Honesty (tigers)

You sit opposite from him at the side of a little restaurant

lit with the longest candles and the tendency to outdo itself.

You find your gloved hand resting on your jawline,

some imagined line streaming from a pouting chin to a joyful cheek.

The dim, romantic lights shift from one of his eyes to the other

and all you see is the re-imagined picture of Chaucer and Tennessee Williams.

He hardens his lips as he stares at you with the magical expression

that you’re very well-acquainted with.

You take another sip of summer wine and give him a glazed look of relaxed excitement,

because that’s all you ever can be is relaxed and excited,

so why not both at once?

He takes your hand from your jaw and kisses it tenderly,

as though he had offended it and must now beg for forgiveness.

Then he asks you to say something honest about yourself and the light shifts again.

Honest? you ask as you take another sip, a little more generously this time.

The moon kisses your collarbones and you find yourself mingled

with the sweat of the Egyptian slaves and the Roman gladiators.

Tell me something honest.

You raise a brow because it’s the best confused look you can offer a gentleman.

You purse your lips a little and pull your shoulders together to feminize your chest,

as learned women do.

He kisses your hand again and pets it as though William Blake’s tiger

was something to soothe and kiss until it is content and willing to spare the lost lamb.

Something honest.

You begin to say something charming with the giddy little laugh you learned from Scarlet O’Hara,

but even you can’t try to pass that off as honesty.

You stare deep into his eyes,

pull down your brow, pull down your shoulders, and pull away your hand from his.

And you begin to remember all the little things you learned from Lolita and Chopin,

but you can’t remember a thing about yourself,

because who are you but just a re-imagined image of Daisy Miller and Holly Golightly?

Who are we but recreations of lost protagonists,

buried into wrecks that even Cousteau can’t rescue us from?

We’ve uncovered the spherical world and the mountains and trenches.

We’ve made war and love on all surfaces and frontiers,

even in living rooms and church basements.

And in thinking about these things you take a moment and breathe –

just for a second –

and the masks drops just enough for the man to see you are human,

for you to lose your charm,

and for him to pull away.

“Come back,” you whisper metaphorically as you take another sip of wine.

I didn’t mean to be so honest.

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