Patrick (Columbus, Ohio, June 1977)

Touching Once (is so hard to keep).  You were always the Boy Scout. We fumbled and made out in basements, cars, any dark corner, but we never saw each other naked. My Catholic upbringing wrapped around me more tightly that any chastity belt. Then I went away and tasted deeper desires, danced on the edge. When you came to visit, you saw how I took off my watch and laid it on the nightstand, and you knew there was someone else. When we met in the park that summer, I held out a shopping bag of all the albums I’d borrowed, even the ones you said I could keep.

 

Brian (Avalon, New Jersey, July 1981)

Don’t You Want Me? I took a job to be near you and all that summer we screwed and fought. I saved every slight, turning them in my mind, polishing them with my insecurity. I knew you were sleeping with a married woman, but I pretended I didn’t care. Late nights I called to see if you were home. That July night at the shore, we went to a bar where we danced and I had enough beer to make me free and fearless. I whispered in your ear and you led me to your car where I tried to change your mind.

 

Miguel (Brooklyn, New York, June 1983)

Making Love Out of Nothing at All. I allowed myself to forget that it was only an affair, that you weren’t supposed to matter. When you took me home to meet your family, your abuela asked if I spoke Spanish, said she’d teach me. I wished she’d taught me the word for betrayal.

 

Daniel (Chesapeake Bay, August 1989)

Nick of Time.  You said we were complete, that children would ruin us, and I believed you. But the summer after my parents died, I realized it wasn’t enough. I wanted to sing lullabies, and I had hoped you’d change your mind. That last weekend on your boat, you revealed your secret, the decision you made long ago in a cold operating room. I whispered enough before I dove into the cool murky water and swam for shore, leaving your lies behind.

***

Barbara Buckley Ristine escaped from the law years ago, but she has no regrets. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in the Mojave River Review, Flash Flood, and Bards & Scholars Quarterly, among others. She lives with her family in northern Nevada, where she is (slowly) working on a novel.