Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Twenty five years ago I sat with Mark in Colonel Brooks Tavern. The room was very warm. The bar was empty except for the two of us and the bartender. The lunch crowd had emptied out and the happy hour crowd hadn’t arrived. Mark had brought me to Colonel Brooks to take my mind off the laser surgery to repair a torn retina that I had just endured at nearby Washington Hospital Center . Our marriage was on its last legs. Mark wore a burgundy sweater and jeans. He had on a red baseball cap. His lips made a frown behind his full, black beard. His eyes were sad. He looked as though he might cry. One of my eyes was covered with gauze. It burned. I felt tears run down my left cheek but I wasn’t crying. Mark ordered red wine for me and a beer for himself. A Molson. When we first began dating we’d gone to Canada together to visit his sister. We’d brought back cases of Molson. The wine hit my stomach hard. I hadn’t eaten before the laser surgery. Mark asked me if I wanted a burger. I passed on the burger, but I nibbled his fries with a second glass of wine. I thought the wine would make my eye stop stinging but it didn’t. It made it worse. I had a third glass anyway. We said little. There was nothing more to say. We never fought. We only disappointed each other with our actions. My infidelity. His distraction. He didn’t have to say that Larry should have been the one to take me to the hospital. The one to sit across the table while I anesthetized myself. Larry was my lover. The one that had provoked me to move out of the house on Benton Street . The one that had kicked me in my eye in karate class. Larry was as exciting as Mark was boring. But he was not there with me in Colonel Brooks Tavern that afternoon and after our year of living dangerously, Larry disappeared from my life. Back to his wife. I could have gone back to Mark, I suppose. We could have spent the rest of our lives avoiding each other’s eyes. But I didn’t go back. When I remember Mark I don’t remember the details of our trips to Canada , or our honeymoon in Spain or hanging around his photo studio while he shot album covers – I remember that long, dreary winter afternoon in Colonel Brooks Tavern. A few years later when Joe called me to tell me that Mark had died from a brain tumor, I thought of that afternoon. His baseball cap. His lips. His hands on the bottle of Molson’s. His sad eyes.


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