hang up