Lee Colin Thomas
Just this morning my insurance agency, the time and temperature clock
outside the bank, and the receipt at the gas pump all wished me
happy holidays. I paused under the fluorescent station lights, plucked
the receipt from the pump and held it whipping in the wind. That sharp
scent lingered on my glove as I read: Total = $10.39
Can a gas pump wish? Is everyone so concerned with my happiness?
It’s an unpopular opinion, one I don’t discuss at parties,
but such sentiments feel as considerable as quarters—things
we exchange with vending machines, things we leave behind
with the tip.
I’m sure your crowded mailbox would accept another red envelope
and tuck it between catalogs and credit card bills.
But I can’t do it; forgive me.
If you hear from me, let it be Tuesday. Some Tuesday when your energy
is skipping like a record player, your gaze stuck on the latest still life
of dirty dishes. When you’re considering dinner options, whether tomato
salsa counts as a vegetable, your parenting skills. When you need a telescope
to see your way through to Saturday. When you haven’t made love
in weeks but you’ve been to the dry cleaners three times since.
Happy Birthday. I didn’t forget. I’m glad you were born, glad
for another year of you. If it’s the thought that counts, I thought of you
over and over again. But those card aisles—who can bear them? I can’t
send you such manufactured silliness, photographs of near-naked
beauties winking behind strategically held cake.
At the office, I started typing you an e-mail, mostly apologizing
for the medium, but I got caught-up in an impromptu meeting
that lasted ‘til lunch. By the time I made it back, the screen had frozen
and I lost my words.
Maybe on Tuesday you’ll toss the mail on the dining room table without
looking at it. You’ll go about the evening, lament stains on the carpet,
sign permission slips. And later, when the youngest is finally
settled in bed and you’ve turned off the television’s soundtrack of noise,
you’ll pause in the yellow lamplight and hold yourself steady inside
the wood-framed doorways of that old house. If you look down at the table,
beneath the coupon books and another New Yorker you won’t read,
you’ll spy the clean line of an envelope.
I don’t know any adults who actually celebrate Valentine’s Day. Not
willingly. Besides, it was never like that between us.
I thought, how nice it would be to mail you a formal invitation: Come!
Spend the weekend at my cabin by the lake. The whole gang will be there
to try some new recipes and drink plenty of wine. But this isn’t the movies
and I don’t have a cabin. This is just me as I idle through
the real estate section of the Sunday paper.
The paper feels thick in your fingers and is almost the color of honey
in sunlight. I bought the really nice stuff. And look: there’s your name,
black and bold on the paper, your address, your place in space.
On the back, my initials form a little symbol over the envelope’s
triangle smile. There I am in your dining room, on Tuesday, about to say
the things that melt too quickly on the tongue, when what we want
is to taste the ink—I love you, I miss you, I want it all
About the author:
Lee Colin Thomas lives and writes in Minneapolis. He received a Loft Mentor Series Award in poetry, and an honorable mention for the Minnesota Emerging Writers Grant. Lee’s poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Salamander, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, Water~Stone Review, and elsewhere. You can visit his website here.