Angela Amman

Straws

Josh watched her from across the bar. He wondered if her glossy lips sparkled for everyone in the room or if he was the only one who couldn’t take his eyes off her. He wondered if she’d notice him sitting in the darkened booth.

He wondered if it would matter.

She bent the straws that came in her drinks, folding them back and forth and dropping them on the scarred wood in front of her. He tried to remember if she’d always done that. He pictured her lips pursed around those thin tubes of plastic, sticky rings of color marking her cocktails the entire night.

“You knew she was going to be here,” Charlie said, tipping back the rest of his beer and catching the waitress’s eye for another round.

Josh didn’t answer his younger brother. Her hair was darker, streaks of something his fingers ached to touch.

“It’s a bad idea, man. Haven’t you messed with that girl’s head enough?” Charlie shook his head, but his fingers were already tapping on his phone, his eyes following the ball game on the oversized screens covering the walls.

“I don’t know if it ended as badly as you think,” Josh protested. “She’s forgiven me before.”

Charlie shrugged. He had a significant portion of next semester’s tuition tied up in various bets, and Josh’s girl problems paled in comparison to the ones he was going to have if his luck soured during the biggest basketball tournament of the year.

The waitress dropped two more beers and four shots of tequila onto the sticky table. Charlie pretended to fumble in his pockets for a minute before Josh handed over his credit card. He ignored the lemons and salt on the table and neatly drank two of the shots, closing his eyes against the burning in his chest, willing it to slow the thud of his heart against his ribs.

Even with his eyes closed, he could hear her laughter echoing off the mirror behind the rows of top shelf liquor.

Charlie looked up from his phone. “Let’s just get out of here, Josh. Leave her alone.”

Josh was already two steps away from the booth. Charlotte’s best friend saw him first, and he dropped his eyes before he had to acknowledge the venom in hers. With nowhere to look, he stared at the muddled cherries buried under the ice in Charlotte’s glass.

“You used to eat those before you took your first sip,” he said, stumbling over his words.

He’d only meant to say hello.

Her rosy lips inched into a smile that never reached her eyes. He tried to remember how she’d looked at him before everything fell apart. She’d never look at him like that again.

Write at the Merge
the prompt:
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”
~ L. P. Hartley: The Go-Between (1953)

Pajama days

Schools remain shuttered, days after bags are packed.
Pajama days of make-believe keep the new year at bay,
until we enter the snow globe.
Blue-tinged fingers show surface cracks hidden under mittens.
Within minutes, sunshine and canned heat loosen my scarf.
Sunglasses mute the crystals
dancing on the heavy blanket of snow.
The drive lulls me into thinking I can touch it,
this powdery crust of winter’s rage.
I scoop at random, stare at individual wonders,
touch my tongue to the dissolving stars
until their snow-wet lips begin chattering.
I remember then that my mittens are as thin as my patience
and usher them inside to finish worshipping the cold
through frosted panes.

Snow days kept them home three days longer than expected, and though I should be happy to re-enter the school routine they love, I miss them.

snow days

Waiting for snow

Snows sits on the horizon
waiting for the air to chill
The ice-gray light in my daughter’s room
makes the subtleties between pink and orange and red impossible to see
Voices bounce between us
melting through the weight of the storm
I strain my eyes against the dimness
Sorting plastic and wondering if anyone but me cares where the colors reside
Rainbow Loom, snow days, playing with poetry
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