The 10 o’Clock Boys
D’où est-ce que
tu-viens? the laughing boy asked me, years ago. His name was Sebastien, I think. He
Where are you from? Moi, c’est Sebastien
repeated the question, aligning the speed of his voice with the beat inside. Where are
Mais c’est quoi, ça? Tu as un bon sourire. Non, nous ne sourions pas.
you from? Are you a student? There were three of them, and they struck me as lean and
say non—can you give me a light? The weather here is
classic, all that smoke rising from thin, chapped lips. A street-lit mirage passing over their
I’m from Minnesota, in the United States
shared brown eyes. Je viens de Minnesota, dans les États-Unis. Their language came
de mon petite bouche Am I saying that correctly?
inelegantly from my mouth, from a tongue of buckthorn. Apparently they came to this bar in Aix
Je me penser que tu est trés agréable pour un Américain
every Friday at 10 o’clock, talk a little. I came to this continent for some reason I cannot recall.
On se casse? Ce type est un vrai tombeur
How do you say: Je viens d’une place que vous ne connaissez pas? Sentences like loose strings,
I come from a place you do not know.
a badly broken code.
Give Me Something I’ve Never Had
A roman-nosed man, styled in tortoise-shell glasses
and tucked-in oxford, stands
on some corner downtown, hails an Uber.
Corporate dreamboat holding a leather gym bag
to suggest domination, or something. From behind
the bus window, I imagine him looking past me
on the street, even when I wear my really rad
horse shirt. I say these things to differentiate us, of course,
turn up the Instagram contrast—but we are both of us
white gays, widespread on the public transportation seat
of space, time. In a ‘90s movie, maybe we would
run into each other everywhere, cross paths at
funny times. Two boring vanilla people in love,
go figure. He would smile and I would do my best
Meg Ryan, both bemused and excited. In a movie
of reality, I would ask him to remake me
in his image. Dress me in the best clothes, too,
I would say to him. Hire a trainer so you recognize me
in the dark. Don’t stop at the scoria; there is heat yet
beneath this stone. Take me to the clubs
I never knew existed, explain to me all these
transactional fantasies. In the booth, bring your hand
to my thigh and rest it there. Name me in all your socials,
take me on a hike. Give me all things I never dare
to request, not out loud. Kiss me on the cheek before
you slip into another Uber somewhere, gym bag in hand,
hashtagging your way to paradise.
A tail twisting inside a tail, a charybdis made of stars,
and I am the purpling beast to which it all belongs.
November coldness. The living are a secret I keep
keeping, here in the valley of mask and delayed flight.
Take out the thick coat. Don’t bring up the tortured everything
in the corner: it has turned its cheek to the sun and we have
turned with it. Yesterday I took out the garbage and turned, too;
someone was parked in the alley and shame-eating McDonalds.
Radiator-rattle. And I know it was shame-eating because
they were cutting nervous glances at a house nearby, its insides
all lit up. (Also I could hear them listening to Adele’s “Someone Like
You.”) Approaching days with every hushed solicitude,
I defer to exile. Ripples within ripples, encircling. There is
a monster inside this monster and their name is also my name.
Mars and Pluto, those old diddies, play three-dimensional chess
in my chest. Top 40 radio, cold fries. I want so very much to say
I am sorry, for what I do not know, but the body slouches back to
the brine and warmth of bed, that original reply-all.
Jeremiah Moriarty's writing has appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, Tammy, Juked, the Ploughshares blog, The Cortland Review, Wildness, and elsewhere. His work has been a finalist for The Iowa Review Award and nominated for a Pushcart Prize and PEN / Robert J. Dau Prize. He lives in Minneapolis with some plants and his feelings.