Scott Bassis

Alicia’s Loss


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        Alicia knew the Spanish boy down the hall liked her the first time they met. It was less than a week after she moved in. She walked past him carrying a bag of recyclables.

        “El sótano.” The gleam in his eyes told her what he wanted, even if she had no idea what he was saying.

        “The recycling, it’s in the basement. Sorry, I thought you were Spanish.”

        “I am. I mean, my mother is. My father wasn’t. Or, isn’t. He’s still alive, probably. I wouldn’t know. But my mom still didn’t teach me Spanish.” She said. He made a puzzled face. She puzzled a lot of people, which explained why she generally avoided them.


Scott Bassis is a young writer eager to establish himself as a serious talent. He has had short stories published in Rainbow Curve, Harrington Gay Men’s Literary Quarterly and The Missing Slate. He is currently working at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

        “I’m Carlos.” He grinned, flashing his white, perfect teeth, with adorable dimples beside them. Finding herself staring, she gazed down. She didn’t want him thinking she was interested. “Darn it!” She noticed a glob of tuna at the bottom of the can. She felt obliged to explain, “Forgot to rinse them out.”

        He squinted at her, clearly thinking her to be very strange. Suddenly, he laughed, disarmed. She hurried away blushing to the nearest staircase. Halfway down, she realized what an idiot she was. She was bringing the recyclables to the basement despite having just said she forgot to rinse them out.

        Of course, once she got there, no one had rinsed them out. They weren’t even sorted properly. She took it upon herself to separate the paper from the plastic and aluminum. She wasn’t always such a conscientious environmentalist. She only sought to waste a few minutes so she wouldn’t run into Carlos again. He looked to be heading out.

        Nelly, her aunt, would tell her, “Don’t be shy, flirt with him.” She would probably add, “Make him wear a condom.” Nelly possessed not an ounce of tact. Though she had known Nelly all her life, Nelly could still fluster her. After Nelly helped her move in, the last thing she said before driving back was: “I still can’t believe how gorgeous you turned out! I see you ending up with an older man, with money. Make sure he’s not a pendejo.”

        “Nelly!” She said.

        “I’m serious. You’re the closest thing I have to a child. Don’t make the same mistake I did!” Of course, Nelly was referring to Tony, who had left her after twenty-nine years for one of his paralegals. She didn’t have to worry. Alicia didn’t want to be with anyone. She was fine spending each day alone, just herself and her poetry, like her idol, Emily Dickinson.    

        “Can’t you be a lesbian instead?” Nelly asked when Alicia told her this.

        Stepping into the apartment, she let out a deep sigh. She was only truly at ease by herself. She returned to her laptop and her poem in progress. Tomorrow, it was back to her receptionist job, which Nelly had begged Tony to finagle for her, though Alicia had begged Nelly not to. Nonetheless, writing was Alicia’s real work. Tonight, she wouldn’t waste a thought on anything else, certainly not some Spanish boy, who could never hope to understand her, or the sorrow she carried within.

        For a time, she didn’t give Carlos a thought, other than how to avoid him and deflect his advances when she couldn’t. Once, trapped in the elevator with him, she learned they worked only blocks apart. She brought up the weather before he could utter the word “coffee.” She assured herself she wouldn’t have to see him for long, taking for granted that she would move into a new apartment as soon as she landed a book deal.

        Senior year at UVA, she had lost interest in anything but her poetry. Over the previous three years, she had shed fifty pounds and overcome much of her shyness. It took becoming a new person to finally stop blaming herself for what Javier did to her as a girl. Once she did, she became so angry, so bitter at the world that she needed to shut it out.

        Skipping the graduation ceremony to touch up several pieces in her collection, she never did receive an actual diploma. She couldn’t have cared less; she was flying straight to New York with the greatest accomplishment of her life in her carry-on bag: Dedicated to My Words.

        “You are my sun.

        You are my home.

        In you, alone, I glow,

        Become the most precious of things.

        My dismal past is undone,

        Woven into a golden dream.”

        Dedicated to My Words began with this stanza from the title piece. It perfectly summed up how poetry rescued her from despair. Though she didn’t expect her first collection to be a bestseller, she assumed it would earn her enough money to support herself while she put together a second. During the weeks she stayed with Nelly, she compiled a list of twenty-two agents and small publishers, culled from The 2015 Poet’s Market.

        The first rejection arrived a scant three weeks after she sent her manuscript. Nonetheless, she dismissed it as a fluke. In a few short years, someone would be kicking themselves for having passed up the chance to discover Alicia Asencio. Even as others steadily trickled in, she held out hope. Each time she crossed a name from her list, she reminded herself there were plenty more, until there weren’t. When she found herself down to none, stuck in a miserable job and a tiny, studio apartment, friendless except for her fifty-year-old aunt, she no longer felt certain her words alone were enough to survive on. It was about this time that she ran into Carlos smoking a cigarette at the northeast corner of Bryant Park.

        She knew he smoked. She had smelled it on him in the elevator. She had crinkled her nose in the same judgmental way she had since she was a girl, holding the vague conception that cigarettes were “bad.” Now, however, watching that sinewy smoke escape his lips, she couldn’t deny there was something alluring about it.

        “Alicia!” He instinctively put the cigarette behind his back. Quickly realizing the pointlessness of his gesture, he proceeded to take another a drag. “You work around here.” He reminded himself, exhaling. He smiled smugly, thinking he could hide how much he cared what she thought.

        “On Lexington. You’re a salesman at the Sleepy’s on Fifth, right?” She remembered, surprising herself. Whenever he talked to her, she was so fixated on discouraging him that she hardly heard what he was said. Some part of her, though, must have been listening.

        “Well, really more of a glorified salesclerk. My commission’s like nothing. I smoke it up in Camels each day. I should move to New Jersey where they’re cheaper. But then I’d have to tell people I live in New Jersey.”

        She giggled. She imagined he was good at his job: handsome, friendly and funny. He seemed like he could sell anything to anyone.

        “I never saw you here before. This is kind of my regular spot.”

        “I usually stay inside to read, but I was in a hurry this morning, so I left my book at home, and my lunch. Oops, I forgot I still have to buy lunch.” She said. He laughed. She blushed, embarrassed, not because she seemed so ditzy, but because of how cute he seemed to find it.

        “You’re better off outside anyway, enjoying the beautiful day.” He said. She shrugged. She didn’t find much joy in anything except words. She sometimes felt she could live in a library and be perfectly content, especially the huge one right next to the park.

        “I know what you mean. Without my book, I get antsy, even if I only have enough time to read a few pages. A Kindle doesn’t do it for me either. Now, I’m reading this.” Reaching into his messenger bag, he pulled out a fat paperback. Her jaw dropped. She wouldn’t have guessed he was a reader, let alone a reader of Proust.

        “It’s the fifth one. The first two I read back to back, but it was exhausting. I’ve been reading lighter books in between: Forster, Marquez, Saramago.”

        “I’ve read Marquez, not Proust, or the others.” She admitted. Placing the book back, he threw her a wry smirk. She knew exactly what he was thinking, “Don’t judge a book…” She spotted his pack of Camels in the small pocket of his bag.

        “Mind if I bum one?” She said, thinking she would throw his own lesson back at him.

        “Sure!” He pulled out a cigarette and his lighter.

        “Don’t cough,” she thought to herself as he lit it. She had learned from TV it was what every beginner did. Closing her eyes to concentrate, she held the smoke down in her chest. She released it casually. Suddenly, she felt woozy. She took a wobbly step back, but he didn’t see. He was putting his Camels away. Once she steadied herself, she felt completely relaxed. She grinned.

        “Wouldn’t have pegged you a smoker.” His eyes were wide with disbelief.

        “I wouldn’t have pegged you a scholar.” She said.

        “I’m no scholar. College wasn’t for me. I went to Columbia for a few semesters, but that was seven years ago.” 

        She was curious why he had dropped out. His expression, surprisingly, showed no trace of regret. She was still wary of asking him directly.

        “That’s how you ended up in New York?” She asked.

        “From Flora Vista, New Mexico, population two-thousand. New York was quite the change. I think I enjoyed it too much, especially the clubs.” He laughed. She laughed out of politeness. She thought it was sad. He could have been much more than a Sleepy’s salesman.

        “If my roommate wasn’t the most generous pothead on campus, not to a mention a whiz with fake ID’s, I might have been Magna Cum Laude.” He said. Afraid pity would start to show on her face, she changed the subject.

        “I’ve never been to New Mexico. I never traveled much, except occasionally to New York to see my aunt, Nelly.”

        “You’re from Tampa, Florida, right?” He asked. She nodded.

        “How was it growing up there? What made you come to New York? What’s your family like? We’ve been neighbors for six months. I feel like I still know nothing about you.”  

        “I…” She hated being asked about her past. It all seemed connected to Javier, a blur of madness, nightmares and utter desolation, culminating on a spring night freshman year, when her roommate was gone for the weekend, and she tried ending the horror with a full bottle of aspirin. She both failed and succeeded. Miraculously, things got better after that.

        “You don’t smoke! Your eyes are watering like crazy. I knew it!” He laughed. Staring into his eyes, she took a long drag. She wouldn’t confess to anything.

        “I’d love to stay, just to watch you fight the urge to choke, but I’ve got to head back. One guy’s out sick. I only have a half-hour lunch.” He flicked his cigarette to the ground.

        “Wait.” She said without thinking. She was enjoying his company. She didn’t want to be here alone, eating a tasteless salad bar salad, with no book to read.

        “I’d like to borrow Proust sometime, the first one.”

        “I get them from the library. Not this one, it’s a research library. There’s one a block over.” He let out a chuckle, clearly amused by her pathetic pretense, no doubt especially after she had ignored him for so long.

        “I know. I go to that one too.” She mumbled.

        “After you finish it, ring my bell. Let me know what you think.” He gave her a smile and a quick wave. Taking another drag from her cigarette, she watched him walk away.

        At work, she made mistake after mistake, disconnecting calls, forgetting to write down names, writing down the wrong numbers. She kept thinking of Carlos, replaying everything they said to each other, not only at Bryant Park, but over the past six months.

        She felt restless at home. She needed to do something, but nothing interested her. The poem which had engrossed her for days became as tedious as a term paper. She just couldn’t get into her book, even though it had won a Pulitzer. After cooking herself an elaborate dinner of fish and vegetables, she found she had no appetite. Knowing only about twenty feet separated her from the one thing that would bring contentment was more torturous than comforting.

        As she bit her nails, her habit when anxious, she caught a whiff of the Camel she had smoked earlier. The scent seemed to provide momentary relief. At once, she threw on a jacket and headed to the deli. She smoked on the way back, but whatever buzz it gave her was killed by her disappointment at not having run into Carlos. To console herself, she smoked another in front of her open window.

        Carlos wasn’t in Bryant Park the next day. Every day for weeks, she ate and read at a table near to where she had seen him. He never returned. She fought the urge to knock on his door to ask if she did something wrong. Her fears were allayed one Friday evening as she came home from work. Stepping off the elevator, she nearly banged into him. He moved to let her pass. She turned around. He held the door open with his arm.

        “I saw you smoking out your window last night. I didn’t get you hooked, did I?” 

        “I’ve been smoking for years.” She smiled.

        “Quit now, before it’s too late!” He warned playfully. Bringing his arm down, he stepped back. His face suddenly turned serious. As the door slid closed, his eyes flared with longing. She returned to her apartment knowing she had worried for nothing.

        Once she entered, a rush of inspiration overtook her. With the fanciful notion that he might one day read it, she composed her first love poem ever. Never before had she felt this yearning for a man’s embrace:

        “When you bring me inside your arms’ caress

        Bear in mind this weary heart needs mend.

        It’s worn nearly sheer, torn here and there,

        Singed in parts and frayed at the edge.”

        She took a cigarette break after every stanza, roughly one an hour. It had surprised her when Carlos said he saw her smoking. She hadn’t seen him. Not expecting, but still hoping he might chance to walk by, she forced her eyes down to the street when she caught herself gazing up at the sky. He wasn’t there the first two times. He was the third.

        His hand was up a girl’s skirt, squeezing her ass. Their tongues shoved down each other’s throats, she had him pressed against the metal grating of a locked up pharmacy. It was practically obscene. People gaped. People laughed. People pointed. The sickest part, however, only she saw. The whole time, he was staring straight at her, four stories up.

        Flicking the cigarette in his general direction, she slammed the window shut. She didn’t need these disgusting Camels. She didn’t need that disgusting creep. She didn’t need anyone, or anything, except her words.

        “Why do I address this plea to you

        When you don’t soothe,

        You lacerate fresh wounds?

        This ache you brought to my breast,

        Which only you make better,

        Only proves I’m far better off without

        Your oh so charming presence.”

        She wrote, inspired now by the spiteful notion that he might one day come across it, and realize what a pig he was.

        Carlos had been despised by many women in his life, possibly all of them, excluding his mother, to whom he was merely a disappointment. Not until Alicia despised him had it hurt. He thought he had done her a kindness. He would only break her heart. He was a cheater, a player and a loser. All he cared about in life was finding a good read and a good lay.  

        He figured she would get over him in no time. She would find a boyfriend better suited to her, perhaps a sensitive, Brooklyn hipster who gave her his seat on the “Q.” He never saw her with anyone else, and her anger didn’t wane over the weeks and months. He realized he wasn’t some fickle infatuation to her. To hate him with such passion could only mean she still wanted him. She must have ached for what they could have had. It wasn’t the occasional night of fun. He would happily oblige that now.

        “You really wanted to love me?” He thought, whenever she sneered at him in the corridor, making him swallow his “hello.”

        Me?” When she stopped ten feet from the building entrance, waiting for him to let go of the door, so she could open it for herself. He felt genuine remorse that she wasn’t right to think he had more to offer than a good time. He even wondered if he might be wrong about himself.

        Of course, she had brushed him off for six months. Only once she realized he wasn’t an ignorant spic, but actually read, hard stuff, like Proust, would she gave him the time of day. Melanie, by contrast, knew what she wanted the moment their eyes locked on the dance floor. Minutes later, she was grinding against him, lip-synching Rihanna.

        But he couldn’t blame Alicia or Melanie. He was the one who ruined it. He could pinpoint the exact moment it happened. It was the day after he saw Alicia in Bryant Park, when she smoked his Camel, pretending she wasn’t as innocent as she seemed. Heading back to his spot, he saw her sitting, reading a book. He approached her eagerly, even euphorically, until he read the title: Swann’s Way. He stopped.

        For me?” He thought with a cringe.

        She had to know, he didn’t really care to discuss Proust with her. He had only said that to make her smile, to get her into bed. Carefully, he crept back in the opposite direction. The next day, he ate his sandwich and smoked his cigarette on the steps of the office building at Fortieth and Park.

        He didn’t stop thinking about her. In fact, he couldn’t pass an hour without his mind wandering to her deep, brown eyes, so large they seemed to swallow you whole, her soft, breathy voice, and her small, bow-shaped lips, almost constantly pursed in thought. But when he remembered how she read Proust to impress him, he knew no good would come of it. Her expectations were too high. She would fall in love after one kiss. Ironically, he ended up falling in love without even that pleasure.

        It dawned on him slowly how much he screwed up. He never imagined that after being with Melanie he would still yearn for Alicia. Melanie was equally beautiful, and amazingly stacked. He couldn’t hold or kiss Melanie without wishing it was Alicia in his arms, Alicia’s lips. When Melanie rattled on about her Facebook dramas, he finally appreciated how nice it would be to have someone to discuss Proust or poetry with.

        One slow afternoon at work, he Googled Alicia’s name on his iPhone. He and Melanie had been together for five months. He was also sleeping with Jasmine, Melanie’s friend. The thoughts he spent on either of them a day wouldn’t last the length of a Camel.

        Wax Poetics Journal: ‘A Plea to You’ by Alicia Asencio.”

        At first, he thought it couldn’t be her. While no “Maria Rodriguez,” hers was still a common enough name. Still, there had to be only one Alicia Asencio, “pounding her keyboard each night in her 200 square-foot, Queens, studio apartment, wondering what she would have without her poet-laureate dreams.”

        As he read it, he felt the strong urge to deck the object of her affection. He realized it was himself two stanzas after it suddenly turned spiteful.

        “How could you possibly

        Gaze at me, as you gave her a squeeze,

        Clutching her flesh in your hands?

        If you can, then you can’t love me,

        Though I wanted you to, and wanted you too,

        For a confused instant, I confess.”

        Instead of being dismayed, he was heartened. For all its rage, her poem wasn’t about what an asshole he was. Whether she realized it or not, it was about how she couldn’t stop needing him, despite how he hurt her. He decided it was time to step up and answer her “plea.” He would love her. If nothing else, her poem affirmed it wasn’t too late.

        He broke up with Melanie within the week. Figuring it would be easier if she was the one who ended it, he left his email account opened to a message from Jasmine. He did it in Melanie’s apartment, on her laptop, lest Alicia catch the sounds of screaming and cursing on her way to the garbage disposal. The next night, he knocked on Alicia’s door.

        Her eyes flashed in fury. Her mouth snarled. Her whole body tensed up. If she were a cat, she would have hissed.

        “Alicia, hi, I need a quick favor.” He acted as though nothing had happened between them, betting that taken off guard she wouldn’t slam the door in his face. She didn’t. Yet, her scowl remained firm. She didn’t speak or move. 

        “I’m, I um, you see, I have a….”  His nervousness seemed to soften her anger. She gazed down thoughtfully at his trembling hands. It wasn’t an act on his part, not that he wouldn’t have faked it had he thought of it.     

        “I have a friend. He thinks he can get me a job. He’s coming over now, but I have to print out my resume. I don’t have a printer.” He thought his story foolproof when he came up with it. Speaking it aloud, he perceived the holes. For one, there was an all-night internet café on Astoria Boulevard. And, he could have just sent it by email.  

        “I don’t have a printer either.” She said.

        “Oh.” He wondered how she submitted her poetry to journals. By email, he realized. They stood in silence for a moment. He wanted so badly to kiss her. He wondered what she would do if he tried.

        “I’m moving.” She said.


        “I’ve been accepted into Sarah Lawrence’s writing program. I found an apartment closer to campus.” Her impassive voice made him think she was rubbing it in, but then he noticed her frown. He saw in her eyes, wide with confusion, that she didn’t know what she was feeling either.

        “It’s not far, Bronxville, only half an hour on Metro-North to Manhattan.” She said. It might as well have been the moon. Getting close to her was hard enough when she lived two doors down.

        “You just moved here!” It felt like yesterday, this bronze colored beauty tried to slink past him in the hall with a bag full of bottles and cans. Ditzy in the cutest ways, she ran off before she even gave her name. He didn’t normally chase after girls. Enough girls chased after him. But something was special about her.

        “It was last September. I already gave my one month’s notice. I’ll have to get a new job, working nights. I’ve been going to bartending school. Me, who never had a drink in my life!” She laughed. He felt so sick, even the chuckle he forced sounded like a groan.   

        “What’s this new job you’re applying for?” She asked.

        “Huh?” As her eyes squinted skeptically, he remembered his pretense for being here. “Raymour & Flanigan.” It was the answer he had prepared, should she ask.

        “I guess it pays better than Sleepy’s.” She said.

        “It’s a managerial position.”

        “Uh huh.” She crossed her arms.

        “Well, thanks anyway. Good luck at Sarah Lawrence. I’d love to read your poetry some time.” He smiled. She looked aghast. Hadn’t she mentioned her poetry to him that time in Bryant Park? Apparently, she hadn’t. He was lucky for his quick reflexes. If he didn’t jump back, the door might have broken his nose.

        In his apartment, he reread Alicia’s “plea” over and over. He had printed it out on the printer he did not have.

        “Her loss,” he thought, bitterly. He could be the man she needed, faithful and devoted to her. He would be different with her, because she was different from any girl he ever knew. He would never let her regret it, if she gave him one more chance.

        Alicia was at work when she got the call.

         “Alicia?” She recognized the voice right away. She couldn’t bring herself to hang up, yet was too flummoxed to speak.

        “Are you there?” She had made Nelly promise not to give her mother her number. That would be just like Nelly, to meddle then play dumb: “You didn’t say not to give her your work number.”

        “Do you still think I’m lying about Javier?” Alicia snapped. Anything but “no” and she would hang up this second.

        “Not now, Alicia. Aunt Nelly’s dead.”

        “What? I talked to her on Friday. I emailed her yesterday. She didn’t respond. I don’t think. Let me check.” She brought up Gmail on the computer. She entered her password, hoping, for a brief moment, to find a response which disproved what her mother was saying.

        “She died yesterday morning. She overdosed on prescription drugs. She was taking stuff after Tony left to deal with her depression. She must have taken too many pills without realizing it. Not on purpose. The police think not on purpose.” Her mother’s voice broke with emotion.

        A client approached. His appointment was now. Alicia recognized him. He was a real jerk. He wouldn’t care that she was crying.

        “I have to go, mom.” Disconnecting the line, she called Mr. Comte, letting him know, through her tears, that his client had arrived. The concern on Mr. Comte’s face as he walked out was only at the impression her crying was making. Luckily, the others waiting were mesmerized by their iPhones and iPads.

        Her impulse was to call Nelly; she had no one else to trust or talk to. The phone rang, showing her mother’s number. But since her mother hadn’t admitted the truth about Javier, she couldn’t pick up. Nelly never doubted her. “Come to New York,” Nelly said, when she told her she couldn’t possibly go back to Tampa, to live in the same house where she had been tortured for years, with a woman who still refused to believe her. While she was staying with her, she remembered thinking it strange, opening the medicine cabinet for a Band-Aid, to see so many prescription bottles under Nelly’s name. She should have confronted her.

        The client left Mr. Comte’s office. She couldn’t say if ten minutes or an hour had passed. When she looked at the time, it was five after one. Paula should have come back to cover her. On Fridays, Paula sometimes went to the salon during her lunch, running in fifteen minutes late. Any other day, she would have waited to avoid making trouble.

        She stormed out. She needed to get away from here, even if she knew, logically, the pain would only follow her. Unwilling to wait for the elevator, she shoved open the door to the stairwell. She wasn’t supposed to use the stairs. An alarm would sound as she exited. What would they do? Fire her? It was her last day.

        “Mierda.” Nelly thought.

        It wasn’t exactly a thought. She didn’t actually have thoughts now. They were more like feelings. If she had to pick a word for what her soul was feeling, it would be “Mierda.” “Shit” didn’t have the same effect. It probably had to do with her own experiences. Spanish was the language of her childhood. In her house, curses were met with a swift belt across the backside. “Mierda” meant something had to be very bad to risk that.

        This was very bad. Alicia and Carlos were in love. They hadn’t spent a lot of time together, but their love was real. It was there from their first encounter. Alicia had ignored it. Carlos had abused it. Still, it survived like a weed, with the barest of nourishment. Love never truly dies. Nelly was proof of that.

        “Be patient, cariña.” Nelly thought, or felt, or wanted to tell her. There was another man. He was years-off. Still, Nelly could see him. He was an older man, as Nelly had suspected. Yet, she had been wrong in imagining he would take care of Alicia. Alicia didn’t need anyone to do that. He would respect her as much as he adored her.

        Alicia barreled down the street unable to contain her grief. The indifferent New Yorkers, perceiving her sobs, talked louder into their cells. Although she didn’t know consciously where she was heading, her heart knew. Love unites two souls in ways that defy logic, regardless how unfortunate that love may be. At his table in Bryant Park, where he had eaten and smoked ritually for months in the hope that Alicia might show, Carlos was unwrapping a pastrami sandwich.

        Alicia needed a shoulder to cry on, and she had no one else. He would listen sympathetically. He would make her feel better. He wanted her. But ultimately, he was incapable of the sensitivity her past required. His nature was too selfish. No matter how much he loved her, he couldn’t love her right. He was a pendejo: that was all there was to it.

        Nelly couldn’t bear to watch. Alicia should run fast away from him, not into his arms. Were it just sex, she would say “go for it.” She would have hopped into bed with him herself if she wasn’t dead. That dimpled smile still gave her phantom stirrings. Once there was love, it could never be just sex.

        “Ay dios mio!” There was just enough good in him to keep Alicia beside him, believing she could change him. It was a trap. Nelly fell for it herself thirty years ago. In the end, he would drain her of everything. If only Alicia could see this other man: he was worth the wait. If only she knew how happy he would make her. If only she could tell her.

        “Arriba aqui!” Her poetry could stave off the loneliness. It could ease her sorrow. It had gotten her through everything until now. She didn’t need that player.  

        “Mira arriba!” Alicia couldn’t hear her, of course. Nelly had no voice. She had no body. She existed now only in memory. Still, she hoped against hope that Alicia would somehow just know.

        “Look up, my sweet darling.” 

        “A Solitary Heart: The Original Journals of Emily Dickinson.”

        The banner on the New York Public Library caught Alicia’s attention. Forgetting for an instant her grief, she paused to contemplate that phrase, “a solitary heart.” It made Emily sound pathetic, as if her poor, neglected heart languished in solitude. Emily simply preferred being alone. “A Solitary Soul” was better. It seemed clearer the choice was hers. She wasn’t interested in the exhibit, no doubt a small room with yellowed pages behind glass, some blown up photos and trite anecdotes from her life. Poetry was Emily’s life. It contained all anyone needed to know about her.

        Having only read Emily’s poems, Alicia still knew what she would do if she lost the person she cared most about in the world. Drying her eyes with her sleeve, she sat down on the library steps. She fished a pen out from her pocketbook. The only blank paper she had was the flyleaf of her book.

        “A torrent of tears

        Hasn’t cleared up my fog of grief.

        I still can’t conceive

        How much I’ll miss you

        Or what you’ve meant to me.

        Once I’m able to fathom this loss of you

        I fear that I might drown,

        So many more shall then pour down.”

        Glancing up, she saw Carlos standing on the corner. She must have felt his stare. He didn’t say hello, nor did he look away. Shaken momentarily by the longing in his eyes, she dropped her pen. When she looked up after retrieving it, he was crossing the street.

        “Pendejo.” She muttered. Despite her negligible Spanish, it was the first word to come to mind. Still, she was too sad about Nelly to feel much anger. Or, perhaps it was that pitiful look he gave her. It lingered in her mind, momentarily.   

        “At the peril of my heart, I will write on.” She wrote.

© The Acentos Review 2016