After the party
By I.M. Sterns
After the party
by I.M. Sterns
Back at your apartment:
Adrian, the history professor's son and your friend from freshman dorm,
and me, your regular party escort and sometime sex partner.
As always, you set the mood: whiskey and Marlboros on the coffee table,
candlelight on the mantle, Peter Gabriel crying from the tape player.
You invite us to share the sofa, while you settle yourself
at Adrian's feet.
He's so brilliant, you always tell me,
the star of the English department, a real guy,
with his pugilist's body, restless energy and success with women.
He's going to be a writer, is working on a novel even
-- at only 22! -- a fact that impresses me as well,
as does the monologue he begins about his recent struggle
to appreciate the genius of Ulysses.
His onyx eyes shine through his cloud of cigarette smoke,
his hand beside me tenses into a fist.
As I watch you watch his biceps bulge beneath his jersey,
I try to respond to his soliloquy, but with a mind muddled by whiskey,
the most I can manage is:
Ulysses. That's by James Joyce, isn't it?
From his shirt, Adrian removes a small packet,
which his stout fingers delicately unfold.
Adrian's other talent: he supplies cocaine to the off-campus party crowd,
some of which he now offers as a nightcap.
I feel flattered, as do you -- I can tell, by the way you uncurl
your long body and bend your straight perfect nose toward the white powder.
Two lines, sparking through my veins, soon make me sure of myself,
so I can join your discussion with Adrian about Ayn Rand,
and engage him in a debate about the politics of gender roles in Tootsie.
During the two minutes you leave us to forage through
your roommate's dresser for more cigarettes,
Adrian presses towards me,
You know, I've always been intrigued by the idea of sleeping with you.
Two hours later, the lavender light of a spring Chicago morning fills the room
I've lost track of your conversation, quivering instead at
the promise of Adrian's statement and the hope
that you noticed the gradual lean of his torso in my direction.
When he announces his need to get going,
to write some things down,
I sigh to myself, he didn't mean it,
but then he offers to walk me home, something you never do,
and I smile at the surprise in your eyes.
Later that Sunday, after I've showered, brushed my teeth,
but not slept, still jittery from the cocaine
and the memory of Adrian, you call,
as I knew you would.
So, you say.
So, I reply.
I slept with Adrian.
I savor that pause, however minute.
When you ask, how was it, I lie:
Nice. It was very nice.
-- I.M. STERNS