This Will Be the Last Day of My Life
The other day, one of my students mentioned
that he worked at Pete’s Pizza for years.
At first, all I thought about was that twisty crust
all along the edge of their calzones, how good it is,
how it looks like the way the old woman Antonia
twists her hair in the film Antonia’s Line,
you know the one where in the first scene,
she wakes up and gets out of bed and announces,
in Dutch of course so the English words
are printed across the screen and my mind,
This will be the last day of my life.
My mother loves that movie because she loves movies
where people eat outside.
And in this one, I admit, it is especially
glorious, they’re all at a long table with bread and wine
and the countryside.
After class, I remembered that I knew someone
who had also worked at Pete’s, my best friend’s
brother, that I had lost this friend, as sometimes happens,
I know now that I’m older.
She was in trouble and told me, I can’t be your friend
anymore because you ask me the questions
I ask myself in my mind.
The next day, I asked my student about
my best friend’s brother, and he said yes,
he knew him, and then he looked at me
because he knew what I was really asking,
which was why did he die so young,
just this past December?
I think I always knew that my friend and I
were only sitting outside at that long and elegant table
for a while.
We slept on the trampoline in her parents’ back yard,
rolling into each other in the middle,
studying the stars without speaking of them
because we knew the stars were the night’s silence,
like in a story when the narrator tells you
what things look like for a while,
and the characters can just be quiet.
My friend was getting married
and she hadn’t known me long
but she asked me to be one of her bridesmaids,
she said she had bridesmaids who represented
all the parts of who she was, and that I could be
the smart one. I think of this sometimes
when I’m teaching The Awakening
and I talk about the female characters who serve
as Edna’s foils. I draw a flower on the board and write
Edna inside it and then I draw vines out from it
for Madame Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz
and Madame Lebrun and the Lady in Black,
and I say, These are the bridesmaids.
This will be the last day of my life, I think sometimes
in the mornings when I regard myself in the mirror
I am sorry for my friend’s loss and also
that I asked her those questions
she didn’t want spoken out loud.
I needed to learn how to look at the stars
and not say anything
because we were out in the country
where there were no lights.