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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 13: May 2022
Poem: 744 words
By Susan Hayden

The Last Barstool Date
of the Loneliness Prevention Society


Take me back to the night we met. 
The Cinema Bar, German beer, 
first time alone in that atmosphere 
since my early 20s. 
Onstage: a man with a sad guitar, 
movie star good looks, 
songs of doom and gloom. 
The player wasn’t you, 
just someone I knew as a widow. 

My husband: Gone four years. 
A parade of stalkers and 
balladeers tramped through 
my love-life. I had invited them in, 
later making an abstinence vow 
to disallow the wrong fingers 
from handling me. 
Was 49 going on 15. 
Sometimes it felt 
like there was no one. 

“Sugar Magnolia” 
was playing on the jukebox 
when you skulked in. 
We stared each other down 
then parsed the lyrics. 
I could feel your wear and tear, 
searched your outerwear 
for sparkles of hope: 
Overcoat, Irish flat cap; 
that overlap in your two front teeth, 
like mine, only different. 

Wanted to tell you, 
“I feel Grateful. I feel Dead” 
but cut out of that bar instead 
before you could make a move 
or enable me to find 
things about you 
to disapprove of. 
Wondered if I’d ever see you again. 


You’re like a hybrid 
of Mary Ann and Ginger, 
you messaged me on Facebook. 
After the official friend request, 
I scoured your Timeline 
on a quest for clues, 
found booze and pizza pie 
at Casa Bianca, an olde-tyme place 
with Tiffany lamps 
and upholstered booths. 
Booths were our underpinning. 
For our first date, 
you’d promised to deliver me one. 
“I’ll take you anywhere you want to go,” 
you said.  
I chose Dear John’s, a dark bar 
with the older-woman lighting; 
got there early, sat there fighting 
an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. 
You got there late. 

I hated dating 
though your style was crackling: 
belt-looped keys 
to whereabouts unknown, 
prescription Ray-Bans, same ones 
my Fairfax Grandpa used to wear. 
We shared a love of vintage biker jackets. 
Fondling mine, you said, “Good quality,” 
like a scrawl of graffiti. 

Everything was going great 
until you mentioned your dealer 
while listening to me ramble on 
about psychics and healers, 
messages from beyond; 
how I talked to my husband’s ghost 
on a regular basis. 
Magical Thinking 
had both saved me 
and kept me bound to what was. 


My heart was a haunted house. 
No Trespassing! 
You were a safe bet; 
59 and never married. 
And so we made the rounds 
to every Westside and Eastside 
café, bar, and diner 
where we wrangled about drugs, 
the definition of love, and Socialism. 

Now every place we ever went 
has shut down 
and/or become something else. 
Centanni changed to Double Zero, 
serves plant-based pizza, 
bio-dynamic wine. 
Taix is on the decline, 
soon to become 
a smaller version of itself 
with housing and retail space. 

Meshuga 4 Sushi has become 
Spitfire Grill, traded up for craft beer 
and “ingredient-driven food.” 
Those loved places 
all disappear over time. 
But what happens 
when a memory 
is scheduled for demolition? 

“Wichita Lineman” was our song. 
You’d play it on Friday nights 
at the Culver Hotel 
when I was in the room 
and listening. 
Did we need more than want each other?* 
I know you learned guitar 
as a way to get girls, 
played to show parts of yourself 
you otherwise couldn’t reveal; 
your heart concealed, endangered. 


Take me back to the night you left. 
We’re at Vito and I’m 55, 
clinging to worn-thin comfort: 
your snap-front Pendleton canyon shirt; 
that hole in your ear 
where a ring used to be; 
the length of your beard, rabbinical. 
As you glare at enamel saints 
on a grief-aged neck, 
toenail polish named “Miss Independent,” 
with nothing left to love about me. 

Remember when you said 
you “wanted to be part of a team”? 
I believed you, 
signed on for being alone together, 
even if it meant 
making a deal with myself 
to live without being 

Once, we clutched each other 
like prey animals. 
Now I’m as numb and disengaged 
as Joan Didion in that book. 
Take a closer look, you’ll see 
my husband’s clothes 
are still 
hanging in the closet. 

I felt guilty for living; 
the years, disappeared 
as contrails. 
Wanted to kill my husband 
but he was already dead; 
blamed you instead 
for everything 
you couldn’t give me, everything 
I thought I wanted. 
Stop rolling your eyes. 
“I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.” 




*Publisher’s Note:

“Did we need more than want each other?” is paraphrased from “Wichita Lineman,” written by Jimmy Webb for Glen Campbell, whose 1968 recording was inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry (Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb and “Wichita Lineman” by Neely Tucker in the Library of Congress Blog [2 August 2021]).

Campbell’s performance of the song on Austin City Limits (1985); link retrieved on 20 May 2022: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egNHPnrtY_8

Susan Hayden
Issue 13, May 2022

is a poet, playwright, novelist, and essayist. Her writing has appeared in the anthologies Los Angeles in the 1970s: Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine (Rare Bird Lit), The Black Body (Seven Stories Press), I Might Be The Person You Are Talking To: Short Plays From The Los Angeles Underground (Padua Playwrights Press), and elsewhere.

She’s the creator/curator/producer of the monthly literary series Library Girl, now in its 13th year at Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica, CA. Library Girl was cited as the Best Local Literary Series in The Argonaut’s Best of the Westside: Editor’s Picks. In 2015, Hayden received the Bruria Finkel/Artist in the Community Volunteerism Award for her “significant contributions to the energetic discourse within Santa Monica’s arts community.” The proud mother of singer-songwriter Mason Summit, she lives in Sunset Park with her husband, music journalist Steve Hochman—and a cat named McQueen.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Susan Hayden: Creator of the Long-Running LA Show “Library Girl” by Kathleen Laccinole (circa 2016) at ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere)

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