Wounded

 

Andrew Vogel

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 121 in December, 2009.
 

They met the way people meet,

and they were drawn to each other
the way people are drawn to each other.

What should it matter
that she was old enough to be his mother,
that he was young enough to be her son.

They appealed to each other and
it was only a drink.
People may wonder. People wonder all the time,
but it was only a drink--
two friendly adults sharing a sliver of time
      and a drink

No one else on earth was terribly concerned
with the doings of either of them that night.

They agreed on a bar that neither frequented
because it was, what, convenient.

Their conversation was noncommittal to start,
and then warmed until a few drinks in
it had turned pleasant and then fun.

By then the things each of them
had noticed in the other hardly mattered,
the deep lines around her eyes,
the embarrassingly wispy tuft on his chin,

      so when she scooted off to the Ladies'
he ordered shots and had a hard
time concealing his disappointment and dejection
when she refused the gesture.

He downed both, and as a result,
after some abashed talk and one more beer
it was clear she would be driving him home,
which she did, easily bridling his affected assurance.

It was a short drive, but by the time
they'd arrived at his dour, shoebox of an apartment
he'd turned maudlin on her,
so she agreed, against her better instincts,
to join him in one more cold one because,
truth be told, this poor soldier
just home from the war hadn't
another soul to which he belonged.

Returning home the next morning
with the pale moon still clinging to a warm sky,
that's what she kept repeating to herself,

that this kid didn't have anyone at all
and neither of them had motives
or were at fault for what had happened.

His breakdown standing there in the kitchen
had been genuine, and her embrace
was meant to comfort. Sitting down
on the couch was a way to calm him.
His face was at her neck. Her fingers
smoothed his close hair. her neck
was wet with his tears.
The kiss there on the couch was only tender.
To help a distraught man to bed
is but a kindness,
and that he reached out to her
was innocent enough,
how many nights he must have struggled
there along with himself.

When she woke, and he woke, and his breath was on her neck,
everything that followed was not hot
like all the other times.
It was warm.

Their lips eased together;
his mouth slid to her breast;
neither was atop the other;
they quite simply reached out
and tangled into one another.

The orgasm, unlike any she'd ever had,
was surprisingly abundant and enunciate in her;
it seemed to fold them both together
into a simple, silent, warm sympathy.

She held her breath; her chin rested
on his brow, and when she woke again
he was breathing lightly but was definitely asleep
and still inside her.

      She felt amiable.

And so sitting on the cold seat
of her car, playing it over in her mind,
acutely aware of the involuntary closing
of that glad and open feeling inside her
and the stickyness of his semen on her skin,

she brooded over the son she'd given up
all those long years ago.